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January 10, 2020

Volume 7 Issue 4

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Lube Association Forms in Australia

A newly created trade body, the Australian Lubricant Association, plans to set up processes for the verification of labels and standardization of lube products sold in the country, while also providing technical assistance to members and developing training programs.

It’s the country’s first industry association primarily devoted to the lubricant industry. The organization models itself on similar institutions around the world, such as the Independent Union of the European Lubricants Industry, the Independent Lubricants Manufacturers Association in the United States, and the Asian Lubricant Manufacturers Union.

The need for an organization to validate lube product claims comes amid an explosion in the number of lubricant grades and increasingly complex specifications to meet stricter emission standards, along with a significant increase in imported products.

“The idea is to give the Australian public certainty around lubricant product choice, so they know that if a product is approved by the ALA, that product meets all the required specifications.” said Barry Anchen, who spearheaded the effort to form the new association. Anchen is a partner at nem, a Melbourne-based management consultancy.

While the Australian lubricant and grease industry and market is generally recognized as having high quality and reliable products, an increase in imports in recent years has raised concern that standards of the industry are slipping, leading to an increased level of risk for consumers with respect to lubricant choice.

The Australian lubricant industry was valued at nearly AU$2 billion (U.S. $1.4 billion) and found to have about 160 players, according to a 2019 survey by market research group IBISWorld. Australia is characterized as a sophisticated market, with good demand for high-end products, particularly in the automotive, mining and agricultural markets.

“There are many things we really need to look long and hard at in the Australian lubricant industry,” said Anchen..  He said he realized the need for a group that supported the industry, after leaving a multinational oil company. “Australia has a significant problem with cheap oils entering the market — products that often are not suitable for the purpose intended,” he noted. “This is a real concern.”

Anchen said the idea was born after leaving ExxonMobil when it stopped blending in Melbourne, and joining a much smaller lube company. ExxonMobil closed its Yarraville lubricant plant in 2011, and moved to an import model in Australia, supplying Mobil lubricant products from an affiliate in Singapore. After 20 years at the energy giant, Anchen said he had been surprised at some of the issues that confronted smaller participants, in particular a lack of resources, such as technical expertise.

“When you work for a large multi-national oil company everything is in-house,” he said. “You have all the answers within the company; when you work for a small company or even a medium-sized lubricant manufacturer, there is a need to outsource some, if not most of your technical requirements. The idea for technical services is effectively to be a one-stop shop to assist small organizations who might have queries about specification or even the manufacturing.”

A steering committee was set up in November 2017. “That was to get common understanding of what the association might do and how we might assist the industry,” said Anchen. One of the first common opinions of the steering committee was that the initial name, Australian Association of Lubricant Manufacturers, was misleading, suggesting it was exclusive to manufacturers. The association’s idea is to be for the entire industry — manufacturers, raw material suppliers, wholesalers, importers and retailers. So the committee decided to call it the Australian Lubricant Association.

ALA launched a website in December and signed up 14 organizations as members. Members now listed on the website include Harrison, Penrite, ReOil, Redox, QP Lubes, Tritec and Phoenix Lubricants.

According to ALA’s website (https://lubeassoc.com.au), the association will advance the reputation of the Australian lubricant industry by ensuring lubricants imported and manufactured in Australia meet international specifications and by eradicating false claims and misleading conduct.

“To achieve these goals, ALA will advocate for the adoption of legislation to ensure lubricant quality, assist customers with selecting fit-for-purpose lubricants and support best practice within the industry,” the website stated.

Anchen said ALA has prepared a form that customers can use to seek verification of product claims. ALA also has plans to seek financial assistance from the government to develop an accredited on-line training course, and to organize a seminar as early as in the first quarter of 2020.

Logo courtesy of the Australian Lubricants Association

The Australian Lubricants Association's logo.