Q&A with Jeffrey L. Lay

A conversation with Nye Lubricants’ gear industry director.


When I visited your website, I was surprised to learn that Nye Lubricants is 160 years old.

That’s right. The company was founded by William Foster Nye in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and it operated under his name–the William F. Nye Company–until the early nineties, when it was changed to Nye Lubricants. New Bedford is an old whaling town, so the first lubricant he developed was refined from whale oil, which has excellent low-temperature characteristics. At that time the oil was used mostly for watches, clocks, and ship chronometers, and that’s where the low-temperature properties were especially important. The whale oil was non-gumming, and it didn’t oxidize, so that made it an exceptional lubricant once it had been refined.

When did you make the move from organic to synthetic lubricants?

Nye began this research in the 1960s, experimenting with synthetic lubricants as opposed to the whale oils and refined white mineral oils that had been used prior to that time.

I know that the company is still based in New Bedford, but what about its other locations?

You’re right, our headquarters are in New Bedford, as are all of our production facilities, including ultra-filtration, packaging, and the Optical Products Group. Beyond that we have what we refer to as “technical support and sales centers” all around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Charlotte, North Carolina, Phoenix, Arizona, and here in Centerville, Ohio, where I’m based. In addition we have distributors and agents in all major industrialized countries on every continent. We have an international sales team in New Bedford who work directly with these representatives, conducting site visits and holding training seminars.

Training seems to be an important part of Nye’s service to its customers.

Absolutely. While all of our facilities are equipped to handle seminars, most often they’ll be held on-site at a customer’s, or a prospective customer’s, location. We have also held seminars at hotels near their facilities, so we’re open to conducting them however it’s most convenient for the client. And we’ll call in our experts to help in the training whenever it’s necessary. With my background in gearing, for instance, I’ll travel to meet with customers who are involved in gear manufacturing, and we have others who will lend their expertise in particular areas as well.

You’ve mentioned your background in gearing, could you expand on that?

I’ve been with Nye Lubricants for the past 10 years, but before that I worked for M&M Precision Systems as an applications engineer. I was also involved in international sales, so I traveled all over the world to meet with our customers, as I still do with Nye. One account that I’m responsible for is Black & Decker/DeWalt. They’re headquartered in Townsend, Maryland, but they also have plants in the U.K., Mexico, Brazil, and China, so I’ve visited most of those sites. I am also responsible for keeping Nye current on what’s happening in the gear industry. For example, we’re an associate member of AGMA, and I participate in a number of committees that have to do with plastic gearing or powder metal gearing, things of that nature. But one thing that I really enjoy about my job is that it’s not 100-percent gearing. I might be involved in a gear application in the morning, and then electrical switch lubricants or fiber-optic coupling gels that afternoon. So that’s what makes this job so much fun, its never-ending variety.

MORE INFORMATION¬† For more information on Nye Lubricants, contact Lay at (937) 885-2312, or send e-mail to jefflay@smartgrease.com. Visit the company’s website at www.smartgrease.com.