Fuchs turns Aussie 100

Fuchs Lubricants Australasia has just turned 100 years old, and are celebrating their ongoing commitment to providing the Australian industry and consumers with the highest quality lubricants, greases and oils.

“It is a phenomenal achievement to still be going strong in 2011,” said Fuchs Lubricants Australasia, managing director, Wayne Hoiles.  “There are not many companies in the world that can say they are 100 years old.”

“It feels great to be part of such a successful company,” said Fuchs Lubricants deputy ,anaging director Australasia Stewart Knight. “The journey has been great so far, and I’m looking forward to it continuing.”

The history of Fuchs Lubricants Australasia can be traced back to 1911, when metallurgist Claude A. Stewart founded the Steel Improvement Company in Bay Street, Sydney.

The Steel Improvement Company specialised in carburisers and metal working products, and became known throughout the Commonwealth as the manufacturers of IMPREGNO carburising products.

In 1948, the company established a manufacturing facility and laboratory in Woodville, a suburb of Adelaide, to service Holden and Chrysler with drawing oils, stamping oils and heat treatment salts. This was followed by a manufacturing plant built on Market Road in Sunshine, Victoria.

In late 1979, the Steel Improvement Company was purchased from the Stewart family by Beat Altermatt, and Sunshine became the company head office. Beat Altermatt was looking for superior technology, and in 1980, partnered with Fuchs GmbH of Mannheim, Germany, who took a 40% equity share in the company.

In 1981, Steel Improvement relocated to the current Fuchs Lubricants Australasia head office location at 49 McIntyre Road, Sunshine.

In 1989, Beat Altermatt sold his interest in Steel Improvement to Fuchs AG OEL + Chemie, at a time when the company turnover was around 12 million dollars per year.

During this time, Century Oils was one of the UK’s most respected lubricant companies, and were operating a subsidiary in Newcastle, NSW, which specialised in underground coal mining fire resistant fluids and coal flotation reagents.

In 1991, Fuchs Petrolub AG OEL + Chemie purchased the global operating companies of the UK-based Century Oils. This was followed in 1992 by the merger of The Steel Improvement Company and Century Oils Australia Limited, forming Fuchs Lubricants Australasia.

Subsequent to this acquisition, Fuchs continued its expansion program through the acquisition of Omex Petroleum in 1998, which allowed Fuchs to expand into the automotive sector as well as New Zealand. This was followed up with the acquisition of a related company; Fuchs Lubritech in 2007, which enabled Fuchs to further increase its level of specialisation.

“Fuchs Australasia has grown 300% in the last 10 years, becoming a greater than $150 million company,” said Hoiles.

“Our exponential growth over the past 10 years demonstrates that Fuchs has continued to develop in the Australasian region.”

“In the early 1980s, when Fuchs came in and added the international flavour, they brought a great deal of technology. That said, we have still maintained many of the core ingredients from Century Oils and Steel Improvement.”

“There are a number of employees at Fuchs who came from both Century Oils and Steel Improvement, and are still with the company today,” said Knight.

“Since Fuchs took ownership, the company has become far more professional, with a bigger focus on safety.”

The significant growth the company has experienced during the past decade has been the result of a number of innovations and redevelopments within the company, under the leadership of Hoiles and Knight. These include the launch of a new grease plant in Melbourne to expand Fuchs’ capabilities, a focus on marketing through Australian motorsport, and most recently, the opening of a world class Regional Lubricant Laboratory and Technical Centre in Sunshine, Victoria.

“The past 10 years have definitely been the biggest in terms of growth for the company,” said Knight. “A big milestone in the history of the company was achieving quality certification in 1993. This was followed in 1998, by Fuchs becoming the first company is Australia to be awarded the environmental certification, and more recently, health and safety certification was achieved.”

“With a good workforce, there’s no reason why the future can’t be as successful as the past,” said Knight. “I look forward to another successful 100 years.”

Hoiles shared a similar optimistic outlook for the future of Fuchs Lubricants Australasia. “Everything that moves needs to be lubricated. Technology will continue to develop and change dramatically, but there will always be a place for lubricants and greases in the modern world. Fuchs is well placed to look after the lubrication needs of future generations.” 

Image: Claude A Stewart