Tianhe Opens India R&D Center

Tianhe Chemicals is scheduled to open a 220,000 square foot (20,000 square meters) research and development center outside Bengaluru, India, during the second three months of calendar 2015. The company claims it will be the largest lubricant additive laboratory in Asia and the technology cog for its strategy to become a major global supplier of additive packages.

Headquartered in Jinzhou, China, Tianhe currently operates a much smaller R&D center in Bengaluru. Talking to Lube Report Asia Feb. 13 on the sidelines of the Lubricating Grease Conference held in Chennai, India, by the NLGI-India Chapter, G.S. Ravi, the chief executive officer of Tianhes lubricant additives division, said the companys existing lab in Jinzhou will continue to develop lubricant additive components. The new one will focus on additive packages - the line of business where Tianhe needs to expand if it wants to compete with the industrys main additive suppliers: Lubrizol, Infineum, Chevron Oronite and Afton Chemical.

In addition to researching and developing lubricant formulations, Ravi said the new center will invite customers to participate to a greater extent than other labs do, allowing them to stay there for periods and to take part in the search for solutions.

We are trying to bring a paradigm shift in the way the industry works today, he said. The shift is towards participation and development rather than buying. We are creating a unique platform where customers will be invited to use our machinery, and our expertise will be geared towards not only improving quality of their products but offering an extra package to the customers - meaning trials, development, delivery, performance quality, customization, developing capabilities, etc., to regional players who dont have their own product development centers. The objective is for customers to participate in the development process, learn and grow.

Ravi said the new center will engage in four main activities: synthesis of molecules that will be used in lubricant additives; performance testing for product development on equipment ranging from engine test stands to table-top machines; analysis for product development and customer support; and customer support.

Tianhe chose to build the center in India for several reasons, Ravi said. First, the country has a large and growing talent pool of engineers. The prevalence of English is helpful, he said, and this location has cost advantages.

The center has an on-site staff of more than 100, including 25 to 30 individuals with doctorate degrees, 20 to 40 with masters degrees, and 30 to 35 engineers. Ravi said they will work under several elder researchers, industry veterans who are based around the world.

Ravi also disclosed that Tianhe plans to establish a blending facility in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by the end of 2015 and some type of manufacturing operation - possibly a toll blending arrangement - in Houston by mid-2016.