We recently spoke with Cees Sonneveldt: manager of Palub, the Technical Department of Q8Oils. He has been working for Q8Oils for 37 years – so we can call him an expert in the sector without hesitation.
Hi Cees! First and foremost: what changes are having the largest impact in the sector according to you?
Definitely the increasing specialisation in all segments (both within Automotive, Energy, Metalworking and General Industry) that have taken place. This has resulted in the number of grades of oil and the technical complexity of every oil type to be greatly increased.
Have you observed a certain evolution concerning demand within the market?
Yes, indeed! On the one hand, we can clearly see that the volume of oil per unit has decreased dramatically. This is a direct consequence of the ever-longer oil change intervals. But we must also look at this in another way: this strong decline was somewhat offset by economic growth and the significant increase in the number of units.
In general terms, we can say that the basic principle of lubricating oil from the past has largely remained the same, just like that of the engines and machinery. The changes that have taken place, have taken place very gradually. As the performance of engines and technical machinery increased step by step, this led to progressively higher temperatures and heavier loads. In addition, there are increasingly stringent environmental requirements. As a result, the lubricants had to adhere to ever more stringent standards, which in time has led to the use of higher-quality base oil and additives.
Has a lot changed in terms of working methods?
Certainly! In my point of view, there are three things that have changed dramatically. Initially, our technical support worked on a regional basis – but the full accountability was a lot more general: we did not simply deal with lubricants, but also base oils, fuels and bitumen.
Over the course of the time, the technical support became more and more international, but also for more specialised products. Considering this evolution, it is safe to say that we have evolved from generalist to specialist.
A second important difference, I would say, is the way we build up our knowledge. Once upon a time, I used to spend a half day in the University Library reading books about certain applications. It was also important to attend lectures to gain sufficient knowledge. And now, … now, well: the internet has changed all this, of course! Now I can find most of this information online, from my workplace.
And the final difference, accessibility has also evolved strongly. If you needed to spend a whole day en route to a customer – it was hard to get hold of you, you were uncontactable. Actually, thinking back, that was quite a nice feeling! (laughs)
How do you view the evolution within the industry from your personal experience?
Well, very positive, actually. This trend within the industry is what makes the work of a technical specialist so attractive: you can be sure that your work will always be challenging.
What do you think are the most important learning moments within the sector?
I can only speak from my own experience, of course. For example, I have worked for all the different product segments over the years. This not only created necessary variation in the work, but also ensured that I have been able to enjoy building up extensive expertise. You can’t consider yourself as being an “expert in the field” too early, and this is because you come across new unknown challenges every day.
Furthermore, and this is purely from a pragmatic and technical point of view, accidents are also incredibly important learning moments. Our excellent laboratory very often allows us to identify how something went wrong – and better yet, that the fault is very often not our fault.
And finally, if you had to choose one favourite part of your job, what would it be?
Absolutely the good collegiality. No doubt. I have always been happy in my work for Q8 and Q8Oils – and my excellent colleagues (wherever I was employed at the time) have definitely contributed to that!