Lubricants. Technology. People
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Eddie Clinton
FUCHS Lubricants South Africa brings German manufacturing expertise to a highly lucrative regional market, and is looking to further compound its ongoing prominence on the continent via a host of acquisitions, expansions, facility enhancements and enrichment initiatives.
As a subsidiary of FUCHS Petrolub SE - the largest independent manufacturer of specialist lubricants in the world - the Company’s ability to replicate such market success further afield should come as no surprise; but the ability to instil a local feel within an international environment is no mean feat, especially in Southern Africa.
However, this is where an unparalleled product range and supply chain footprint comes into its own as the Company looks to hone in on its core goals of establishing itself as the foremost supplier of ultra-high quality and specialised lubricants to the automotive, mining and industrial sectors, backed up by highly trained lubrication specialists.
“FUCHS Lubricants South Africa offers the best of high quality German products, manufactured with only the highest quality mineral and synthetic base oils, and additive packages,” the Company states.
National Commercial Sales Manager, Mitch Launspach adds: “FUCHS has an exceptionally wide range of products available in our portfolio, comprising the original Wm. Penn range of automotive products for vehicle owners wanting a decent quality oil at an affordable price, as well as the top-tier TITAN range of automotive products; many of which carrying a wide range of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) approvals.
“In fact, FUCHS is arguably the largest supplier of lubricants to automotive aftermarket and industrial manufacturers of original equipment in South Africa. We also have a comprehensive range of products for every type of industrial application, as well as a range of lubricants for all applications in the mining industry, including pin and bush grease, open gear compounds and any other products in use on open-cast and deep-level mining operations.”
Additionally, Cassida and Lubrasa lubricants for food grade applications and the Silkolene brand for motorcycles and quads add further to the comprehensive product range, bringing new opportunities to a market which has benefitted from the footprint covered by the Company – bridging South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Botswana and Mozambique – while also enhancing the levels of manufacturing quality and compliance achieved by the business across all of its products in all of its countries of operation.
“The quality of our blending plant and laboratory is of a standard that allows us to manufacture 90 percent of our entire product offering at our plant in Isando, Gauteng. This includes most of the products that we manufacture as genuine oil for OEMs,” Launspach continues. “These products form part of the Group’s range of core products, which means that the quality of base oil, additives and manufacturing methods have to conform to the OEM specification, in every respect for the approval to be valid.
“The FUCHS Group understands that no two markets are completely the same, anywhere in the world, and this gives us the latitude to make our own decisions here in the region. However, this is done without compromising on the levels of quality, technology and service that have made FUCHS the largest independent lubricants manufacturer in the world.”
The current situation for FUCHS in Southern Africa represents a familiar trend for the Group which has branched out to most corners of the earth over the years in order to bring its market-leading products to as wide a customer base as possible. For South Africa specifically, this journey began in the early 1990s, as Launspach recalls.
“Our German parent company was looking at acquiring a presence in the lubricants market in South Africa, and acquired four small independent lubricant manufacturers; Century Oils, Wm. Penn Lubricants, Noxal Lubricants and National Oils in the early 1990s. Between them they covered every segment of the lubricants market, and they were merged to form FUCHS Lubricants South Africa located in Isando, Gauteng.
“As the Company’s business grew, a second property was purchased which became the head office, a new, larger warehouse was erected, and the filling plant was relocated to provide space for additional filling lines.”
Creating a snowball effect, this in turn allowed for a major expansion of the Company’s oil blending facilities, and has subsequently been complemented by a series of smaller expansions and significant acquisitions like the one of high-quality specialty lubricant manufacturer, Lubritene.
“The other major acquisition was of a company called Lubrasa, who manufactures food grade lubricants,” Launspach notes. “This growth necessitated the purchase of a third property behind our original plant, which is now the official head office of FUCHS Lubricants South Africa.”
Since establishing the brand in the region, the focus has been not only on continuous improvement, but doing so in a way that is being smartly conveyed to a market potentially unaware of the benefits that FUCHS’ products can bring to their organisations; whether from a financial, energy, quality or durability perspective.
“Many of our prospective customers do not fully understand the benefits and financial savings of using products that are technically superior to much of the opposition,” Launspach explains. “As a result, our job is to educate potential customers, before converting them to the FUCHS product.
“We continuously look for ways to improve our product quality and will invest in plant and equipment to meet these standards. We pride ourselves in the technical support we offer the customer and, were necessary, harness the support of the entire FUCHS group.”
The largest independent lubricants manufacturer
Having such flexibility and diversity within the business aids this effort in attaining new clients and partners, but also assists in dealing with situations that are a little more out of the Company’s control in regards to industry fluctuations and challenges; or indeed in capitalising on sector opportunities.
In recent times, one such opportunity has been brought to light within FUCHS’ OEM business, as Launspach details: “The most significant industry move over the last few years that we have experienced is our OEM business. While OEMs have always had a significant impact on the development and sales of lubricants, these OEMs are now pursuing lubricant sales outside of their regular business area, as a way of ensuring the right quality lubricants are used in their equipment, and as a means of generating additional income.
“This is creating a new dynamic with our key OEM partnerships and it’s an exciting time.”
The extent of capital expenditures required to facilitate this level of dynamism is epitomised by a series of enhancements witnessed across FUCHS Lubricants South Africa in recent years; kick-started by continuous upgrades and expansions of the Company’s laboratory, blending plant and filling plants, and supported by the subsequent attainment of ISO 9001:2008 accreditation across its operations.
“This gives you the assurance that the quality of our products always meet or exceed the required standards,” the Company says.
“Over the past 10 years, FUCHS has been in a continual phase of upgrades, in terms of blending facilities, bulk storage capacity and technical upgrades,” Launspach continues. “Due to the introduction of higher quantities of Group II and synthetic base oils in our products, we have also had to expand our tank farm considerably, as well as expand our production facilities to include dedicated blending vessels for these products.
“We have also expanded and equipped our in-house laboratory, in order to ensure that we are able to accurately monitor quality control of all products that we manufacture and conform to the highest standards in the industry.”
Current investments in a new state-of-the-art grease plant which will be one of the largest and most advanced on the continent provide further evidence of not only FUCHS’ dedication to operational excellence, but a refusal to rest on its laurels as it continues to adhere to its ultimate goal of optimum expansion in Southern African markets.
“FUCHS is the largest independent lubricants manufacturer in the world and we continue to aggressively grow our market share through significant investments into R&D and through acquisitions; based on our motto - ‘Lubricants. Technology. People.’,” Launspach emphasises.
The Company concludes: “Fuchs remains at the forefront of developing lubricants in cooperation with the world’s most innovative automotive and industrial OEMs that provide the enhanced levels of performance that are required.
“This dedication to excellence is highlighted by the number of products within our extensive range of products that carry approvals from the world’s best known manufacturers.”