The nation’s auto, steel and mining industries operate smoothly thanks to Fuchs Lubricants Company.
Most of Fuchs’ customers are in the metal-working industry, including the Big Three auto makers and Tier I suppliers who need Fuchs’ innovative products — greases, hydraulic fluids, cleaning agents, rust preventives, forging lubricants and heat-treating fluids — for metal production, metal cutting, metal forming and associated machinery. For the steel industry, including the major players and quality smaller mills, Fuchs produces extreme temperature greases, rolling fluids, hydraulic fluids and gear oils. The mining industry depends on Fuchs’ greases, machinery lubricants and fire-resistant fluids to power underground operations where non-flammable agents are required for safety reasons. Other customers include aircraft makers, capital equipment makers and the ball bearing industry. Fuchs also makes food-grade machinery lubricants.
Serving the American metal-working industry since 1924, Fuchs has become a major supplier of metal-working lubricants, process cleaners and corrosion preventives through the merging of several of the country’s oldest and most respected metal-working lubricant manufacturers. The company makes strategic acquisitions about every 18 months. Most recently, Fuchs acquired Brooks Technology, supplier of lubricants to the steel industry. Such acquisitions enhance the company’s technology and research capabilities.
German parent Fuchs Petrolub extends the tradition of technical excellence to more than 80 operating companies in more than 50 countries. These global operations give customers access to new technological developments in metal-working lubrication and corrosion prevention from around the globe. In North America alone, Fuchs has eight plants, 24 warehouses and 10 technical centers with laboratories.
Fuchs is constantly developing new products to meet the ever-changing demands of modern industry. The majority of the company’s metal-working product development takes place at its U.S. headquarters and central laboratory in Harvey, Ill., where a team of product specialists modifies existing products and develops new ones. For example, Fuchs’ research and development might focus on improving performance with respect to tool life or some other critical parameter, or modify product characteristics to improve compatibility with customer processes. Other advances address health and safety issues and environmental impact.
“Whatever the situation demands, Fuchs Lubricants recognizes that tailoring products to specific needs is essential to meeting our customers’ expectations,” says Director of Marketing Mark Howe. “Many mom-and-pop companies out there produce lubricants that were developed decades ago. Fuchs is different because we are technology driven.” Howe adds that 8 percent of the company’s 400 employees are in R&D and technical support, three times the industry average. About 70 percent of its $1 billion in annual sales comes from products developed in the past five years.
Innovation also drives Fuchs’ marketing plan. Instead of a distribution network, Fuchs prefers direct sales to its customers to add service to its technological expertise. Fuchs’ customers enjoy world-class technical support from strategically located regional laboratories with the latest instrumentation and experienced professionals.
Fuchs is committed to customer partnerships in product technology, process coordination, health and safety awareness, and environmental compliance. The company’s chemicals management program allows Fuchs to manage all aspects of lubricant use at its customers’ facilities, including procurement, warehousing and technical service to achieve cost savings, usage reduction and waste minimization.
On the cutting edge of industry trends, Fuchs has been well positioned during the recent economic downturn. “Companies have chosen to consolidate the number of vendors they use in order to save cash,” Howe says. “This has led to national agreements with standout vendors, and Fuchs has been a major player in this consolidation process.” About 12 companies, including Tier I auto suppliers, have signed on to nationwide agreements with Fuchs.
It’s daunting just to list the variety of products Fuchs makes. In metal forming alone, the company’s products include straight oils, water-dilutable compounds, tube-forming lubricants, cold-heading and extrusion lubricants, vanishing oils, hydroforming fluids, stamping oils, drawing compounds, extrusion lubricants, release agents and dry-film lubricants.
Fuchs is constantly engineering and releasing new products to keep it, literally, on the cutting edge. One new product is ECOform HFL6106. It may not inspire a catchy music jingle anytime soon, but the unique lubricant keeps auto makers humming. It’s designed for hydroforming aluminum parts, an important auto niche.
The product gives manufacturers the ability to make a variety of difficult parts because the lubricant is easily cleaned, manufacturers can weld right through the lubricant and parts can be heat-treated without discoloring the lubricant or the aluminum.
Another new addition is Tuf-Draw™ OS5439. This non-chlorinated, heavy-duty stamping lubricant is a hit with companies that are forming or stamping in the auto, heavy-truck and construction industries. The amazing new product enables manufacturers to produce difficult parts that normally would require chlorinated lubricants, which industry is moving away from for environmental reasons.
Fuchs also specializes in the formulation, manufacture and application of specialized lubricants for die protection and release during hot, warm and precision forging. The company’s products include graphite lubricants (oil and water based) for the hot forging of steel; synthetic lubricants, also for the hot forging of steel; special-purpose forging lubricants; forging of copper, brass and aluminum; billet coatings; and net-shape forging.
Fuchs’ global scope allows the company to support its customers’ worldwide operations. “With today’s emphasis on process standardization, it is becoming increasingly important that our customers have ready access to our product no matter where they are located on the globe,” Howe says.
Fuchs also makes dozens of products for other applications. These include maintenance lubricants, cutting and grinding oils, coolants, corrosion preventives, cleaners and quench oils. Fuchs is also a major producer of industrial greases, both in North America and in Europe. Summing it up, Howe says, “We have the most comprehensive industrial-lubricant product line in the market.”