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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
OATS launch EARL 4
OATS launch EARL 4
Keywords: Oils, Information technology, Information systems
Almost all of the lubricants information used in the UK garage service trade and by vehicle dealerships is compiled from data which has been gathered, interpreted and published by OATS of Swindon, England. Much of it appears in printed form, apparently branded by the issuing oil companies. In reality it has been compiled, designed and produced for them by OATS. Motor manufacturers and dealers who contact the oil companies' technical desks or lubes hot lines are likely to be given answers from the same information source. That source is EARL 4; the new generation, electronic product of OATS' recommended lubricants database. One might say that as far as the end-user is concerned, the EARL database is a well-kept secret.
Restructured, re-designed, updated and re-launched this summer, EARL 4 is the oil industry's lubricants information power tool and OATS' flagship in the international market. It is all things to all oil companies and distributors. EARL is at the heart of lubricants technical support and sales initiatives, the product that launches sales campaigns and facilitates the needs of marketing companies across the world. Like all good power tools it comes in various sizes to suit the job in hand; in this case, specific user application levels. Currently available in 11 languages, EARL 4 is a multifunctional reference and validation program, closely tailored to user needs and capable of being customised. It fulfils the on-going requirements by oil companies, vehicle manufacturers and industry generally, to have up-to-the-minute, sourced and verified lubricants data.
EARL 4 covers cars, vans, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, tractors and other agricultural machinery, off-highway vehicles and industrial plant. Updated every quarter, its full subscribers throughout the world currently get a CD, which has 35,000 records on almost 10,000 pieces of equipment from over 600 manufacturers. The databases cover five product areas, so clients can have all or any combination they need, and EARL 4 is available in versions to suit several levels of activity. Small European oil companies and distributors will probably get away with EARL Lite which gives entry level technical support on lubricants recommendations. Moving up, EARL Assist has a survey facility for fleet recommendations, allows database branding for a single product range and is designed both for the technical help desk and the users' sales operations.
Medium size oil companies with an active sales force looking to enhance sales performance are catered for by EARL Plus. This one provides OEM recommendations in terms of specifications or company products, creates dealer sheets and fleet surveys, facilitates brand rationalisation and estimated consumption calculations. Top of the range is EARL Pro, whose powerful program provides technical support, facilitates company marketing initiatives, field and distributor sales. It all means that those who do not yet need the full version, can at least compete with the big boys in offering vital, accurate, up-to-date technical support and recommended lubricants information.
It is not difficult to understand why EARL 4 has been so successful. It is the product of a time when the 1990s recession, company downsizing, mergers and takeovers, diminishing technical experience and time constraints have all taken their toll on the lubes industry and the OEMs. It takes advantage of modern information supply and retrieval technology with, at its highest level, available versions for field staff, networks and Internet. OATS does what no other company has the human resources to do; maintain an ongoing dialogue with oil companies and OEMs worldwide, sift, verify and check all data, and add new information. This is a time consuming procedure requiring in-depth knowledge of a complex industry, familiarity and easy access to all the right people. Indeed, 1999 saw a huge increase in OATS' liaison with OEMs and a 33 percent increase in model line entries on the database. The result is an extraordinary, powerful tool with huge potential for all the businesses, which use it. Yet it comes in a program that is so easy to access, understand and manipulate that no computer experience is needed.
OATS was established in 1984 by two former oil company employees who brought to the venture equal measures of technical knowledge from Esso and marketing expertise from Castrol. It has since been dedicated to serving the oil industry and counts most of the world's major lubricants developers amongst its clients. Yet four years ago this company was still a comparatively small time provider of, exclusively, printed lubricants listings. Then it was acquired by Sebastian Crawshaw, an expert on information management and electronic business solutions, whose intervention proved to be the springboard of a timely renaissance. He re-invented OATS in the hands of a new team of oil industry marketing and computer software people. EARL was launched both as an expanding database and a marketing concept.
In came John Hunt as Technical Services Director; formerly a technical manager and technical training co-ordinator who had worked in the oil industry for 25 years. His particular knowledge of construction and off-highway machinery considerably strengthened this sector in the EARL database. It has also enabled OATS to undertake full industrial surveys by combining its unique knowledge of recommended lubricants with the practical expertise of established plant and machinery inspectors. OATS' team now includes former lubricants specialists with BP, Castrol, Duckhams, Shell, Texaco and Valvoline, and between them the company's present OEM liaison group has more than 150 years of lubricants experience. The organisation also has a team of former industry training executives such as professional trainer and former Texaco Sales & Marketing Manager Barrie Scott, and marketing communications practitioner David Burn who is OATS' Marketing Services Director. OATS' services to the oil industry and related sectors now include courses in product knowledge, sales effectiveness and telemarketing operations.