Wayne’s world: the New Jersey technology centre that keeps a continent's engines moving

Last edited: 28 June 2016

The leafy New Jersey countryside may seem an unusual location for the regional headquarters of one of the world’s most high-profile brands, but, for the past 30 years, Castrol has run its vast Americas division from the quiet US township of Wayne

Set across the Hudson River from New York City, New Jersey is the most densely populated of the 50 US states. It’s also the only state in the country to categorize all its 21 counties as metropolitan areas. With that in mind, visitors might assume that there’s no escaping the urban sprawl. But, on a trip to Castrol’s regional headquarters, BP Magazine makes a number of discoveries about the business and its home state:

Keeping engine parts moving across the Americas

New Jersey is home to the nerve centre of a massive business operation that keeps machines running and people moving from Chile to Canada. The headquarters for Castrol in the Americas is based in Wayne, where around 300 BP employees and contractors are involved in research, testing, marketing and retailing for one of the most recognized product brands in the world. The three-storey building opened in 1986 after Castrol moved its regional headquarters out of New York City. BP acquired Castrol in 2000 and has expanded the facility to keep up with the growth of the business. Today, it employs the largest concentration of BP people in the eastern US.

“While we have staff in Naperville, Houston, Brazil, Mexico and other countries in Latin America, Wayne is the largest concentration of Lubricants employees in the western hemisphere,” says Luigi Tedesco, regional vice president. “In addition to technology and the strength of the Castrol brand, it’s the quality and professionalism of our people that is driving the growth of our business across the Americas.”

Beware the wildlife in the Garden State

The BP offices in Wayne, just 20 miles (32 kilometres) from New York City, are situated in a wooded area that abuts a state forest preserve, creating a bucolic setting that belies its proximity to one of the largest cities in the world. Employees can gaze out the window and view a wide variety of wildlife. “There are bears, deer, coyotes and turkeys in abundance,” says facilities manager Chris Van Overloop. 

Some newcomers are indeed surprised by their surroundings. “On my first day, I saw a couple of ‘beware of the bears’ signs in the parking lot. I remember similar signs and warnings about polar bears on the North Slope in Alaska, but I wasn’t really expecting anything like that in New Jersey,” says Gregg DeMetri, human resources director Lubricants, Americas.

‘Light bulb moments’ of innovation in Edison’s state

Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison – famed not only for developing the electric light bulb but also for creating the first industrial research laboratory – registered hundreds of patents from his work in New Jersey. In a different era, Castrol’s technology team in Wayne has a haul of 17 issued patents, as a result of its focus on innovation to respond to the demands of 21st century vehicles.

“BP’s lubricants business is in a constant state of change, as new engine technologies and government regulations call for innovative lubricant products to meet the needs of the market and our customers,” says German Calderon, Americas automotive technology manager. “We have a state-of-the-art lab with substantial facilities on the site for developing and testing our automotive lubricants,” he says. “We can rigorously examine all our ingredients and materials before we go into production and we can also conduct effective quality assurance to make sure that our finished products are of the best quality.”

Taking the pulse of transport trends

There are more than 7.5 million vehicles on the roads of the Garden State alone, according to the US’s Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Cars and trucks keep rolling off production lines across the Americas – and with continual developments in technology and regulation, the Wayne team of scientists and experts must stay on top of trends and challenges in the competitive market for automotive lubricants. 

Calderon adds: “We have relationships with original equipment manufacturers (or OEMs) and formulate high-performance lubricants that help them to meet lower emissions and better fuel economy targets for their new engine technologies.”

As an example, he explains that in order to comply with ever-tougher emission and fuel economy laws, automotive engines have become smaller and more powerful. “Smaller engines hold less oil, yet are running at higher horsepower levels than ever before. This creates huge stresses on engine components,” he says. “So, you need high-performing lubricants that can take the brunt of that extra power while protecting and keeping the engine running smoothly.”

Upholding the state motto of liberty and prosperity

Wayne is much more than simply a work location for BP and Castrol staff; they play a part in the local community through their support of local projects and initiatives. “We’ve built relationships with several charities that do great work,” says Jorge Agudelo, senior quality assurance technologist. 

Team members volunteer time and donate funds to provide meals, clothing and support to a local food bank and homeless shelter, Eva’s Village. Castrol supports St Joseph’s Regional Medical Center with equipment donations, including most recently a simulator that allows surgery patients to practise getting in and out of a car. American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events, Preakness Volunteer Fire Company 4 and Wayne Police Athletic League are among the other organizations that receive regular backing. 

“Volunteering for activities such as cooking and serving meals at Eva’s Kitchen is a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues away from the work environment, as well as a way to give back to our local community,” adds Agudelo.
Images: Adobe Stock/BP

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