By Siva Kasturi, Asia Pacific Regional OEM Manager on Jun 30, 2021
Having Shell experts available doesn’t just provide customers with the best lubricant strategy but also gives a wider perspective on business. By immersing themselves in customer business challenges, Shell experts intuitively understand the difference a component change or increase in production cycle might have on future success.
Understanding the choices customers make about their equipment beyond lubricants is Siva Kasturi’s speciality. Shell’s resident expert on manufacturer (OEM) partnerships, it’s his job to keep up to date with innovations and guide Shell lubricant customers on what these innovations mean for them.
“Interestingly, many of the OEMs might not even be our customers. But industry reports show that manufacturers have a strong influence on customers’ lubrication strategies. Working with OEMs on technology partnerships and product approvals is vital.”
It’s this high level of technical knowledge about the machines Shell’s customers use that makes their expert resource so valuable. “My challenge isn’t just suggesting a product to the customer, it’s making sure using it is practically possible.”
Demonstrating value for money
One of the challenges Shell’s experts come up against is helping their customers to understand the value proposition of a certain lubricant, particularly if it’s a premium product. Usually, this is done by showing how using premium oils lower the total cost of ownership over time. Kasturi acknowledges that this may not always be possible.
“Sometimes I might not be able to offer very strong value to the customer because it just has to be the right product in the right application. All the products are wonderful but it doesn’t mean they match every application.”
It’s clear that customers face some complex decision-making when choosing the best lubricant to maintain equipment performance, improve TCO and reduce machine downtime. Guiding them through this process is a vital part of the Shell expert’s role and it’s one where they find themselves being part expert, part educator.
“I have to make sure that the time I have with my customer is spent communicating very simply, pragmatically and effectively. I need to cover more than just the cost or wear and tear differentials. I need to give him a holistic view of the impact any particular lubricant is going to have.”
Around 65% of customers told us they felt they didn’t have enough training to understand the various lubricant specifications. Some surveys have told us that only 35% of our customers understand what is said in the brochure.
Monitoring is key to management
Kasturi also points out that his role is ongoing. Lubricants are only successful if they’re monitored and managed properly and the same can be said for customer relationships:
“How do we make sure our customer is able to make the most of his choice? We need to register him for oil analysis programmes and give him regular training. Unless those things happen – he is using the right bearing, the right seal or filter – he won’t get the best value from his lubricant.”
Here again is where Shell’s close relationships with OEMs, driven by experts like Kasturi, come into their own. Understanding the impact using one component over another and how that changes lubricant effectiveness can have a huge effect on the value customers can extract from their engines, turbines or pumps and reduce machine downtime.
“It’s easy to walk into the mining or construction industry to sell consumables but do you know how many lubrication joints there are in an excavator, or a backhoe loader. We are trying to help our customers with an end-to-end approach to lubrication. If I’m not advising my customers proactively, then I am also part of the problem.”