It’s not easy for U.S. manufacturers. Not only do they regularly cope with global competition, but they also face continual consolidation and the need to run leaner with fewer internal resources.
At the same time, manufacturing firms have to adjust to EPA regulations and deal with the scrutiny of capital expenditures. But Blue Star Lubrication Technology can help them manage these challenges, which often manifest themselves in the form of higher costs and reduced profits, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tim Davis says.
The Schaumburg, Ill.-based company provides a broad range of metalworking fluids and high-performance lubricants. Blue Star’s founders started the company in 2007 with the premise of helping its customers cope with manufacturing challenges.
Blue Star also staffed itself with people who carry extensive industry experience. “[We hired] those people that were in the field for years and were very good resources to their customers,” Davis says. “Their customers view them as consultants more than salespeople.”
Today, “You’ll find our products in manufacturing plants with the toughest machining applications and the most severe lubrication environments with extreme temperatures and heavy loads,” Worth says. Blue Star serves markets such as steel, cement, automotive, aerospace, off-road, mining, agriculture, pipe milling, general machining and wood processing.
“Our customers many times use both metalworking fluids and high-performance lubricants,” Worth says. “When we walk into a plant, we can offer them a full solution.”
These days, every manufacturer in the United States is trying to do more with less, Davis says. “They’re relying more and more on their suppliers to bring in resources to drive productivity efficiencies,” he says.
When Blue Star helps its clients create those efficiencies, Davis says, its initial effort centers on uncovering what is specifically important from the client’s perspective. “We recognize our customers buy our products and services for their own reasons … not for ours,” he says.
Blue Star begins every client relationship by determining the customer’s needs, problems and reasons for buying. “We strive to take that information one step further and quantify current operational costs vs. where the customer wants to be,” he says.
With that understanding, Blue Star custom designs a solution that is relevant, sustainable and unique. “In all cases, it is a collaborative effort with the customer,” Davis says.
Industrial manufacturers are more informed today than ever, he adds. “They make intelligent buying decisions by identifying suppliers with unique capabilities and ideas to address what is most important to their individual manufacturing operations,” he says. This, Davis says, is where Blue Star stands out. “Blue Star’s proven field personnel average over 20 years of industrial experience,” he says. “Their application and service knowledge allow them to proficiently uncover what is important to each customer. Additionally, our people utilize that information to resourcefully build a product and service offering that uniquely creates the most cost-effective solution for each customer.”
Some solutions, he says, are simply a change in product technology and associated services, while others include dedicated onsite service personnel or working with alliance partners with expertise in areas such as filtration, tooling and water treatment. “In all cases, we construct a solution to positively impact the important productivity measures that are unique to each given customer,” he says.
The proof of its solutions, Davis says, comes in when Blue Star measures and documents the savings it provides. “The truth is our customers don’t buy our products and services per se,” he says. “What they buy is what they think the product and service will do for their operations.
“With controls and measurements in place, Blue Star documents operational performance and translates the results into dollars to the customer,” he says. “Armed with solid data, we work with our customers to establish plans for driving operational efficiencies year-on-year.”
Blue Star’s approach is designed to result in a solution that is unique, important and proven to its clients. Worth says, “This is how we look at any marketplace or any customer we’re going to serve.”
Blue Star gives its customers access to the people that formulate their products. This results in a unique formulation to solve an important need for the customer.
These people include Vice President of Technology and Quality John Kurosky. “I go on site, listen to the customer, look at the application and recommend a better product for the situation or design one specifically for them,” he explains.
This approach benefits clients, Davis adds. “John and his team have customized and quickly turned around new products that have set new productivity standards for our customers.”
Blue Star’s unique and flexible approach has enabled it to provide value to a number of large manufacturing companies. “For a young modestly sized company, we were able to land these large prestigious accounts that other startups would not have had a chance of winning,” Worth says.
Its seasoned staff also helps, as well. “Our company is young in age, but not by the experience level of people,” Davis says. “We have hired highly seasoned and proven field personnel.”
The company has earned rave reviews from its clients, including a maintenance manager at a large steel manufacturing plant, who was pleased with the performance and development of Blue Star’s products. “We were using a grease from one of the largest manufacturers in the industry,” the manager recalled in a statement.
“We were having to change bearings every 18 months in our large equipment,” the manager continued. “Blue Star worked with us to develop a product that currently gets us four to five years of service on these same bearings. Considering that we require a 10- to 14-day shutdown to change these parts/equipment, our production uptime increased greatly.”
A plant manager for a large automotive fastener manufacturer also praised Blue Star’s service. “Blue Star has been willing to formulate new products for us to help improve productivity and reduce annual costs,” the manager said. “We actually doubled our tool life with a new extrude oil, and oil life has been significantly increased, as well.”
Staying in Front
Challenges have only increased for U.S. manufacturers almost a decade after Blue Star’s start, but the company’s foundation has become even stronger. “Our approach and our business model is more relevant today than it was nine years ago,” Davis says.
“There continues to be consolidation and cost cutting among manufacturers and suppliers,” Worth adds. This makes Blue Star’s original vision even more pertinent to manufacturers in today’s environment.
“The global economy has become much more important so what happens in Russia and China has a much bigger impact on the U.S. manufacturing economy than it did 10 years ago,” Worth says, noting that the strengthening of the U.S. dollar also impacts stateside manufacturers. “It makes the companies that manufacture in other countries more attractive from a pricing perspective. That puts a lot of cost pressure on U.S. manufacturers.”
Blue Star plans to continue doing its best to take pressure off those manufacturers, as well as cope with challenges of its own. For example, Davis says, the EPA is looking to apply regulations on the use of chlorinated paraffin, which has been used effectively as an extreme pressure lubricant for many years. “Chlorinated paraffin acts as an extreme pressure lubricant at certain higher temperatures,” Worth says. “It’s a challenge to replace from a chemistry perspective because of cost constraints. However, it is imperative to our customers that Blue Star stays ahead of this ever-changing environment.”
Kurosky is investigating ways to eliminate its use at Blue Star. “It’s an ever-changing environment out there that successful companies need to stay in front of from a formulating standpoint,” Worth says.
Blue Star also will continue making a difference through its service. “They go above and beyond to make sure they apply the right product for every application,” a maintenance manager for a pipe mill commented.
“They don’t just throw engineering data at you,” the manager continued. “Their people take the time to explain their recommendations and show you the results … priceless. Their hands-on approach is great.”