Global Proximity

26.06.2018

Global Proximity

With its new facility for specialty greases in Harvey, Chicago, FUCHS has built a state-of-the-art grease factory in North America. The new plant is an important element of the company’s global 3-continent (3C) strategy and part of the growth initiative, for which the Group is planning a total investment of around € 300 million by 2018.

It is presumably the largest internal, transnational joint venture in FUCHS’ history and a prime example of international cooperation: the specialty grease factory in Harvey, USA, which was built over 3,200 square meters for around € 24 million and has been supplying North American customers since 2017. A large team of colleagues from Germany and the USA were involved in an intense professional cooperation lasting several months to bring this project to fruition. The plant, which is located in the south of Chicago and equipped with state-of-the-art technology, is part of the Group’s investment initiative: FUCHS is planning to deliberately channel around € 300 million by 2018 into developing existing and building new facilities in the world’s high-growth regions. More to the point, the plant is an important element of the lubricant manufacturer’s global 3C strategy.

As part of this commitment, FUCHS is standardizing the production process for OEM specialty greases in Europe, America and Asia with the same production facilities, similar raw materials, an identical quality control process and laboratory equipment. This principle means that in the future, for example, automotive manufacturers with production facilities spread all over the world will have the assurance that the greases they use on all three continents are of a consistently high quality and composition. “For these customers in particular, what we have to offer is especially attractive. A definite unique selling point of our company,” emphasizes the Director OEM FUCHS LUBRICANTS CO., who is in charge of the OEM business in the North America region. “Equally exceptional is the large internal network we have been building since the new plant was in the development phase,” continues the OEM Director. “On a production level, this is an unbelievably big step for FUCHS, that has made a massive contribution to the success of the overall project.”

In 2017, the production of high-quality specialty greases for North American customers began in the new facilities in Chicago.

In 2017, the production of high-quality specialty greases for North American customers began in the new facilities in Chicago.

Intense cooperation between colleagues

The training of employees for the factory in Harvey was also a success. Half the workforce is made up of experienced skilled workers, who had already worked at FUCHS production facili­ties in the USA previously. Most of them were then trained in Germany. “The core team completed a training program at the headquarters in Mannheim to improve its understanding of our company and corporate culture,” explains the Director of Operations at the Harvey plant. “The employees also spent three weeks at our grease factory in Kiel where they learned about work organization and processes.” In turn, specialists from Kiel and Mannheim flew across the pond to play a hands-on role in the start-up phase of the plant in the USA. Even now, almost one year later, colleagues from the two countries continue to have a close working relationship. There are still close channels of communication when it comes to technical issues. “It is a truly excellent example of transnational cooperation that also extends beyond individual departments. I’ve never expe­rienced something quite like it before,” says the Director of Operations with admiration. Born in Kiel, he has been working at the specialty grease factory in his hometown for a number of years, most recently as head of the “technical departments.”

Close to the customer all over the world

Our company can be found wherever our more than 100,000 customers need us – in over 45 countries around the globe. We have local bases with our 58 operating companies and 33 plants. And, as part of its growth initiative, FUCHS is continuing to invest in building new locations and expanding existing locations worldwide. At the same time, our employees work closely with their international colleagues. This connected, extraordinary know-how and our employees form the basis of our success.

Highly automated equipment

The facility at his new workplace in Harvey commenced the test phase in spring 2017 with around 30 specialty greases for the automotive, heavy duty, construction, railway and off-road markets in North America. Full production is underway since 2018. An IT system controls the addition of raw materials to the high-quality specialty greases that are produced at the new facility. Most of the systems are automated and the facility is fitted with high-tech equipment. This makes overdosing or under­dosing practically impossible. Nevertheless, should an error occur in the production process, it is identified and reported immediately. The highly automated systems also document each individual phase of the production process – generating a level of trans­parency that is of paramount importance to customers.

Tailor-made solutions

But the new plant offers many more advantages: Whereas up to now FUCHS has mainly produced these high-quality greases for OEM customers in Kiel, the company is now able to produce them faster in the USA and potentially in Yingkou, China, and supply them more flexibly to North America and the Asia-Pacific, Africa region. In addition to product quality, these other important aspects are required to meet ever-growing industry demands even more effectively.

As well as the production facility, a new warehouse is also optimizing logistics in Harvey. A laboratory with highly specialized testing equipment has been built for research and development (R & D). Some of the greases produced are customized developments. “Before we manufacture tailor-made products like these, we get a team of key account managers, product managers and R & D specialists together and visit the customer’s local premises. We work together on-site to formulate the best individual solution,” says the OEM Director, describing the close cooperation with the customer and the unique opportunities that this produces in terms of lubricant development.

Potential in the US market

The grease factory in the south of Chicago is FUCHS’ second facility for lubricating greases in the USA in addition to the one in Kansas City. High-volume greases for a range of applications, including the steel industry and food lubricants, are produced in Missouri. Both colleagues in Harvey still see enormous potential for their company on the US market: “In the USA, FUCHS has so far been identified almost exclu­sively as an oil supplier. Now with our diverse and superior-quality range of specialty greases we have the opportunity to change this perception, which will allow us to reach completely new target groups.” Even the increased significance of electric mobility, with the increased use of premium greases in electric cars, is expected to open up new growth prospects for FUCHS in North America. “With our highly advanced technology, we will soon be able to offer our customers a great deal in this area as well,” the two men agree. “We are very well prepared.”

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QingPing Zhu

QingPing Zhu

Managing Director at FUCHS LUBRICANTS (CHINA) LTD.

»Lubricants are definitively one of the most important industrial products in the Chinese growth market. In this environment, we are a flexible and reliable partner for our customers.«

Cutting-edge technology for the Chinese growth market: The new FUCHS LUBRICANTS plant in Wujiang, a Suzhou district in the province of Jiangsu, China, is expected to go into operation in 2019. Around 100 employees will be working here in production, storage, maintenance, IT, administration and other areas. The latest technologies and special measures to protect the environment and optimize processes at this factory, not far from Shanghai, will make it one of the most modern lubrication production facilities in China. We spoke with QingPing Zhu, Managing Director at FUCHS LUBRICANTS (CHINA) LTD.

Mr. Zhu, the budget for the new plant in Wujiang is roughly € 36 million. What is the capacity of the new plant?

This factory will have eight highly automated filling lines, 31 blenders and 55 tanks with a capacity of between 60 and 500 m3 on 80,000 m2 floor space. In Phase I, its nominal production capacity will be around 100,000 tons per year – almost twice as much as our plant in Shanghai. The automatic high bay warehouse will have a capacity of around 11,000 pallets.

This factory will be one of the most modern lubricant production facilities in China. What exactly will it produce in the future?  

We will produce a wide range of products, including automotive lubricants for OEM customers and retailers. In the industrial sector, our portfolio includes metal working fluids, corrosion preventatives, quenching oils and products for lubricant management services. To increase production efficiency, the new plant will be designed based on an “intelligent plant” concept. This means greater and more flexible production due to more automation, more effective material flows and optimized management processes in order to meet customer requirements even better than before. We will also work with an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). We will be one of the first lubricant manufacturers to use this extremely efficient storage technology in China.

Some of FUCHS’ most important Chinese customers are based in the Jiangsu region. And business is still growing in your country …

Absolutely. China is the largest automobile manufacturing country in the world and has the second-largest number of vehicles on the road. China is also a leader in the growing electric vehicle industry and in other industrial markets, such as wind energy, steel, cement and coal mining. At FUCHS, we have been increasingly expanding our business from year to year as part of this rapid development. Over time, customer requirements have become more demanding – for example, with regard to supply chain and production management. Our new sophisticated plant in Wujiang is another important step towards increasing our competitiveness in China. This will allow us to continue improving the quality of our products, our services and ultimately our position as a leading lubricant manufacturer in a dynamic market while being in close contact with our local customers. 

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