When a large road builder needs to build a bitumen plant or wins a road-building project, it typically asks an OEM manufacturer to provide a complete, turnkey bitumen plant. And in France, as with many other regions of the world, such manufacturers are increasingly turning to Danish-based pump manufacturer DESMI.
Bitumen presents heavy challenges for industrial pumps – the most pressing of which is the need to minimise or entirely eliminate leaking.
“Bitumen is a tough substance to transfer,” says Nicolas Maunier, Sales Engineer for Danish-based pump manufacturer DESMI. “When the pump stops and the temperature falls, it hardens quickly. So any leaks will create an unsightly mess that is very difficult to clean up.”
DESMI’s wide range of heavy-duty ROTAN® asphalt/bitumen and fuel pumps and accessory equipment ensures that bitumen can be quickly and safely transferred – and the pumps comprise only two moving parts for more reliable operation and easier maintenance.
The company has achieved particular success with its pumping systems for the tank terminals used to store bitumen, typically by large oil companies. Its many-year track record, however, spans stationary bitumen tanks that ensure continuity of supply for roading projects, hot-mix or cold-mix plants where small stones are mixed in with the bitumen, and emulsion and roofing plants. For special applications such as the manufacturing of cathodes in aluminium plants, DESMI offers a magnetically coupled pump for ultimate protection against leakage, and maintenance-free operation.
Coming to France
DESMI’s French subsidiary opened in 2011, aiming to capture more of the local bitumen market where, in fact, the company’s pumps had already been distributed for many years.
“When we established the subsidiary, our main competitor had a solid position in the marketplace,” says Nicolas. “Right from the beginning, however, our bitumen pumps won a prestigious contract with ERMONT, the main OEM manufacturer in France. Since 2012, in fact, we’ve had a framework agreement in place to supply the company with around 50 pumps a year for a variety of applications.”
Track record counts
Despite the geographical size of the country, the French bitumen market is a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone. And this is one of the principle reasons behind DESMI’s rapid road to success since setting up the local presence.
“Every project you do well opens a door to the next one,” says Nicolas. “That also means, of course, that you are only as good as your last project! Fortunately, we’ve managed to get the formula right many times by now, so our reputation has become one of our best selling points!”
DESMI’s French team is excited about the future for the company’s bitumen business – not just in the local marketplace, but in more distant markets such as Africa, too. Africa is in desperate need of new roads, bringing with it the need to build local bitumen plants that can provide a steady supply flow.
DESMI France also covers the company’s activities in Northern Africa, where a distributor provides local service, backed by DESMI’s expertise out of France or other locations around the world.
“We have very good solutions for maintaining temperature in pumping systems – using thermal oil, hot water or electricity,” says Nicolas. “Today, most customers want electrical heating and 80 percent of our sales are made in this way to achieve a clean and cost-effective installation. In Africa, however, they generally need to heat pumps with thermal oil – and we can easily adapt to that need.”
Electrical heating deploys a temperature probe, mounted in a hole drilled in the idler pin of the pump. As the idler pin is placed in the middle of the pump and its liquid contents, heating is concentrated where it is best used. Road tankers and plants benefit most from this method of heating, easily connecting to an existing power supply. Thermal heating is made possible by adding heating jackets to the pump’s front and rear covers.
Most issues with DESMI’s pumping systems are relatively small and easy to solve, but the company’s service tradition still demands its staff to drop everything and focus on the customer until issues are resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. And according to Nicolas, having international access to specialised pump expertise is particularly useful for DESMI’s ability to win new contracts.
“Working in Algeria, for example, on a project for a new roofing plant, we were able to provide references from many projects we’ve conducted in Sweden and Norway stretching back more than a decade. Our subsidiaries in those countries sent a list of customer contacts that the Algerian’s company’s director was very welcome to contact. And that provided a strong comfort factor.”
Less common types of projects, such as those where positive displacement pumps are involved, make the most of such specialist assistance. Here again, DESMI’s French subsidiary can team up with other parts of the company to offer a specific solution for each problem. It’s an approach that adds considerable strength to the quality of pre- and after-sales service provided.
Nicolas believes customer relationships are largely driven by the quality of the supplier’s employees. “If they’re highly skilled and service-minded, customers can quickly get comfortable. You have to really know what is important for them, and if you don’t have specific know-how about their challenges and operating models, if you don’t talk the same language, you’re unlikely to win their confidence.”
For many of DESMI’s customers in France, building those relationships begins with a visit to the company’s manufacturing plant and headquarters in northern Denmark. Some have also been invited to the Chinese facility. It’s a chance to meet many more of the people involved with the customer’s solution – and to put a face on potential contacts who may help to design, build or support future solutions, too.