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No one has influenced the past two-and-a-half decades of lubricants development more than Mike McMillan of General Motors. No, he was not the sole creator of the auto industrys International Lubricants Standardization and Approvals Committee (which he chaired from its launch in 1987 until his recent retirement), nor of the starburst logo, the GF engine oil series, the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, or numerous other technical and administrative innovations. But few would deny that he was the towering tree in that forest.

Certainly he represented his own industry effectively while at the same time acknowledging the interests of both the oil and chemical additive industries, displaying a hard-headed sense of how to recognize and move toward constructive compromise when circumstances required it. In technical meetings through ASTM, SAE and API, his calm and reasoned voice, based on long experience as well as a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Ohio State, carried disproportionate weight not only within his own industry but the lubricants industry, too. That weight was reinforced by his high ethical standards.

Ive known Mike for 15 years and have the highest regard for him. Information, guidance and advice which he provided to me (and to many others) over the years was uniformly accurate and as complete as could be expected. He is, in sum, a straight shooter.

His retirement in August brought into focus the fact that a number of other experienced industry old timers have recently retired, and others are close to hanging it up. Could these departures portend the end of an era? How will they affect the engine oil quality upgrade process? Could there be a subtle or even significant shift in influence in favor of or against the oil, additive or vehicle manufacturing industries? Could the current consensus system for developing quality upgrades be upset? Could the lessons painfully learned in the past decade be unlearned in the next?

With help from numerous industry stakeholders, LubesnGreases identified a number of individuals who were centrally involved with the quality upgrade process over the past decade and have retired in recent years. Each was polled regarding the above questions, and also was asked, What is the single most important issue to be addressed over the next decade?

Mike McMillan (now working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers) gave the initial thoughtful response:

I couldnt agree more with you that the lubricants industry is at a crossroad. That is exactly why I agreed to stay on as a consultant to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers for a limited time, for the most part to help them develop a transition plan and to identify future leadership to deal with the many issues they will be facing over the next decade. I am confident that, despite my departure as well as that of several of my colleagues in the auto industry in the next couple of years, new leadership will emerge that will be just as effective as we have been in tackling the tough issues they will have to face.

As for the most important issue to be addressed in the next decade, in my opinion it will be how to balance conflicting needs in the areas of engine performance, fuel efficiency improvement and emissions system compatibility.

For the last several oil performance categories, we have made strides forward in all three of these areas simultaneously. However, we are rapidly approaching the point where we will be forced to choose which of these areas is the most important. We saw some of this during GF-4 [engine oil category] development, where the tradeoff between fuel economy and deposit protection was identified. More such conflicts will emerge in GF-5 and beyond.

I believe agreeing on which priority to pursue will be the toughest challenge in the next decade – not only agreeing among the various industry stakeholders (ILSAC, API, ILMA, ACC), but even agreeing within each stakeholder group. To the degree that the new leadership of ILSAC (and probably the other groups, as well) are able to reach this agreement, I believe it will determine the future of the consensus system for engine oil specification development as we know it.

Cliff Venier, long-serving member of APIs Lubricants Committee, retired from Shell Oil Co.:

The three biggest issues for the next decade are cost, cost, cost. One, the cost of new test development. Two, the cost of new chemistries and the research to develop them. And three, the cost of qualifying new products with an ever- increasing slate of engine tests.

The understanding of factors that affect engine performance has advanced to the point that serious consideration ought to be given to expanding the use of bench tests to replace existing engine tests and meet new performance concerns. Three areas that should be the easiest to develop are oxidation – in Europe, pressure differential scanning calorimetry is already in specifications – deposits, and fuel economy. For example, lots of models find Tapered Bearing Simulator viscosity and coefficient of friction more than adequate to account for fuel economy test results. The use of bench tests pays doubly, since it lowers the cost of test development and the cost of new product qualifications.

Gordon Farnsworth recently retired from Infineum after more than 35 years of service in the quality upgrade and assurance process:

Im not sure that the recent retirements will be the end of an era, but they will certainly foster change as new players bring new ideas – which should be good as the engine oil specification system must stay in tune with the ever-changing balance of OEM, environmental and consumer needs in order to provide lubricants with recognized product value.

The resources (both financial and manpower) for developing lubricant specifications and the required performance-based test procedures are much less than they were just 10 years ago. Fortunately there are many talented individuals that will fill some of the recent vacancies and have experiences attuned to current performance needs and product capabilities. They bring the new energy and ideas we need to move forward with purpose.

I do not believe that there will be any near-term step changes in the industrys process of lubricant specification development. However, further refinements of the

current process are expected and healthy for the industry. Delays, if any, in the next specification will most likely result again from test procedure development, as has been the historic case.

The single most important issue to be addressed in the future is recognition that engine oils are complex fluids that can help enable more cost-effective hardware solutions. The cost to develop products for new specifications is astonishing. In order to promote advanced lubricant technology, the specification system must reward true performance features versus the current commodity approach of minimum performance that meets all OEM needs.

Similar to the sports and entertainment industry, new stars will emerge to replace those that retire.

Lowell Norris, retired now from ExxonMobil, chaired APIs Lubricants Committee for a significant period of time:

Mike will be sorely missed. He and a few others who have retired helped to shape the current passenger car and heavy-duty development processes into ones that work better now than ever before.

In years past, there was too much focus by some on special interest issues rather than improving the overall process. I believe that this has corrected itself substantially in recent years. Its very important that passenger car and heavy-duty engine oil future categories be developed by consensus, rather than by declaration of one stakeholder (typically the OEMs). This gives everyone a stake in the investment and a place at the table when specifications are developed.

Coming up with a single most important issue is a tough one because there are so many – some of which we dont even know about today. However, I would say that the single most important critical success factor for all the stakeholders is simply for everyone to remember that were doing this for the consumer, to benefit engine protection, fuel economy and emissions compliance. It should never be reduced to a win/lose situation for any of the stakeholders. Its a chance for all of us to be winners. If were not all winners, then theres a good chance that we could all be looked upon by our ultimate customers as losers.

Lets dont let that happen.

Dr. Stefan Korcek retired after 31 years with Ford Motor Co., which he represented on many interindustry committees, including ILSAC from its beginning in 1987:

Mikes retirement represents a peak in retirements of engine oil specialists at OEMs. Several of us already retired, some of us will retire in the foreseeable future. These retirements themselves, however, are not the reason for the end of an era. There is a high quality of personnel available to replace those retired.

The reason for the end of an era is different. In the last few years the situation in industries involved

in development of engine oils began to drastically change due to many external and internal factors. These industries are facing many new technical and economical challenges, including new powerplant and vehicle systems design and development; use of new construction materials; market share changes; restructurings and cut-backs; globalization; crude oil sourcing and pricing; substitute sourcing of fuels and base oils, etc.

As a consequence, the financial and personnel resources that we old-timers used to have in the past, and research capabilities that we enjoyed in making our decisions, are not there anymore. This means that there is a need to have a fresh look at the existing process of engine oil development before it collapses.

There is a time for a new era. There is the need to understand that engine oil must be one of the design parameters in development of advanced engine technologies, and as such it may require unique formulation and properties that are different from those of the current engine oil categories.

There is an urgent need for ever-increasing and coordinated cooperation among OEMs and among automobile, oil and additive industries worldwide. There is the need to form a strong group of new-timers that would be technically, scientifically and by their commitment at least as strong and diversified as the old-timers were – and that would be able to convince their own organizations and managements that it is very important to participate in engine oil development for future applications.

I know to replace Mike in such a group will be difficult; however, I also believe the fermentation process in this new group will eventually produce a new McMillan.

Glenn Mazzamaro, the additive industrys voice on the ILSAC/Oil committee that developed GF-4 engine oils, recently accepted early retirement from Ciba Specialty Chemicals, after a reorganization of its Process & Lubricant Additives business:

Mikes retirement is the end of an era. He was a consensus builder, and finding common ground brought great satisfaction to him and his contemporaries. As companies become more and more short-term and bottom-line oriented, their representatives will have less and less patience for consensus building and more inclination to take a majority vote as the way to move forward.

When voting takes the place of consensus building, there are clear winners and losers – which isnt healthy for the industry. If consensus building is put aside in favor of majority vote, then it is very possible that new categories will be developed with haste, and without all technical aspects considered. We have seen this happen several times in the past as new engine tests are pushed forward in the certification process.

I dont see Mikes departure causing a shift in influence away from OEMs. The automobile manufacturers and engine builders will always have the largest stake in setting the performance of engine oils. After all, it is their vehicles and their brand image on the line.

The most important issue to address is the speed of change in engine/emission system technology, requiring similar step changes in lubricant formulation technology. Lubricant designers dont have time to wait for the new engines and emissions systems to be developed, and the vehicle designers dont know what advanced lubricant technology may be available for their new systems. Historically weve considered engine design changes as the driver for new lubricants. Now we must include emission system design in the same breath.

Frank Bondarowicz, a longtime member of ASTMs Heavy Duty Engine Oil Classification Panel, recently retired from International Truck and Engine Corp.:

No one is irreplaceable. For example, at our company in the area of lubricants, I was replaced by an experienced and well-prepared successor, Heather DeBaun, whos been working for over 12 years in the area of fuels, lubricants, coolants and after-treatment; shes been a chair of the EMA Coolants Committee for many years. In addition, in the area of diesel fuels, Dr. Rodica Baranescu (past president of SAE) is my replacement. With these knowledgeable individuals, the engine oil quality upgrade process will continue to improve.

The current consensus system has worked well for the CI-4 Plus upgrade, but we need to make continuous improvement for faster response. Lubricant changes will continue to be emissions-driven for the near future. This will challenge OEMs and the chemical additives and oil industries to meet or exceed the demands from our joint customers, the end users.

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