CM Visit: Man­nol UK

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Contents -

Peo­ple har­bour strong opin­ions about en­gine oil. If some­thing is priced too good to be true, then it prob­a­bly is. One man dis­agrees. His name is Jev­genij Lyzko, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Man­nol UK. His friends call him Jev.

“Precon­cep­tions are deep-rooted,” he ad­mits, “be­cause, dur­ing my time work­ing in Dubai, you would find car own­ers top­ping-up their ex­pen­sive BMWS with mono­grade SAE50 oil, just be­cause their fathers and grand­fa­thers used to do so. Sim­i­larly, in other coun­tries, peo­ple think that the most ex­pen­sive oil is the best. Both views re­quire fresh ap­proaches.”

New kid on the block

In 2009, Jev knew vir­tu­ally noth­ing about au­to­mo­tive lubri­cants. Like many of his coun­try­men, the young man came to the UK from his na­tive Lithua­nia to seek em­ploy­ment. While he was not en­tirely suc­cess­ful, he im­mersed him­self deeply into the Bri­tish way of life, prior to tak­ing-up res­i­dence in Ger­many to work at SCT Lubri­cants’ head of­fice. His abil­ity to learn quickly, cou­pled with first-rate English lan­guage skills, saw him pro­moted swiftly to Head of Sales for both Euro­pean and Ara­bian mar­kets, which in­cluded lead­ing a new dis­tri­bu­tion base in the United Arab Emi­rates.

While vis­it­ing Bri­tish friends dur­ing a brief hol­i­day, a de­ci­sion to tour sev­eral mo­tor fac­tors prompted Jev to be drawn back to the coun­try that he had grown to love. “I found look­ing at those Bri­tish parts shops quite shock­ing. Not only did they em­ploy mul­ti­ple brands, very few of which were Euro­pean, but they also tended to be dis­played poorly and the prices charged were way too high. I knew that SCT lubri­cants could be sold here for far less money, while not prej­u­dic­ing qual­ity.”

While Jev ad­mits freely that his am­bi­tion was to own and run his own busi­ness, he broached the idea to his em­ploy­ers, who, to his sur­prise, agreed to sup­port him in giv­ing the Bri­tish lu­bri­ca­tion es­tab­lish­ment a shake-up.

A busi­ness is born

By Oc­to­ber 2013, the 24-year-old Lithua­nian had re­lo­cated to Wim­ble­don, South Lon­don and formed As­lanol Lim­ited, which trades as Man­nol UK. Within a year, the im­port and dis­tri­bu­tion busi­ness moved fur­ther north to its cur­rent Mil­ton Keynes base, which not only re­duced costs but also gave su­pe­rior lo­gis­tics, away from the cap­i­tal’s clogged road net­work. From there, the com­pany flour­ished and has been grow­ing steadily, branch­ing-out into more in­dus­trial units as fur­ther ware­house space has be­come nec­es­sary.

With a typ­i­cally am­bi­tious ap­proach, Jev was not con­tent to sell solely Man­nol-branded en­gine and trans­mis­sion oils; he wanted to com­mit to the en­tire range. This in­cludes not only lubri­cants but also main­te­nance flu­ids, such as flushes, fuel ad­di­tives, air-con­di­tion­ing sani­tis­ers and even Sct-branded ser­vice parts.

‘We are seek­ing to change UK buy­ing habits’

Keep­ing costs down

Jev re­mains dis­arm­ingly hon­est about the ac­tiv­i­ties of not only Man­nol UK but also SCT. The re­fin­ery is lo­cated in Lithua­nia, but the lubri­cants site is not an an­cient build­ing that has been adapted on the cheap. In­stead, af­ter the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, a brand-new fac­tory was es­tab­lished, which, to­day, fea­tures a com­pletely au­to­mated pro­duc­tion process that can pack­age ap­prox­i­mately 400 tonnes of oil per day and op­er­ates a global dis­tri­bu­tion net­work. Even the plas­tic bot­tles are pro­duced on-site.

Jev also ex­plains that, as SCT Lubri­cants per­forms very lit­tle R&D, those sav­ings are passed on to the cus­tomer. Yet, this does not di­min­ish qual­ity: “With en­gine oil, for ex­am­ple, SCT de­vel­ops nei­ther ad­di­tive packs, nor base oils that make up typ­i­cal lubri­cants. Like cre­at­ing a cake, we know the recipe that makes a cer­tain spec­i­fi­ca­tion of oil and we buy the re­quired in­gre­di­ents from care­fully-se­lected ad­di­tive sup­pli­ers that work di­rectly with the car-mak­ers. The ad­di­tives are blended to­gether with the base oils us­ing SCT’S own method­olo­gies at the Lithua­nian plant, prior to be­ing pack­aged in­house. This is why we can of­fer spe­cific lu­bri­ca­tions by car man­u­fac­turer that com­ply with their spec­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Freed from po­ten­tially crip­pling R&D costs, SCT Lubri­cants re­mains a pri­vate­lyrun firm, mean­ing that thou­sands of share­hold­ers are not clam­our­ing for their div­i­dends. While a num­ber of mar­ket­ing ex­er­cises are car­ried out, fur­ther sav­ings stem by shy­ing away from ex­pen­sive mo­tor­sport spon­sor­ships, which may help to boost in­ter­nal egos but, ul­ti­mately, sad­dle the buyer with the cost.

Jev runs Man­nol UK as a tight ship: “We have around 30 mainly East­ern Euro­pean and Bri­tish em­ploy­ees, who li­aise with our col­leagues in both Ger­many and Lithua­nia and cre­ate busi­ness re­la­tion­ships within the UK and Ire­land. Of course, we make profit but we are not greedy with our mar­gins.”

Qual­ity con­trol

“Many peo­ple think that if some­thing is made in Lithua­nia, it must be rub­bish,” says Jev. “This is not the case, be­cause the qual­ity-con­trol au­dits are over­seen by EU stan­dards and the Ger­man-based HQ. For in­stance, ev­ery batch of oil that the fac­tory pro­duces has to have a ran­dom sam­ple an­a­lysed and stored for at least seven years, as part of its ISO 9001 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion com­pli­ance.”

Even so, the en­tre­pre­neur prefers us not to men­tion the ‘C’ word, when de­scrib­ing Man­nol and its as­so­ci­ated brands: “We are not ‘cheap’, but we of­fer su­pe­rior value by blend­ing and pack­ag­ing ev­ery­thing in a sin­gle pro­duc­tion plant, which is man­aged tightly by its Ger­man par­ent, to en­sure that stan­dards re­main high.”

Chang­ing times

Jev is op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture. De­spite some re­ports of a slow­ing UK econ­omy, he is un­afraid of a po­ten­tial down­turn.

“Even Brexit presents an op­por­tu­nity,” he says, “be­cause, while Bri­tish car own­ers will not risk ru­in­ing their cars with in­fe­rior prod­ucts, even in a fi­nan­cial down­turn, I feel that they will seek bet­ter value al­ter­na­tives that do not sac­ri­fice per­for­mance. As part of this per­cep­tion, Man­nol UK is work­ing hard to es­tab­lish it­self as a cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive to more time-hon­oured lu­bri­ca­tion and ser­vice parts sup­pli­ers.”

Jev has first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence of this: “When money be­came tight in Rus­sia, Man­nol prod­ucts be­came more pop­u­lar as soon as it was recog­nised as be­ing a trust­wor­thy and de­cent brand. We are seek­ing now to change UK habits – af­ter all, why should you pay more?”

Jev also feels that the UK mar­ket­place is chang­ing and re­calls that, when he started in the lu­bri­ca­tion in­dus­try not that long ago, the pub­lic tended to shy away from pur­chas­ing oil via ebay. To­day, he says that one of his best­per­form­ing clients sells Man­nol oils through the on­line mar­ket­place.

Like buy­ing habits, the lu­bri­ca­tion in­dus­try is also evolv­ing to be­come ever-more man­u­fac­turer-be­spoke. To­day, Man­nol UK boasts 16 dif­fer­ent for­mu­la­tions of 5W-30 vis­cos­ity en­gine oil in its range. Twenty years ago, this man­u­fac­turer-spe­cific fo­cus would have been un­fath­omable.

Whether, or not, Jev’s pre­dic­tions and en­deav­ours will come true re­mains to be seen but, with Man­nol UK and its as­so­ci­ated brands be­com­ing more pop­u­lar, the com­pany is be­ing taken more se­ri­ously by its com­peti­tors. Pro­vided that the qual­ity re­mains con­sis­tent – and there is no rea­son why it should not do so – Man­nol UK’S con­tri­bu­tion can be wel­comed for en­sur­ing that Bri­tish buy­ers are not over­charged for their ser­vice con­sum­ables.

Jev­genij Lyzko, MD of Man­nol UK, brought the Euro­pean brand to the UK, promis­ing to cut the cost of aftermarket oils. His busi­ness is grow­ing – and fast.

The base oils and ad­di­tive packs are mixed and pack­aged at the Lithua­nian plant, which pos­sesses a to­tal an­nual vol­ume of more than 100 mil­lion litres.

The Man­nol brand is blended by SCT Lubri­cants of Ger­many at its Lithua­nian fac­tory. Tight qual­ity con­trol en­sures that its prod­ucts meet with in­di­vid­ual car-mak­ers’ spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Aside from its own name brand, Man­nol UK mar­kets Pemco, Chempi­oil and Fan­faro prod­ucts. The dif­fer­ent brands arise from li­cens­ing ar­range­ments even though the ba­sic con­tents re­main the same.

Ser­vice parts, from fil­ters to brake pads, are mar­keted un­der the SCT Brand.

La­bels are ap­plied to the oil bot­tles in Lithua­nia. Im­port­ing the prod­ucts com­plete in bulk helps Man­nol UK to keep prices low.

Other ser­vice con­sum­ables are mar­keted un­der the Man­nol brand. They are man­u­fac­tured by other sup­pli­ers.

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