UX Series: Mobility Work Suppliers at FUCHS

Loïc Bébin has been working for 6 years for FUCHS Lubrifiant France as a Grease Product Manager. From technical support to industrial maintenance teams to Research & Development, he tells us about the importance of building a close and trustful relationship with his customers.

Mr. Bébin agreed to share with us his experience with Mobility Work Suppliers, the first maintenance management platform that links suppliers and industrial maintenance experts.

Mobility Work: Can you tell us about your career background?

My name is Loïc Bébin, I work as a Grease Product Manager at FUCHS Lubrifiant France.

After a first degree in mechanics and a bachelor's degree in business, I turned to the industrial field. In 2012, I joined the teams of FUCHS Lubrifiant France as a Grease Product Manager with a focus on original equipment lubricants for the automotive industry.

What does the position of Grease Product Manager at FUCHS Lubrifiant France entail?

There are three major strategic axes to the function of Product Manager at FUCHS Lubrifiant France.

Firstly, we provide the Marketing department with technical information to support their communication activities through e-mailings, websites, press releases etc. In short, Product Managers are responsible for feeding a content database used by the Marketing team.

This requires to have a deep knowledge of the market. For this purpose, Product Managers collect statistical data per product types and business lines. They will then conduct an analysis of the use of our products per market in order to find out which ones may be the most beneficial for the company. As a result of these findings, an argument is drafted to promote the product.

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Secondly, Product Managers can provide technical support. Our role is to provide our sales teams on the field with the information and the training they need. We do this precisely on the basis of our market analyzes. If we conclude that a given market requires a specific targeting, we provide our teams with all the necessary elements - the argument - both on the market and the products.

This function also includes a focus on assistance, an aspect for which we play the role of technical "experts" on our product ranges. The Product Manager may be asked to accompany our sales teams directly to the customer’s premises to help them with a given problem and to provide the necessary arguments and technical approach. This need for technical support often arises as part of a specific application.

Lastly, the Product Manager is involved in the development of new products, as an intermediary between R&D and the field. As regards Grease activities, I am in direct contact with the main R&D department in Germany.

Our role is to define the exact needs of the market based on our customers' feedback and the issues encountered, and then to communicate them to R&D. We hold regular meetings during which we decide whether it is necessary to work on the development of a new product if we feel that it is missing from our range of products or that the existing products no longer meet the market’s needs. Thus, the development of our products is based on precise information, collected directly from our target audience. Once the product is developed, we present it to the customer in order to run a series of tests with him, to determine if it is technically valid. This validation confirms and endorses the addition of the product to the range. Then comes the market launch.

Do you face any specific challenges related to your function?

We currently have a very wide range of products: we offer 400 references of Greases, themselves subdivided into packaging, with 3 to 5 different packagings per reference (drums, barrels, cartridges, pots and aerosol, for example). At the same time, we must meet the supply needs of our customers. This makes stock management more complicated. We obviously cannot have 2,000 references in stock at the same time, but we must be able to guarantee the availability of our products to our customers.

From a technical point of view, in terms of industrial maintenance, we do not really encounter any particular issues. In these market segments, our customers often turn to traditional industrial greases. However, the trend is to extend the equipment’s life cycle by taking into account maintenance questions. This included a regular improvement of our grease’s characteristics through the use of different synthetic oils, of more complex or innovative thickening agents, of more adequate additives, for example. Nowadays, we are faced with a transformation of the whole industrial sector driven by the advent of e-mobility and its impact on the supply chain, in terms of automation, for example. So, I think that organizations will pursue this trend of using more performative greases for the next years.

Therefore, we must keep on innovating and offering improvement solutions. But it is not an issue for us; it is at the heart of our activities.

What is your approach to customer relations?

I am constantly looking for data and customer feedback on the use of our products: scope of application, but also cases in which competitors’ products are preferred over our own, volumes, etc. This is an essential step towards determining whether a product should be launched or not, and whether it matched the needs expressed. In this regard, Mobility Work Suppliers platform offers a real advantage in field data collection.

We receive regular feedback from our clients on their specific needs or requirements in two cases.

In the first case, the customer is already familiar with our products and wants to be reassured about the use he makes of them. So, he contacts us to ask his questions. This leads back to the support role, which I mentioned earlier. The client expresses the need to manage the risk (or the absence of risk, in this case), to receive precise information on the point he raised.

The second point is about our prospects. They want to know which product from the FUCHS range to use for their application, often simply by equivalence to the product in place. It is actually more complex to engage in this case since all client applications are different. Thus the information he will give us from the application is essential in the choice of the solution. It is then through his experience and feedback that we will be able to know if the product is working.

In terms of support, FUCHS Lubrifiant France also employs application engineers. They rely on FUCHS' experience and expertise to meet customers' needs. If the problem is more complex, they turn to the product manager. The subjects are very variable: it can be compatibility between products, compatibility between grease and elements related to the application (plastic, elastomer, cutting oil, etc.).

Our approach is then very simple: either we already have answers that we provide to the customer, or we carry out laboratory tests to check the compatibility with the application. In the second case, if we do not have the possibility to carry out the test ourselves, we commit to a customer relationship based on trust. We work alongside the customer and support him during the tests.

How do you use the data collected?

Customer feedback allows us to gain a better view of the issues on the field. When a customer encounters a problem, we record his claim with a dedicated tool. At the end of a given period, the information collected is aggregated and trends, such as recurring issues, are analyzed. We then look for a solution internally.

However, apart from this claim management system, we don’t really have a way to collect information. We do not always know how our customers use our greases. With the right tool, we could be able to warn our customers of inappropriate use of our products and avoid issues, for example.

Similarly, some customers can make ingenious use of our lubricants, which we would not necessarily have thought of. This is the kind of information that could be used in prospecting or R&D. Of course, we can collect these data by calling our customers one by one, but that would be too time-consuming.

In the end, we are really looking for a global overview of the use of our greases. Although I am myself trying to monitor our activities manually, it only reflects a very small fraction of the reality. The issues I am aware of are not always representative of what is happening on the field.

In your opinion, to what extent does the Mobility Work Suppliers platform fit into this approach?

I think that the Mobility Work Suppliers platform could simply be used as an interface. Your tool would allow us to centralize all data on equipment, on our products and their applications... In this perspective, Mobility Work Suppliers greatly simplifies the exchanges with our customers; all the data is already available on the platform, we simply need to send a message to the teams involved in order to solve a given problem.

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We were talking earlier about feedbacks. Here too, I think that Mobility Work Suppliers is a true asset in collecting information and exchanging best practices. Even if we still lack data on the platform at the moment, I am convinced of the usefulness of its analytics tool.

And in terms of customer relations?

I think it can prove itself useful, provided there is more data volume. We will always maintain a direct relationship with our customers, but I can see the importance of Mobility Work Suppliers platform in the analysis of customers’ feedbacks. This would probably help us to be more accurate or faster while collecting data.

The community around Mobility Work CMMS is also an advantage. The application’s users can exchange information and best practices. Then, for example, we can redirect potential customers to other members of the network to prove that our products are compatible with their applications.

I think that being represented on the Mobility Work Suppliers platform will allow FUCHS Lubrifiant France to develop a better relationship with our customers. I don't know whether it will bear fruit in terms of development, but it will definitely be valuable for the image and visibility of FUCHS Lubrifiant France among its users.

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Thank you to Mr. Bébin for this first testimonial on Mobility Work Suppliers, the first platform dedicated to equipment manufacturers and consumables suppliers. Find us on social networks for more content on industrial maintenance jobs.