CM Visit: Mannol UK
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.”
“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.”
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.