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Technical insight: interview with a global oil manufacturing specialist

We talked with our Senior Technical Adviser to learn more about the increasing complexity of engines, tightening emissions regulations and the pressure from OEMs to create new products even faster.

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Technical insight: interview with a global oil manufacturing specialist

Ivan Roekens is the Senior Technical Adviser at Wolf Oil Corporation. When he started 20 years ago as a lab technician, the company had just over 400 products. Today, that number is closer to 700. We talked with Ivan to learn more about the increasing complexity of engines, tightening emissions regulations and the pressure from OEMs to create new products even faster.

What is the biggest change you are seeing as an oil and lubricants specialist?

Engines are changing rapidly, with increasing power output meaning lubricants need to withstand more strain, shear, higher temperatures and extreme pressure. Oils need to be more robust, which means that the right additives are essential, the right formulations. Added to this of course, the emissions regulations that put pressure on OEMs to adjust their engines and aftertreatment devices. Of course, more variety in engines means more choice for the consumer, but it also means a matching increase in the number of oils that we produce, and that variety of choice can also make life difficult for garage owners. 

Products have been commoditised, and new engine oils are specified at a much higher rate than before. As an oil manufacturer, we must be right on top in order to get these new products to the market quickly. The life cycle of a typical oil is much shorter today, with OEM specifications lasting maybe 3, 4, 5 years. Less than 20 years ago, those specification would be valid for maybe 10, 15 or 20 years. 

"More variety in engines means more choice for the consumer, but it also means a matching increase in the number of oils that we produce, and that variety of choice can also make life difficult for garage owners."

Ivan Roekens - Senior Technical Adviser

How are companies like Wolf Oil Corporation meeting those changes?

Our organisation has a unique collaboration with additive suppliers, who run engines in bench testing, oxidisation testing, even field testing for some OEMs. We partner with these suppliers, and have direct access to the latest technologies and formulations, so we can very quickly come up with the right specifications. 

We have invested heavily in our resources too, growing our workforce with around 80 new people recently. Special aim was set on hiring technical people. A new lab manager, new lab technicians, lab co-ordinators and administrators, R&D manager and a New Product department have all seen life recently. As well as a Product Technical Knowledge Centre was installed. These are all working to ramp up our ability to react to the accelerating change we are seeing everyday. 


The number of different oils just keeps rising - how do you help garages stock the right oil?

We really try to help release the full potential of garages’ business, so we are focused on getting a win-win situation for them and for ourselves. We put great emphasis on experience and market data, and we gather market intelligence in the 90-plus countries where we operate. From our divisions in Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Dubai and China, we know in great detail what is going on in the market, and we can gather data for forecasting for our existing clients and distributors. Those distributors and market analyses help us know what the typical customer demands on local garages, in terms of car types, age, and so on. This helps us put together for example a recommended Oil Cabinet for the garages, with the types and variety of oils they are most likely to need. Our hubs and distribution network are kept in full supply of the most utilised oils, and the oils that are coming through for newer engines.

"Mechanics and garage owners are all very familiar with the issues of the wrong oil, so what we focus on is making the right oil even better than the specifications."

Ivan Roekens - Senior Technical Adviser

What is the risk of using the wrong oil, for example a non-OEM-approved product?

It depends of course what you put in there, but it’s mainly an adverse effect on oxidisation and drain interval and possible non aftertreatment devices compatibility. Mechanics and garage owners are all very familiar with the issues of the wrong oil, so what we focus on is making the right oil even better than the specifications. I cannot speak for our competitors, but what I can say for 100% is that Wolf Oil OEM-approved products are engineered to exceed OEM specs. So, when they give us detailed levels to reach, we raise those levels, and outperform on every level. This is shown in engine testing, bench testing and for some OEMs also field testing. This is where we add the peace of mind, which is maintained through the entire drain intervals of our OEM-approved oils. 


It’s not a marketing claim. It’s what we do. 

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