With decades of experience in developing, producing and marketing lubricants and related products, Fuchs Lubricants Nordic is a leader in its field.
Known for its reliability, it offers a voluminous product range spanning more than 10,000 industrial lubricants, which caters to clients across the mining, agriculture, construction and food production industries, among many others.
It also offers custom-made solutions to its customer base.
Managing Director Jonas Palm has been ensuring Fuchs operates like a well-oiled machine since joining the company in 2015.
He brought deep industry experience to the company, having previously been in executive roles at Statoil and Circle K, both petrol retailers with lubrication divisions.
Here, he discusses the company’s future plans, how Fuchs maintains strong relationships with partners and how it ensures a collegial atmosphere for its staff.
The CEO Magazine: What was behind your initial decision to work in the lubricant sector?
Jonas: Well, to start with, it was a new area for me with new challenges. I like to work in B2B and, for us, lubricants are truly in B2B. It was also more of a global concern and that was attractive to me coming from what was a local business in Sweden.
Another appealing aspect of this role was the opportunity to cover the full value chain, from development to production, to marketing the products. That was new for me. My experience before was in the end-phase, so to speak. Also, it offered the chance to work with different cultures outside Sweden. Different cultures interest me, so it was an opportunity I was happy to take.
Before taking on the Managing Director job, you’d worked across many aspects of the business. Was there any area of the company that you felt you had to learn more about when you came into your current role?
Yes, I did have to learn because my background was mainly in sales, finance, partly business development, and products. What was new for me was the supply chain with production and logistics, procurement and R&D. I wanted to do more work in that field and gain more experience in it.
Do you believe your company’s concentration on lubricants is an advantage over competitors, particularly those who are focussed on petrol?
Yes, definitely. I’ve worked at companies that had more focus on the fuel retail business, so I can see a big difference here. Being part of a core business also means you are challenged and supported in a more constructive way, based on deep knowledge of the lubrication business.
The willingness of the owners to invest in our business has been incredibly beneficial. A good example of that in the Nordic market is the new plant and warehouses.
Also, taking over the new food-graded business through acquisition, focusing on product development, you benefit from high-competency R&D, supply and central product management. Finally, the global cooperation we enjoy benefits international customers with global demands, like Volvo and Scania. So, there are quite a number of competitive advantages.
How do you anticipate your product range will develop in the next couple of years?
I think we will start to offer more value-added services to customers. Being part of Fuchs now, we can offer more specialised lubrication products we didn’t have in stock before. For example, we have taken on full responsibility to market products to the food-grade sector in the Nordic territories. I also see that we will continue to develop environmentally adapted lubricants. There will most likely be an increased demand for that as well.
What opportunities do you see to develop products for new vehicles, such as electric cars, for instance?
That is a market that is only just getting started but at Fuchs, we are already adapting our development strategies and concrete working methods to meet this new demand. I think it will generate the need for some lubricants, though obviously not engine oils or gear oils. But there will still be a need for transmission oils and increased demand for niche products. In the coming years, we will most likely see a lot of hybrid vehicles that still need traditional lubricants.
Fuchs is constructing a new blending plant in Sweden. Where will this be located and what benefits will the company see when it’s completed?
It will be between Stockholm and a smaller city called Nynäshamn, in a place called Västerhaninge, roughly 30 kilometres south of Stockholm.This investment is going to boost our competitiveness significantly. It will optimise the blending plant and warehouse, as well as lower our supply costs.
We will also have a more secure and efficient production and planning system. Further, it will strengthen our presence in the Nordic market and show that our owners are willing to invest and develop in it. Ultimately, it will give us more strength to grow the business and offer even greater support to our customers.
How do you go about evaluating new supply partners and determining whether they would be a good fit for you and Fuchs?
Obviously, they need to be able to offer the product we need and have the right technology and scale to get the approvals we require. Then, we look at quality and cost. Another important aspect is their capacity to develop further.
We need to know if they have that capability so, if anything changes in the future, they can supply new types of additives, base oils, packaging or anything else we may need.
We prefer to call them partners rather than suppliers as we want to work with people whohave a strong focus on cooperation. We like to find win–win scenarios, where both sides see benefits. We want partnerships that are built for the future. I mean, not just supplying for a couple of years; we are seeking long-term agreements.
“We prefer to call them partners… we want to work with people who have a strong focus on cooperation.”
Finally, what are some of the things that you have done to foster a fun and enjoyable working environment at Fuchs?
Maybe this is part of the Scandinavian culture, but it’s a good social climate in the company. We try to work as one team, with one agenda. We have an open office and that enables informal conversations. We try to have open and honest communication with ‘taking the pulse’ meetings at the plant and in customer service.
We do our best to celebrate good news like new contracts. I have also implemented a hall of fame. If something special is done, we always inform everyone through our channels about the particular person or group who has achieved entry into our hall of fame.
We focus on continuous improvement in the business and of course, especially for us now with a new owner, we are past the integration phase and moving into a phase where we are targeting growth. It’s very good to have owners who are willing to invest as they give us great security and faith in the organisation’s future.