DELACHAUX has developed its rail infrastructure business through a series of acquisitions and organic growth to the point where rail now accounts for 56% of annual turnover and 57% of its employees. But the company had retained most of the original brands despite now operating globally from over 40 international offices and manufacturing sites, and the increasing globalisation of the market.
Many of the brands such as Pandrol, Railtech and Rosenqvist, were well-known names and were operating as subsidiary companies with their own marketing and sales teams, despite all being part of the same group. “This led us to wonder whether we were presenting a clear image to the global players in the market,” explains Mr Guy Talbourdet, CEO of the Delachaux Group. “We want to make the most of the systems we offer. It is not just about selling rail fastenings, for example, but also the kit to assemble them. It is the same with rail welding - we also train welders, conduct non-destructive testing, and carry out wayside monitoring.”
The company decided to conduct a strategic review to see whether it was maximising its ability to sell its products and services effectively. “We started by listening to our customers, and we were surprised that some of them did not have a clear picture of what we do,” Talbourdet says. “Some customers also found us quite complicated to deal with and they wanted one point of contact.”
Prior to making any changes, Delachaux had 10 different companies within the group, with Pandrol responsible for fastenings, Railtech for aluminothermic and flash butt welding, track equipment under various brands such as Railtech, Matweld, Rosenqvist and Vortok, and other activities such as the supply of aluminium and steel third- rail and rigid overhead conductor rails.
In 2014, the Pandrol, Stedef and Railtech rail fastening businesses were merged under the Pandrol brand, and a similar reorganisation of Delachaux’s welding activities was also undertaken. “We were so confident that these changes had been effective, that we decided to reorganise the company and we have been working as one company since January 2017,” Talbourdet says.
The final step, in November 2017, was to rename Delachaux’s entire rail business Pandrol. The new company now operates in four specific areas:
- aluminothermic welding
- electrification, and
- equipment and control.
The latter brings together a lot of the equipment and knowhow which allows the company to solve problems.
For example, Vortok International won a contract in 2016 from Metro-North Railroad in New York to develop and install train fault detection systems. In all, three systems will be pre-assembled into large equipment ‘houses’ and delivered to sites at Ossining, New York State, Greens Farms, Connecticut, and Belmont Park on Long Island. This includes a four-track hotbox detector (HBD), four-track wheel impact load detector (Wild) and a four-track automatic equipment identification tag reader system, all of which will report to an Operation Control Centre (OCC).
The systems will continuously monitor and measure the wheel/rail loads produced as a result of irregularities from train wheels and monitor passing trains for overheated bearings. A key element of the project is the use of Vortok MultiSensors, rather than traditional strain gauges, and its Wheelchex system.
“We will be fully operational in the first half of 2018 with Wheelchex and we will have 128 Vortok MultiSensors in place at each site,” Talbourdet says.
“We want to bring multi-specialisations to rail infrastructure and enhance our existing system,” he continues. “For example, with our fastenings we have introduced a lot of systems to reduce noise and vibrations. We have also developed a system to repair the rail head which extends the life of the rail and avoids the need to change it.”
In order to prepare for the merger, the company held a seminar for its 110 top managers last autumn to fully acquaint them with the merger and their new role. Technical training was also conducted for customer-facing staff to give them a broader knowledge of the product lines. “We met all the teams in October and created a product display a bit like a stand at InnoTrans so that our staff could see everything we produce,” Talbourdet explains. This will result in Pandrol providing a single point of contact for customers in each country while one Pandrol manager will be in charge of each global customer.
Talbourdet is clear that the merger is not a rationalisation plan. “We are not planning to close any plants; we want to grow the business, support our customers with technical expertise that sets us apart, and add more specialisations,” Talbourdet says.
“Our strategy is to grow geographically, particularly in China, Russia and India. We already have a new rail fastening plant in Wuhan, China, and we will open one in Hyderabad, India in March. We will expand our welding and ultrasonic testing facilities. We currently have a centre in Raismes in France, and we will open new centres in the United States, India and China. In the past, we haven’t sold our full product range in every country, but this will change with the new organisation.”
While Delachaux does not disclose trading figures because it is a family-owned company, and Talbourdet would not say how the merger will affect the company’s financial performance, group turnover has grown from €230m in 2003 to €839m in 2016, with €474m of turnover in the rail division, and he expects this rate of growth to continue. “We have built up a good order book in 2017 which we have to fulfil, and we have a book-to-bill ratio which is significantly above one,” Talbourdet says. “There are good opportunities for us, and I am positive about the future and the rail market.”