Keeping the Cogs Turning
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Nick Norris
Habot was incepted in 1983 by a professional mining engineer who identified a gap in the South African market for fully synthetic lubricants. Given the demand for lubricants from the burgeoning gold mining industry in the Johannesburg and Gauteng area, Habot’s initial offering centred around reaching out to the local mining houses and educating them on the long-term cost savings that a fully synthetic lubricant could offer versus the mineral oil alternative.
After a warm reception from some of the big industry players in the country at the time, in 1989, the Company decided to build its own production plant in Krugersdorp to cater for growing demand. The first of its kind in SA, the plant was dedicated to blending fully synthetic lubricants and offered an adequate stock of a wide range of fully synthetic lubricants. In addition to serving the mining industry, Habot bolstered on lubricants for the automotive, aviation, industrial, motorcycle, food grade and a speciality range for niche applications.
Shortly after the plant was completed, Habot was appointed distributor for NYCO, Europe’s leading manufacturer of synthetic base oils, industrial, aviation and military lubricants. In January 2015, Habot was appointed ‘Authorised Distributor for ExxonMobil Aviation’, covering the general and commercial aviation sectors in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa; marking another crucial milestone in enhancing its footprint on the continent with the support of global lubricant leaders.
Following decades of continuous growth and consistently high quality products, the Company was acquired in January, 2013 by the current shareholders, and the decision was made to upscale and relocate Habot’s manufacturing facilities to a much larger site in Industria West, Johannesburg. Habot’s newly custom-built operations base and logistics centre boasts state-of-the-art facilities to reinforce and support the Company’s blending and manufacturing capabilities.
This has been a key talking point for the Company in the past two years, as current Managing Director, Saeed Akram alludes to its advantages: “From this site, we do all our own in-house manufacturing, often blending highly specialised lubricants and greases in order to provide convenience and a local supply for our clients. Our smallest blending vessel is just 300 litres and our largest is 4,000 litres, which allows us to cater for orders both big and small.
“Additionally, we also have stainless steel storage vessels at the new site that can hold both raw material and finished lubricants. We have the capacity to hold more than 200,000 litres at the factory. This puts us in a strong position whereby our plant can offer fully flexible blending, packing and storage of fully synthetic and biodegradable oils, with minimum lead times as a local supplier. Now, with this new site and upgraded facilities, we are providing efficient and flexible supply solutions to all our customers.”
With a staff complement of 22 and counting, Habot’s aim is to make nationals and multinationals aware of its facility as a specialised blender of synthetic and biodegradable oils that they can utilise to gain a local presence. In support of this goal, the Company became ISO 9001:2008 certified as part of its continuous improvement of Quality Management Systems to increase its appeal and reputation as a world-class fully synthetic lubricant blender.
“By using our facility, customers will not have to worry about maintaining stock levels of imported synthetic lubricants. We can work with them to make sure that the right level of supply is stored by us,” adds Akram.
Why fully synthetic?
The greatest challenge which Habot continues to face in the South African market is how to educate the African market on the benefits of fully synthetic oils as opposed to the cheaper mineral oils. By demonstrating how its products will provide a long-term cost return for a business, the Company currently trains its customers on an ad-hoc basis on the benefits of fully synthetic oils
Habot’s Sales Manager of Lubricants, Angus Law further details: “With the advent of new technology and thus, new machinery being deployed at some of South Africa’s key mining houses, it is important that we preserve the life of this new equipment as best as possible to get the most out of it, and we do this with our offering of higher performance level synthetic lubricants (when compared to mineral oil-based lubricants).
“Fully synthetic lubricants are long-lasting, help prevent wear, keep a machine clean and flowing easily; it maintains its viscosity and can prevent early rust and reduce unnecessary friction.
With its facility now fully operational since the move a year ago, complete with an ISO 9001:2008 international certification, Habot is working hard to improve its presence through the relevant marketing and sales channels in order to increase blending activity at the plant; not only for its own-brand products, but for third party partners too.
Habot’s Director of Marketing, Sergio Fernandez comments: “We predict a substantial increase in blending for partners operating in South Africa – both new and longstanding – with the aim to see a 50 percent increase in the next 12 months.
“In support of achieving this is our level 2 BEE rating, which we can leverage to add value to companies who are looking to increase their own BEE rating, while simultaneously looking for a responsible and committed partner.”
Aligning with its own missions and goals, Habot is always looking for other ways to improve all aspects of its operations; including product range, efficiency and plant improvements, stock and subsequent timely delivery and quality control.
“Improvement is an ongoing process at Habot. As we start blending for even more companies, we will make sure that all the right regulations are in place to do so from the word-go for the benefit of both parties,” Fernandez emphasises.
Proudly South African
Habot has equipped itself with a large site and Managing Director, Saeed Akram says “there is plenty of room for expansion looking ahead”. Around the world, there has been an increase in the demand for fully synthetic lubricants as a whole multitude of industries begin to recognise the long-term benefits of making the switch. “This bodes well for us, the future interest in our facility and our ability to blend lubricants for the big players,” Akram states.
With this in mind, it is clear that Habot has the potential to become a leading name in fully synthetic lubricant production and blending in South Africa, and the industry-leading capabilities at its facility will no doubt be in high demand by third parties.
Sean O’Donnell, Head of Habot’s Aviation Division concludes: “Above all, we want potential customers to see the benefits of fully synthetic lubricants, and how they can reduce the total cost of ownership by using quality lubricants from us. Our main drive is to educate operators across a wide range of industry so they can see this long-term value. This will allow customers to become more efficient, with less downtime, less operating costs, less fuel and power consumption.
“We are a proudly South African manufacturer who can create extra value by extending the life of a machine.”