By Gary Roberts on Jun 10, 2018
In a highly competitive and diverse marketplace, as a supplier you have to do far more than simply provide goods. Customers are more prepared than ever to mix and match depending on criteria that suit their very specific needs.
This is good news as it pushes the industry as a whole to innovate and refine. However, it also introduces more layers of complexity to an already challenging landscape.
Roberts strongly believes it is the role of Shell Experts to help customers cut through that complexity while maintaining the optimal supplier mix for their needs. Gary is a Technical Advisor for Shell Lubricants, and has worked for Shell for over 16 years. With a background in mining, he is now responsible for providing lubrication technical services in the Northeastern US.
Gary says “more and more I’m seeing a mixture within the fleet of mining equipment. Customers are optimising the utilisation rates and testing one piece of equipment against another.
They are also looking at the maintenance and machine downtime related to that equipment. Oil change becomes part of reliability-based or predictive maintenance as opposed to just reactive or scheduled procedures. It’s very challenging for them.”
Shell Experts such as Roberts are increasingly taking a consultative role, providing the technical service to make sure customers are using the right product and the right application in the right amount at the right time.
“It’s more challenging than it ever used to be. A lot of manufacturer (OEM) specifications are very particular to certain makes and models of machines. Now you have five or six different oils for a single wheel loader. We’ll do a lubricant survey which outlines the component as well as the relevant lubricant.”
Importance of partnerships
The amount of detail involved in putting together the optimal operation can prove overwhelming. This is where years of working in partnership, with the OEMs pays dividends:
“It can get very confusing if you have a customer, not uncommonly, with 1,000 pieces of equipment from all these different makes, models and manufacturers. You have to know what product goes in which component.”
How environment plays a part
Environment is also critical. Roberts’ territory covers the Northeastern United States and so he sees a wide range of conditions that might impact his customers’ equipment performance. “The OEMs making this equipment don’t know if it’s going to Alberta or New Mexico. We have to take a look at their recommendations, figure out what the prevailing conditions might be and make recommendations.”
No such thing as one-size-fits-all
While Roberts sees his role as simplifying the complex for customers, he warns against over-simplification. As convenient as it might be, he doesn’t believe Shell would be doing its clients a favour if they came up with a one-size-fits-all product.
A common mistake is thinking you can use one group of oils across your entire fleet. It can get to the point where it is bad for their equipment because by over simplifying the range, they’re not using the right product for the right application. Years ago this was possible. Today, each manufacturer is calling for a certain lubricant with a certain additive. We will not make a recommendation for consolidation if it’s incompatible with customers’ equipment.
Roberts notes that the levels of expertise Shell’s advisors have is pushing them more and more to the centre of customers’ whole equipment strategy, including providing advice on lubricant regulation (internal link to ‘Regulations and lubricants – why setting standards is good for business’) in the face of changing legislation. With lubricants able to have such a positive – and negative, if wrongly deployed – impact on effectiveness, total cost of ownership and revenue generation, it’s an opportunity not to be missed:
“As technical advisors we are being called in sooner, rather than later. Often we come in even in the proposal stage because our customers are looking for the training and consultative approach that Shell experts can provide. Customers want guidance, not just lubricants.”