Moving to a centralized new head office in Isando, Johannesburg and launching a new unified product brand image in mid-November is all part of a long-term strategy for sustained growth and expansion going forward at FUCHS Lubricants South Africa, the 100%-owned subsidiary of FUCHS Germany. To date, 2021 has proven to be a record year for the company, reports sales director Andrew Cowling.
What continues to give the company a leading edge in a highly competitive market dominated by multinationals is the fact that FUCHS remains a family-owned business, with the current CEO representing the third generation. The global group has nearly 60 companies and 6 000 employees globally, and has been developing, producing and selling lubricants for close onto a century.
“The fact that we remain an independent player is a key differentiator, as it allows us to focus on our core business and customers,” comments Cowling. Being the number one independent lubricant company in the world has enabled FUCHS to focus exclusively on the downstream side of the petrochemical value chain, with many competitor multinationals relying on fuel sales to sustain their bottom line. Despite the fact that the group remains independent, it has a range of over 10 000 products and related service lines covering the six main categories of automotive lubricants, industrial lubricants, lubricating greases, metal processing lubricants, special application lubricants and related services.
“We are 100% focused on leveraging this extensive portfolio across our main markets, which are mining, construction, automotive, heavy engineering general industrial, among others,” points out Cowling. The company also has longstanding relationships with various OEMs, especially in the automotive sector, and has good penetration into Southern Africa at the moment in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique in particular. “Our affiliation with these OEMS means we play a key role in helping grow their brands.”
Apart from its main market focus, the company is also involved in niche sectors like glass, food and even wind energy. Such diversification is essential for sustained and viable growth across the entire group. “If there is a difficult year in a specific sector globally such as the mining industry, for example, then we can look to the strengths of our other sectors to tide us over,” highlights Cowling. This flexibility and adaptability is key to the mission statement and values of the global group, which are predicated on ‘lubricants, technology and people’.
The company has branches in Paarl, where it mainly services the food and beverage sector, as well as in Durban and Port Elizabeth, and also in the key mining and industrial areas of Witbank, Springbok and Kuruman. “A key differentiator for us is our strong salesforce, whereas many of our competitors have a distributor-only model. This allows us to be on the ground and as close to our customers as possible, which is important as we are a ‘one-stop shop’ supplier offering customised solutions,” elaborates Cowling. This means the company can supply everything from cleaners to gear, engine and transmission oils and coolants and greases.
“Basically, we are capable of supplying everything a client might require from a lubricant perspective,” stresses Cowling. Another differentiator is that these are all quality, certified products, many with OEM approvals. Local manufacture is also key, as this allows for agility in terms of response times and product availability. Many multinationals rely on a full import model, which means they are susceptible to long lead times and exchange rate fluctuations.
Aftermarket support and back-up are critical, with the salesforce supported by a strong technical team capable of operating in Africa. “Our product managers are responsible for product positioning and approvals and obtaining feedback from our customers, which supplements our research and development and laboratory side of the business,” highlights Cowling.
Looking at the new packaging launch in mid-November, Cowling elaborates that this is a global campaign to repackage the FUCHS core automotive brands into a unified range in line with the entire group product line, including TITAN, AGRIFARM and MAINTAIN, to name but a few.
FUCHS Lubricants South Africa has held the well-known WM Penn under its umbrella for numerous years. With the latest change in the core packaging, the WM Penn range will now be repackaged and rebranded into the TITAN range. From a sales perspective, the rebrand is also part of a concerted effort to grow the retail part of the business.
“We have a strong focus on increasing our brand awareness and developing strategies to target specific market segments,” stresses Cowling. The newly designed bottles and packaging for the range, which is 100% recyclable, also ties into another key theme of the global group, which is sustainability and environmental awareness. This theme is a key part of the FUCHS2025 strategy, which also looks at other major global trends such as autonomous driving, e-mobility and new digital business models.
“We believe that these trends represent a huge opportunity for us in Africa, especially with the move to ‘green’ energy. This is why we are looking very carefully at market segmentation to allow us to tailor specific strategies to cater for such developments going forward, and to introduce them into our entire approach, from product to customer focus, across Africa,” concludes Cowling.