From the single 10W-40 grade of synthetic motor oil that AMSOIL President and CEO Al Amatuzio engineered, the AMSOIL product line has grown into one of the most accomplished in the industry. That tremendous growth started with the introduction of AMSOIL Synthetic 2-Cycle Oil in 1973. Since then the company has invested millions of dollars and years of research into new product development, today offering dozens of high-quality products for on-road, heavy-duty off-road, industrial and other applications. This year alone AMSOIL has launched Synthetic Polymeric Truck, Chassis and Equipment Grease; Engine and Transmission Flush; Quickshot SE; Dominator Coolant Boost and more.
Innovation has been a company hallmark since its inception, with AMSOIL the first lubricant manufacturer to develop synthetic oil for diesel engines, turbo engines and other applications. How does the company determine which innovative ideas to develop? How are new products tested to ensure they function properly before reaching the market? To answer those questions, the Action News consulted AMSOIL Technical Director Dan Peterson and obtained a behind-the-scenes look at new product development.
AMSOIL uses a formal “stage gate” system for new product development that includes four stages. The process begins by generating ideas for new products and scrutinizing each for its potential to perform up to AMSOIL standards, fill a need in the market and provide Dealers with a competitive edge.
“New product ideas come from a number of different areas, including industry research, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) research, industry trends and Dealer input,” Peterson said. Most often, a void in the market provides the best ideas. AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush, for example, was launched in April 2010 to provide a multifunctional, detergent-based flush product that can be used in both engines and transmissions and be easily disposed of with waste oil or transmission fluid. At the time, the majority of flush products were either solvent-based or intended solely for one application.
Similarly, AMSOIL Synthetic Polymeric Off-Road Grease was introduced in October 2009 to fulfill an industry need: the extreme shock-loading and heavily-loaded components found in the heavy-duty offroad market can pound out inferior greases from each grease point, leading to accelerated wear and rust and corrosion formation, while prolonged exposure to water can cause the grease to washout, also promoting wear. In fact, maintenance personnel must routinely re-apply grease on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times per day. The launch of AMSOIL Synthetic Polymeric Off-Road Grease extended greasing intervals up to 50 percent and provided AMSOIL Dealers with an advantage in the market. “The products that make the best sense for our customers and Dealers are given priority for the financial resources available to do the detailed development work,” Peterson said. The stage gate system includes a number of checks and balances to make sure only the most promising ideas go forward. Products that meet a stage’s criteria then pass through the “gate” into the next stage. “This process is rigid enough to guarantee that we cover all the bases required to make a product successful, but flexible enough to modify and accelerate really good ideas,” Peterson said.
Lab Testing and Field Validation One of the most important steps in the development process is arriving at the new product’s formulation. AMSOIL is synonymous with quality, and each new product must keep with that philosophy.
“We formulate to produce products that provide the best possible performance and protection in their intended markets,” Peterson said. “We research and find the best materials to do the outlined job and then go to work in the laboratory to optimize the formulation with rigorous testing to make sure it meets and exceeds expectations for the intended application.”
In conjunction with laboratory testing, outside companies are sometimes solicited to take part in field validation studies, marking the final stage of the development process. At this point, AMSOIL installs the finished formulations into applications specifically chosen for the broad range of real-world operating conditions they encounter, including severe service, to ensure they perform up to AMSOIL standards.
Duluth, Minn.-based Carlson Lawn and Landscaping, for example, installed Synthetic Polymeric Off-Road Grease in its skid steer, front-end loader and industrial lawn mowers. It lasted twice as long as its previous grease, staying in place despite severe pound-out and washout conditions. Further confirmation came from the City of Aurora, Minn. Installed in the city’s street sweepers, Synthetic Polymeric Off-Road Grease also lasted twice as long as the previous grease. Street sweepers subject bearings to intense, repetitive spinning, and the City of Aurora often replaced bearings after only a month of use. With the AMSOIL product, they replaced no bearings during the field validation study.
“Only after this stage is complete does the product receive the AMSOIL performance approval for sale to AMSOIL Dealers and customers,” Peterson said. Finally, the product must gain final approval from the AMSOIL Executive Group, headed by AMSOIL President and CEO Al Amatuzio and Executive Vice Presidents Dean Alexander and Alan Amatuzio. The Executive Group as a whole represents decades of experience in product formulation, manufacture and marketing.
Information gathered throughout testing is used to create literature and promotional items that aid Dealers in selling the new products, such as data bulletins, case studies, webinars and Action News articles that depict test results versus competitive products and proof of performance. In this way, Dealers are poised to hit the ground running when the new product reaches their hands.
Before any new product is shipped, a final check is performed to make sure that all validation testing supports the product marketing statements. Finally, after months of research, testing and validation, new products are packaged and shipped to AMSOIL distribution centers throughout North America. Dealers and customers are then ready to experience firsthand the benefits each new product brings to its intended application.
“One value that is completely instilled in the AMSOIL culture is that hard work up front, attention to detail and going the extra mile will pay off in the end,” said Peterson. In that way, the energy and dedication Al Amatuzio invested in the company’s first can of synthetic motor oil remains the standard that has guided the development of every new product since. “From researching customer needs and finding the right combination of product attributes, to researching the highest quality combination of materials in the formulation stage, Dealers and customers can sleep well knowing we are making sure there is no better overall brand on the market,” Peterson said.