By Craig Lauer | May 17, 2020
BY HOLLY ALFANO, CEO, INDEPENDENT LUBRICANT MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION
This letter originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Compoundings magazine.
I’m writing this month’s letter from my home office. We are about 12 days into the 15 that President Donald Trump says are needed to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor of Virginia has closed all nonessential businesses, requiring the ILMA staff and me to work remotely.
A lot changed very quickly. Oil prices plunged to new lows. The stock market tanked. And a new phrase—“social distancing”—entered our vocabulary.
The cancellation of ILMA Engage was a major disappointment to our staff, with 90% of the work having been already completed. But we soon embraced a new challenge: to ramp up the flow of information and resources to members, anticipating what issues would emerge. As the staff began meeting over video chats, we agreed that as a team, this is our opportunity to shine and to reinforce the value of ILMA to members.
As states began to issue stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, ILMA wasted no time reaching out to the National Governors Association requesting that lubricant manufacturers be designated as “essential businesses.” Thankfully, the governors came through, and ILMA quickly developed information to help our members in their new role as an essential business, while most other businesses were shut.
We quickly developed a COVID-19 Resources webpage, which has been updated daily. We provided guidance on how members could manage employee issues that would inevitably occur during a pandemic. What happens if an employee becomes ill? What happens if an employee refuses to work? ILMA developed a “Frequently Asked Questions” document on employment issues.
The slowdown and closure of businesses resulting from the pandemic had many effects on ILMA members, and ILMA was there to assist:
- As Congress reacted to the crisis with a relief package, ILMA gathered critical information for members on Small Business Administration loans and other business assistance included in the legislative package.
- As members began preparing to apply for American Petroleum Institute (API) licensing for GF-6, ILMA learned they were having issues with the availability of the Romaszewski Oil Bench Oxidation (ROBO) test. ILMA reached out to API, and on April 1, API invoked Provisional Licensing, giving members needed leeway to submit ROBO results. When API lifts its Provisional Licensing, oil marketers with provisionally licensed formulations will have six months to obtain and submit a passing ROBO result.
- Grease manufacturers and the National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) approached ILMA about the shutdown of the castor industry in India resulting from the pandemic and how without access to that product, the grease industry would be effectively halted around the world. ILMA, NLGI and the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers developed a letter outlining the issue, which was delivered to Trump administration officials and the Indian Embassy. The letter asked for outreach to the Indian government to reopen the essential castor industry and nearby ports.
We lost our much-anticipated meeting, our chance to connect and network with friends and colleagues. But the work of ILMA never stopped. Rather, it intensified. It is my hope that, as we helped to make the case that lubricant manufacturers are essential, our members also recognized ILMA in that light.
Chief Executive Officer