French confidence

24 April 2008

From left, Claude Guillou, Egi director and consultant; Marc Guery, chairman and CEO; and Remy Doyen

From left, Claude Guillou, Egi director and consultant; Marc Guery, chairman and CEO; and Remy Doyen, export manager, in front of one of the company's insulated boom units under construction.

If confidence comes from past successes it also emboldens future actions. It's a characteristic that Egi SA, the privately–owned French manufacturer of insulated and non–insulated truck mounted platforms, currently seems to have in abundance as it seeks to expand its business beyond the live–line platforms for which it is best known. The manufacturer, which has over 40 years experience of building utility platforms, may be famous for its insulated machines – the first to be developed in Europe (see box story) – but it also makes more conventional truck mounts as well as fire fighting and emergency units.

It is the increased focus on safety and emergency response that Egi now sees as a key to further developing its business. “Safety is most interesting because customers can get a lot of money for it”, says Marc Guery, Egi's chairman and chief executive officer for the past seven years, speaking to Access International at the company's facility in Charleville–Mezieres, east of Paris, “Companies get what they need in the name of safety.”

An expansion of its fire fighting platform business is one strategy to capitalise on this growing safety culture. Such platforms already account for a large portion of its export sales to Asia, Africa and the Middle East – exports that represent around 40% of its annual 200 units, €10 million turnover business – but Egi sees a real opportunity to meet demand for compact fire units.

“More important than high access in most fire incidents is quick intervention”, says Egi's export manager, Rémy Doyen. Egi suggests that 75% of fire access needs fall well within the 22 m working height of its core designs. These machines also have compact dimensions that suit the narrow streets of older cities.

This, believes Egi, has opened up an attractive niche for the company. It makes fire–fighting platforms up to 22 m working height for 7.5 t carriers, with outrigger spans within the carrier width and zero tail swing. It showed a T318NUP (18 m working height) unit at the 2005 Interschutz fire–fighting exhibition, and delivered the first such machine to the fire brigade of Lorient in Brittany, France last year. The company has sold an additional ten units of the NUP line since then, and AI saw during its visit an 18 m unit destined for Pakistan.

There is considerable life left in the utility and live–line market, however. Egi is now on the third generation of these machines – it has built 6000 platforms of all types since 1964 – and it is still seeing the development of new niches within this market. For example, the Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité, the French occupational safety body, recently authorised utility crews to remain in the buckets of Egi's 3.5 t GVW, 17 m working height units while elevated and moving from street lamp to street lamp. The company has sold 50 machines, called the Candelia model, over the past 18 months for such use.

Its &bread and butter' insulated model, however, remains the 17 m working height E17I model that represents 90% of all live–line sales. This machine provides access to most medium–voltage (20 kV) power lines, usually hung at 15 m.

Challenges remain, however. One of these is gaining further market acceptance of its live–line platforms in export markets, including North America, where there is already a number of well–established live–line platform suppliers. “Our difficulty is getting the word out”, says Claude Guillou, the engineer behind the development of Egi's first insulated models and who is now Egi director and international consultant, “Foreign power companies use the US standard to specify their requirements. They do not realise that a standard for higher voltages exists or that our equipment, built to that standard, offers advantages.” That standard is IEC 61057, which specifies requirements for machines for live line working.

Communicating the key features of its machines for niche applications appears to be Egi's main challenge. And it aims to do this without relying unduly on outside help; “We don't need anybody to sell for us; we can manage by ourselves”, says Mr Guery. That's confidence for you.

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