The secret of global strength


The secret of global strength

Not all companies are made alike. One may operate solely in local markets while others move at a global level. Their needs differ. How can we cater to them all as a lubricant producer? It's a question of balance.

“At FUCHS PETROLUB, we work in 50 countries for around 100,000 customers. A company that produces in the USA needs lubricants that meet different legal requirements than one in Europe or China. We need to take this into account with our products for these local markets.” These are the words of a man who knows what he's talking about: Dr. Thomas Christmann, Vice President Industrial Division at FUCHS PETROLUB. “There is another dimension,” adds Jörg Wehrle, who goes by the title of Vice President Global Product Management Strategy: “Does a company act globally and have plants in several countries or even several continents? If so, then that also has consequences for the lubricant products that it requires.” Being the perfect partner for them all is of great importance to FUCHS PETROLUB. "After all, we're the world's biggest vendor when it comes to independent lubricant producers and we want to hold on to this market position,” emphasizes Dr. Christmann.

“If a company acts globally and has plants in several countries or even several continents, then that has consequences for the quality of lubricants that it requires.”

Jörg Wehrle, Vice President Global Product Management Strategy

A company that produces in the USA, for example, needs lubricants that meet different legal requirements than in Europe or China.

Regional strength

FUCHS PETROLUB's particular strength has always been its presence on site in the local markets. With over 30 production sites and more than 60 operating companies, FUCHS is represented on all continents. “In many countries we are present with a full organization, which means distribution, production, product management, and R&D,” explains Jörg Wehrle. This enables FUCHS to cater to these needs and provide the right offer fast without the risk of linguistic or cultural misunderstandings.

Jack Liu is Vice President Industrial Lubricants Sales at FUCHS LUBRICANTS (CHINA) LTD. and he knows that he has a huge advantage in his market over competitors operating purely on a global level. Not least because the local FUCHS companies are able to act with relatively broad autonomy. “Our customers in China need custom-made solutions. The fact that we as a local unit can put together our own offers and don't require approval from far-off headquarters means that we are able to meet the needs of our customers much more accurately and individually. In a market as big as China, this autonomy and flexibility are very important.”

An example: Automotive supplier ZF with its Shanghai plant Lemförder Shanghai Chassistech Co., Ltd. Here it manufactures products such as steering knuckles, transverse links, or clamping arms from aluminum alloys. The cooling lubricant used here for lathing, milling, grinding, and drilling was to be replaced for three reasons: Consumption was too high and the processing of several coated workpieces made it necessary to replace the cooling lubricant often, which pushed up costs. Furthermore, new environmental regulations came into force in China which prohibited ingredients such as boron or formaldehyde. In a three-month test, the cooling lubricant from the ECOCOOL FUCHS product line came out on top among products from three competitors. 

global… local… glocal!

Yet it is not just autonomy and a detailed knowledge of the local circumstances that are important for Jack Liu in providing customers with optimum service. It is often an advantage that he is able to make use of the FUCHS network: “FUCHS PETROLUB plays an outstanding role for several customers in Europe. When their subsidiaries in China need our support, then we can use the knowledge from the headquarters about these customers,” he explains.

However, the flow of information between the global level at FUCHS and the local companies is not a one-way street. The specific knowledge of the local markets and customer needs in the local companies is the foundation for developing global products and solutions at FUCHS. Dr. Christmann: “The local companies are networked with one another. This means that FUCHS has the ability, where necessary, to distill global needs from the many different local needs worldwide and to use these to develop products that can be used globally. This balance between local and global ways of organization and thinking is the secret of our global strength.” FUCHS is therefore able to provide both locally and globally active companies with exactly what they need: individual solutions tailored to local conditions on one hand – and reduced complexity on the other hand. This is a key factor for corporations like ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

“We develop globally usable products from different local customer needs around the world. This balance between local and global ways of organization and thinking is the secret of our global strength.”

Dr. Thomas Christmann, Vice President Global Sales Strategy Industrial Lubricants, FUCHS PETROLUB

Simply global: platform technologies

ZF Forum – Aerial photograph (image source: ZF Press Center)

ZF is a technology corporation that operates all over the world with 160,000 employees at around 260 sites in 41 countries. A huge range of lubricants is used everywhere to suit different applications, yet they also need to fulfill different legal regulations internationally. For a global manufacturing company like ZF, the work involved in managing lubricant supply can quickly mushroom to unacceptable dimensions. That is why it's important to keep the complexity of the lubricant supply at global level to a minimum. This can be achieved if the same lubricant from just one manufacturer can be used for one and the same production process in every plant around the world. Then this manufacturer becomes a solution provider – a plus point that is becoming ever more important at this level. FUCHS offers platform technologies for this case. And that is exactly what ZF uses. In the field of metalworking, for example, with the water-miscible “ECOCOOL” cooling lubricant. 

Platform technologies are patented formulas that are available worldwide because all the raw materials used in them meet chemical regulatory requirements around the world. They can be adapted to use with different materials and in different work steps. If a safe process is established with this lubricant in the main plant, then it can be introduced just as safely in every other plant in the world. This ensures that EHS standards are observed around the world but also reduces the complexity of the lubricant supply chain. This means that significantly less budget and resource financing is required.

The ECOCOOL cooling lubricants 

  • are available globally. They enable users the world over to reproduce standardized manufacturing processes.
  • are safe, economical, and sustainable to use.
  • are free from boron, formaldehyde deposits, 2-aminoethanol, dicyclohexylamine, nitrosatable secondary amines, nitrite, hard complex formers, chlorine, zinc, and heavy metals.
  • are skin-compatible.
  • have optimum cooling and rinsing effects, outstanding lubricating performance, good foaming behavior, and good material compatibility.
  • provide highly stable wear protection, effective corrosion protection, good high-pressure stability.
  • enable processing of innovative materials.
  • are less susceptible to attack by bacteria and fungi thanks to the specially selected ingredients.

Jack Liu, Vice President Industrial Lubricants Sales at FUCHS LUBRICANTS (CHINA) LTD.

Two questions for Jack Liu

Vice President Industrial Lubricants Sales at FUCHS LUBRICANTS (CHINA) LTD.

How do you benefit from the competence of the global FUCHS network as a sales manager in a local market?

For some areas, it is helpful to be able to draw on the wealth of experience within the group. Even though we are well established, we don't know all the details of the lubricant market in all industries. The medical technology market, for example, offers great opportunities in China. In order to be able to act successfully here, we get the knowledge we need from the group. We hold regular webinars, for instance, where experts share their knowledge with other members of the group. This helps a lot to expand our business in the medical technology arena.

Which globally applicable products has FUCHS developed on the basis of your specific market information?

China is the largest market for compressors in the world and therefore also a very important market for compressor oils. Compressors are getting ever smaller and more efficient, which means that more is required of the oil. We shared our knowledge of this topic with the group and on the basis of that knowledge, a new generation of lubricants was developed for the global market at the FUCHS Competence Center for compressor oils. Thanks to this product, we have already gained numerous new customers in China, including a US company that operates internationally.