The origins of Oest go back more than 100 years. It all started in 1915, when a factory for the production of technical oils and lubricants was founded in Dornstetten in the Black Forest. In the following years, the scope of products was continuously increased in order to meet very different customer requirements. By combining various base oils in different ways, the company added many new items to its product range: drive belt wax, drilling oil, leather oil, carriage grease, anti-rust grease, ski wax, sewing machine oil, turbine oils, transformer oils, milling oils, among many others. Not every one of these products is still produced today, though special classic car oils are still in demand, albeit in small quantities.
The product portfolio is now broader than ever. Over the years, the company has systematically expanded the development, production and distribution of industrial lubricants. Today, the Georg Oest Mineralölwerk (mineral oil plant) based in Freudenstadt is the heart of the Oest group, which also includes part of the Avia network of petrol stations.
Not only was the laboratory expanded and the staff increased at the Freudenstadt location, the storage areas were also gradually enlarged. The requirements on the various production processes are very different. “Some require nitrogen blanketing, others have to be temperature controlled, and yet others require special safety measures for explosion protection. In addition, the requirements of the Water Resources Act (WHG) must be taken into account, as well as the EU chemical classification Reach or the specifications mandated by TÜV,” says Thilo Reich, Head of Engineering at Georg Oest Mineralölwerk, describing the extensive requirements.
Fulfilling customer requirements
High-quality petroleum raffinates, the base oils, are the basis for the wide range of products. The Black Forest company is constantly working on new developments, for example bio-lubricants, which are quickly biodegradable and based on renewable raw materials. In the company’s own laboratory, the special mixtures are carefully examined and tested so that the resulting lubricants are optimally adapted to each application. Of course, the laboratory is also responsible for quality assurance, so every batch is checked before packaging.
The development of lubricants is one thing, but Oest‘s job also includes mixing, filling containers and storing the various components. Therefore, about two years ago, the company built a new warehouse and logistics centre at the Freudenstadt site, enclosing a total area of about 3500 m² with space for more than 4000 pallets. “The requirements in the market have changed, today you have to deliver much faster,” explains Reich.
Reliable monitoring of stocks
Employees at Oest are supported by the most modern production and mixing technology available on the market. Stainless steel production vessels with various agitators in sizes from 400 to 52,000 l, as well as automatic filling systems, ensure that special requests can be fulfilled even on short notice. Incidentally, such requests do not always concern the composition of the lubricant, but sometimes also the size of the package or container the product is delivered in.
Vega sensors have been used in the numerous storage and mixing tanks for many years. Although the mixing processes are simple and the storage tanks are not particularly complex from the point of view of level measurement and contain no disturbing internals, the sensors nevertheless have to be robust. Among other things, they must be able to withstand temperatures of up to 100 °C and in some areas also meet the requirements for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. WHG approval is also very important – with Vega sensors, for example, operators can carry out a function test with just the push of a button. However, the most important requirement is: “We need sensors that provide us with reliable measured values over a long period of time and this is exactly what Vega sensors do,” says Reich, referring to Vega sensors installed almost 30 years ago that are still operating flawlessly.
So for him, it’s only logical that Vega sensors have been installed in almost every one of the approximately 70 tanks. For one thing, they measure the level in the numerous storage containers, ensuring reliable inventory monitoring and delivery to customers. And for another, they protect against tank overfill. About a year ago, new overfill protection equipment in the form of Vegaswing was installed in the raw material storage facility. Oest has been very satisfied with Vega‘s support and service for many years now. Thanks to Plug & Play, setting up and commissioning Vegaswing is unbelievably easy.
Maintaining a good overview
Inventory monitoring has assumed an important role because the requirements in terms of delivery times have changed so much. “On the one hand, we are faced with the challenge of having to react much faster than before and also deliver widely varying quantities. And on the other, we have to keep certain products constantly in stock for some Asian customers. What is more, we have to keep an eye on the prices in the raw material markets so that we can always buy our basic raw materials at favourable prices,” says Reich, explaining the complexities of the task.
Inventory data acquisition, visualisation and delivery planning have therefore increasingly become an important part of the business. These are based on automated inventory monitoring. For this, Oest had relied on Vegalog for many years, but it had become outdated and was discontinued. Today, the company is supported by Vegamet and Vega Inventory System (VIS), which allow it to visualise inventory for pre-planning and control production processes. The sensors and controllers from Vega collect all measurement data, which Vega Inventory System then makes available in a form that enables good, effective planning.
Vega Inventory System reports the need for replenishment fully automatically and in good time. To this end the software draws not only on current measurement data from the inventory, but also on empirical data gathered from consumption history. Analysis and planning tools enable optimised material requirement, inventory and delivery planning. Bar charts and tank symbols provide the user with a constant overview of current stock levels.
Thanks to Vega Inventory System, Georg Oest Mineralölwerk has quick access to current as well as historical consumption data. The level values are used as a reference. “Calibrated meters are used when filling the tank lorries, but the data from the Vega sensors are very important for comparison. Even the old sensors still deliver very accurate values.” Managers can view the stock levels at any time and intervene if necessary. This not only optimises operational processes, it also enables cost-effective production and inventory planning. In short: “The service and support we get, as well as the price-performance ratio and quality of Vega sensors, are simply excellent,” says Reich in conclusion.
VEGA Grieshaber KG, Schiltach, Germany