Rhein Chemie additive helps Hicks Oils increase product efficiency


Hicks Oils, a Du Quoin, Illinois-based provider of industrial lubrication fluids, transmission fluids, hydraulic fluid and motor oil, encountered a problem particular to its hydraulic fluid business. Like many hydraulic fluid manufacturers, Hicks was looking for a way to differentiate its products in a commodity-driven market.

The company was able to compete on price but also wanted to market a product that could compete on efficiency and quality. At the time, it utilized an antiwear additive with a high zinc content and a high treat rate of .85 percent by volume. While zinc can provide effective antiwear protection for the fluid, too much zinc can cause metal corrosion in machinery. Its high zinc content became a concern for Hicks Oils’ customers, and the company began to seek alternative solutions for antiwear additives.

Palmer Holland approached Hicks Oils with a potential solution involving an antiwear additive manufactured by Rhein Chemie. The additive met the performance requirements with regard to preventing metal corrosion, water accumulation and air bubbles in the finished hydraulic fluid.

The Rhein Chemie additive was able to meet the performance requirements because of its lower zinc content, which translated to a lower treat rate — .45 percent by volume, or nearly half the treat rate of Hicks Oils’ previous additive. The lower treat rate means less additive must be used per weight in each shipment of hydraulic fluid, making the usage of the additive more economical, particularly when multiplied over time.

The lower zinc content did not compromise the antiwear properties of the additive, meaning the additive was able to provide a similar level of antiwear protection that the previous additive did, but with less risk of metallic corrosion within the machinery that houses the finished hydraulic fluid product.

In addition, Hicks Oils ships its hydraulic fluid products to an international customer base, so the fluid’s contents must comply with strict guidelines across many countries. Palmer Holland was able to connect the staff at Hicks Oils with experts at Rhein Chemie, who have an extensive knowledge of REACH guidelines throughout the European Union, and who could ensure that the final product was produced and shipped to the specifications of the EU companies in which Hicks Oils does business.

Palmer Holland worked as a consultant between Hicks Oils and Rhein Chemie, helping to facilitate final product testing to ensure the fluid would withstand the rigorous performance specifications as required by law, and by customers. Rhein Chemie ran several tests at its Pittsburgh lab to gauge the oxidation levels of the fluid and found the fluid to be within international specifications — between 3,000 and 5,000 hours of fluid life before oxidation requires the fluid to be replaced.

All told, the lower treat rate, manufacturer support and composition of the additive itself, which combined anti-corrosion, anti-wear, water and air protection in a single source, provided tremendous value to Hicks Oils.

The solutions provided by Palmer Holland allowed Hicks Oils to provide a higher-quality hydraulic fluid product to its customers while still competing on price in a commodity-driven space. Through its role as a facilitator, Palmer Holland worked with Rhein Chemie to ensure that quality standards were upheld and gathered test data that could then be disseminated to customers, outlining the consistent quality of the product.