Onward and upward
- Anyone wishing to remain an industry leader has to understand the customers and their markets
- The future is information, the future is digital
- In a globalized world, a local presence counts – FUCHS is expanding its production capacities and sales networks worldwide
Dr. Thomas Christmann
Vice President Global Sales Strategy Industrial Lubricants
The overall market for lubricants is huge and it continues to grow. So, conditions are good. However, a company can grow with the market only with a substantial amount of effort and certainly not without a strategy – particularly in the age of Industry 4.0. This is also apparent in the industry’s technical sales. To enable the rapid upward trajectory to continue in the future, it is important to put the focus on the customers’ perspective – what they want, need and quite simply expect.
KNOW THE REQUIREMENTS
And this is important, because productivity has top priority for industrial customers. Uptime is the magic word here, meaning maximum machine availability without failures. In addition, we are experiencing a digital transformation on both a commercial and technical level with regard to our customers. The new generation of decision makers in particular expects electronic platforms that make it possible to buy lubricants for all locations worldwide in one place. They want ordering lubricants to be as comfortable as buying books on Amazon.
The technical development is clearly headed toward a future in which machines use sensors to monitor themselves. This will also make it possible to measure the quality of lubricants. Software will decide when a lubricant needs to be refilled or reordered.
But for all kinds of digitalization, customers still need and request sound, solution-oriented personal advice with added value. In short, they rely on strong points of contact with sales expertise. We are challenging ourselves to meet these expectations and we will deliver. In order to meet the requirements of the sales operations, we are currently working on digital sales tools and we will implement internet-based e-commerce very soon.
MEET THE REQUIREMENTS
We keep track of our customers. Our industrial customers are relocating their capacities to regions in which we are currently expanding our presence. We are establishing new production capacities in the US, Eastern Europe and Asia, thereby reducing delivery times. Globalization in industrial sales means that we have to focus on the markets, develop relevant lubricants and provide a one-stop service for complete solutions. This also means that the global and local sales networks will undergo organizational changes and adjustments. This will enable us to react to customer requirements with increased speed and flexibility.
In order to provide the best possible support to our major customers, not only do we have to offer them the best products and services in the world, but we also need to speak to them with one voice. We therefore require a key account management team that would be responsible for coordinating what we have to offer to our customers across products and regions. It would then bundle this up and provide a one-stop service for complete solutions. We alone are able to supply almost all lubricants, understand the correlations and know which operating fluids go together. This expertise forms an essential part of our services.
So the biggest investments in sales are made in the training and knowledge of our employees. They use their expertise to develop the right solution, earning trust and creating added value for customers by helping them to increase uptime and productivity on site. The requirement to have detailed knowledge of certain industries is also key here. Our steel team in China is proof that this is worthwhile. Colleagues here were able to significantly and profitably increase sales revenues, and gain market shares. It is our aim and intention to implement this recipe for success in other industries, too, such as aerospace, the medical industry, offshore and wind energy.
Overall, we need various pillars to achieve stable growth. This is why we will operate by the motto “the broader the range of customers, the better” in the future. We are deliberately aiming for a mix of global major customers and many medium-sized customers. And regardless of the customer or industry, providing the highest quality is our top priority.
So, even from the customer’s perspective, we have the right strategy in place for a successful future. We are working intensively on “talking lubricants” – with sensors and software that recognize when there is no more lubricant left. We are pioneers here. However, not everything can be anticipated. For example, what kind of place will artificial intelligence have in the industry? How will our role as suppliers change? There are still no answers to these questions, but one thing is certain: we want to develop solutions together with customers. In the future, we want to accompany them and continuously adapt our own processes to new conditions. This will enable us to help shape the path to the future. We will then be not only pacesetters, but also pioneers.