The KwaZulu-Natal branch of FUCHS LUBRICANTS SOUTH AFRICA in New Germany, Durban is the largest in the country after the Isando head office in Johannesburg and services one of the broadest geographical regions after Gauteng, says Branch Manager Hayley Arnesen.

With 19 years’ business management experience under her belt, Arnesen’s career has included stints in commercial and product management, customer loyalty, sales and business development, marketing and exports into Africa. Her specific industry experience includes manufacturing, insurance, personal protective equipment and the oil and lubricants sector.

Arnesen began her career at FUCHS as Durban Branch Manager two years ago during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Classified as an essential services provider, it was business as usual for the branch during that period. “It was a challenging time, but we did not really shut down at all,” she notes.

While the branch focuses on Durban, the area it services is substantially larger. Its territory covers all KwaZulu-Natal and extends south to Umtata in the Eastern Cape, north to Villiers and west to Ladybrand near the Lesotho border. The branch has a substantial stockholding replenished regularly from the Isando facility via superlink truck deliveries.

“On-time customer deliveries are a key element in creating excellent customer experiences,” adds Arnesen. The Durban Branch works closely with a team of logistics professionals to constantly improve its efficiency in this critical area. Although not always possible, the branch prides itself on getting a significant number of orders out in under 48 hours to all the far-flung corners of its territory.

“The industrial base that we service is really broad,” highlights Arnesen. The branch counts a lot of customers in the automotive, manufacturing, engineering, agricultural, construction and retail sectors, as well as the food and beverage sector, from abattoirs to bakeries.

“The range of products we need to stock to cater for such a diverse customer base is quite extensive,” adds Arnesen. However, with a full portfolio of 10 000 products and a reputation as the largest independent lubricants manufacturer in the world, FUCHS continues to gain traction in different markets and sectors.

What distinguishes the Durban branch is that it has a permanent sales representative located in Richards Bay and Ladysmith to look after key customers there. “The Durban team is extremely hands on and prides itself on being highly active in the field, including regularly visiting customers, conducting lubricant surveys and maintaining close contact with customers. This allows them to better understand customer-specific requirements and challenges,” adds Arnesen.

As for her outlook for the future, Arnesen remains optimistic about opportunities for continued growth and expansion. “We have had a few challenges in the province that everyone knows about, namely the looting and the recent flooding. It has been difficult for our customers and most definitely impacted us. However, there has been a marked turnaround in business appetite.”

She stresses that FUCHS navigated the same challenges as other lubricants players had to in 2022, one of the most significant being a “relentless onslaught” on its cost base, with multiple increases in the cost of base oils, additives, packaging, freight and the rate of exchange. In addition, there were also numerous challenges around raw material availability, with many raw material suppliers declaring force majeure. 

“That was not exclusive to us and applied to the entire lubricants industry,” points out Arnesen. “As much as it has been a hurdle, it presented a lot of opportunities. Due to these ongoing challenges, customers are more perceptive to alternative solutions and proposals, which has opened doors for us in sectors and markets where we have not had a firm foothold before,” she concludes.