FUCHS Lubricants invited PMM to its facility in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, to present the company’s recent investments that give new impetus to the claim that it is ‘the number one independent lubricant manufacturer in the world’.
Upon arriving at FUCHS Lubricants’ manufacturing plant, the scope of the company’s investment in its UK headquarters was immediately apparent. The modern style of the main building and the surrounding busy manufacturing areas reflects FUCHS’ claim of running ‘the most modern lubricant production facility in the UK’. The decision to invest heavily in the plant was made by the company’s leadership in Germany. Andy Brown, Technical Manager, explained, “We have the capacity to manufacture 120 million litres of lubricant per year on a single shift, and currently, we are operating at about three quarters of that. This generates a huge amount of stock, and we need the necessary systems in place to allow us to deal with these figures.”
Following a brief insight into the company’s history and products from its Automotive Director, Russell Kenyon, we were given a tour around the facility. Our first port of call was the packaging factory, where we witnessed the full scale of FUCHS’ futuristic packaging capabilities. Not only were the company’s employees working on boxing up products and moving them onto pallets, there were also automated robotic arms that moved boxes onto pallets, and automated forklifts that roamed the aisles and carried pallets of lubricant around the facility.
Andy, who was keen to point out the necessity for this modern approach, said, “Automation is a crucial part of manufacturing. The option of having this technology has meant we have been able to respond to an increase in customer demands.”
Next up was the Quality Control (QC) laboratory, which enables FUCHS to refine its lubricants to the approved standard. The QC lab provides the company with traceability of its products, as Andy explained, “If our QC technicians find even the most miniscule of flaws within a lubricant batch, they stop the production process until they find out what’s wrong.”
As QC is such an important aspect of FUCHS’ UK production, the company is expanding its laboratory to enable it to speed up its production capabilities. Andy stressed that this was because “continuous supply is important to our customers; it’s their product, too.”
We were also treated to a view of the heart of FUCHS’ operation, the control room. From here, the amount of raw materials going into each batch is carefully monitored, as is the required ratio and the size of the final product. On this rigorous process, Andy commented, “FUCHS understands that every stage of the production process is crucial to the ‘bigger picture’. One of the greatest threats to independent lubricant manufacturers in the UK at the moment is the increasing variety of specifications coming through from the VMs. These days, it is very difficult for smaller outfits to keep up with these demands, with the one-size-fits-all solution no longer working.
“Despite the challenges, FUCHS is in a great position. We still have plenty more investing to do, all with the aim of bolstering our rights to the claim that we are ‘the number one independent lubricant manufacturer in the world.”