From Little Acorns to Great Oaks
Some lubricant companies around the globe have managed to grow in recent years, despite the declining market. United Kingdom-based Aztec Oils Ltd., a blender and manufacturer of a wide range of automotive and industrial lubricants, is one of those companies. Combined with a slate of other growth methods, the company has changed the way that it sources its base oils, and the method has proven effective thus far.
From exceptionally humble beginnings 26 years ago, Aztec Oils has evolved to become one of the principal independent suppliers of high-quality finished lubricants, not only for the U.K. market but also on the international stage through a chain of distributors and associate companies.
In 1995, Mark Lord founded the company in Bolsover, U.K., with the initial activities being distribution of fuels, bottled gas and some lubricants. He spotted opportunities in the market, having been involved in the oil industry in a technical sales role. The original operation blossomed following the sale of the gas business in 2004 to a large U.K. distributor and the company’s move into blending lubricants.
Aztec Oils has grown exponentially through mergers and acquisitions and has become a major provider of both automotive and industrial lubricants on a scale comparable to some of the more well-known brands in Europe and beyond.
By establishing relationships with key partners, Aztec Oils has built a matrix of supply channels on a global scale, including operations in such areas as Europe, China, parts of Africa and the Middle East. The company’s emphasis has been on moving from a small domestic operation to a larger international player, looking to develop markets that are open to high-specification lubricants production, with the quality aspect remaining paramount.
To hasten its move to becoming a truly global player, Aztec Oils is focusing on strategic sales and marketing, continuing capital investment in plant and research facilities to improve the company’s ability to produce specialist lubricant ranges and increasing throughput in existing lines. Aztec Oils is also looking to optimize operational capability in further development of a larger distributor matrix.
Capital investment has been plowed into various areas with the principal blending plant being redeveloped along with new programs for inventory control and procurement functions. Laboratory capacity has been expanded to ensure that quality control and consistency is maintained throughout the blending and storage operations. This has led to additional testing to promote reliability and integrity of the Aztec Oils brand around the world.
Aztec Oils maintains the company ethos of inclusion of all parties linked to production, sales and supply by carefully selecting third parties as associates or distributors and creating a loyalty to personnel involved with the company. Lord, as managing director, decided this year to form an employee ownership trust, selling more than half his shares in the company to employees, giving them responsibility and reward as part of a cooperative venture. The emphasis is that a company is only as good as the people who work within it and that mutual support forms the bedrock of a successful enterprise.
Aztec Oils has recently addressed a plan for a review of strategic sales and marketing with an aim to become a globally recognized brand of lubricants. The importance of instilling into both employees and customers the values attached to the brand were critical to this project, creating shared standards that would apply across all activities.
The company undertook a complete rebranding program for each of the product ranges, redesigning labeling and packaging to reflect the high quality and standards that buyers seek. As an inspiration, Aztec Oils introduced a new line of lubricants, in the form of an “Aztec Oils Classic” range formulated for the classic car market. This growing but often-neglected sector of the automotive market was researched and targeted, with the oils packed in vintage tinplate containers.
The company has also facilitated growth by sourcing its base oils from countries outside of Europe. Because the base oil market in Europe has shrunk in recent years, Aztec Oils has recently examined opportunities from such places as South Korea and China, with a view to importing base stocks from producers in those regions seeking to enter the European markets on a long-term basis. Although these ongoing developments may be perceived as a reversal in past operative methodology, using the chain of distribution channels already open to Aztec Oils may enable all parties to achieve their goals.
Aztec Oils as a corporation is fully financed to be able to carry out such projects, and has extensive experience in the broader European market, having set up a satellite blending operation in Lithuania to take advantage of the relatively local availability of Russian export base oil barrels. At the same time, lower costs and charges contribute to the corporate balance sheet. This venture allows access to the Eastern European markets, where transportation and handling costs from a U.K. hub could render high-quality finished lubricants uncompetitive against local supplies.
Aztec Oils’ name and brand is not entirely random, since the title is related to the company’s namesakes, who were known as builders and pioneers, ruling an empire that survived and prospered by empowering and developing a civilization. Aztec Oils Ltd. as an enterprise has adopted and adapted that same approach to its business as it continues to expand on the global stage.
Ray Masson is director of Pumacrown Ltd., a trader and broker of petroleum products in London, U.K. Send him comments or topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org