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Interview

Alain Garric – Group Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Marechal Electric – Technor – France

28.07.2015 / Energyboardroom

The group chief sales and marketing director of Marechal Electric, a supplier of electrical equipment, discusses the growing importance of oil and gas since the acquisition of the Italian company Technor. He also provides insight into the company’s prospects for international expansion, in North America notably.

Let’s start by introducing Marechal Electric and Technor to our audience.

We are a family owned company. Until 2003 Marechal Electric was very focused on France. We have since developed significant overseas activities and purchased in 2013 the Italian company Technor specialized in Ex proof electrical equipment. We are still a little group, employing 450 people and our turnover has now reached approximately EUR 100 million.

Our organization allows us to be active all over the world. First of all, thanks to our manufacturing facilities located in France but also overseas, we have demonstrated vertical product integration, and can control every aspect of manufacturing. We are very ambitious in the United States where we have a large manufacturing plant near Milwaukee, which has doubled in size recently. Secondly, we have built assembly shops dispatched across the world – in Germany, Singapore, Australia and South Africa. Sales resources all over Europe and also in Morocco accompany these assembly shops. Overall we cover the key areas of the world.

We sell high tech products for harsh and explosive environments, for various markets including mining, oil & gas, shipyards, tunnels. We basically cover all environments that face difficulties in connectivity. We have developed a complete range of connectors, and have always integrated security parameters because as soon as power transmission increases, disconnecting plug and receptacle becomes a difficult process that must be overseen and conducted in a safe manner.

How would you define the importance of oil and gas to your overall activity?

For the oil and gas industry, we developed a range of Ex-proof connectors. Since we are a niche player, it was challenging at first to initiate talks with the oil and gas majors, especially when we only sold plugs and sockets. This has encouraged us to buy Technor. This acquisition has enabled us to extend our geographic positions, since Technor held two subsidiaries in Dubai and Singapore, and it has also enabled us to provide a more comprehensive product range. Since the acquisition of Technor, oil and gas is now a strategic market for us.

How challenging is it to today have these two different brand names, rather than one single point of reference name to your clients?

This is a very good point. It is never easy to integrate a new company because we must embed new cultures, behaviors, work ethics, business philosophies and different ways of addressing markets. Marechal Electric is a process-industrialized company. We are very well organized, we employ very efficient production tools and logistics and we can deliver throughout Europe in a very short time. Technor has worked in the oil and gas environment and is a lot more project-oriented and experienced in dealing with EPCs. Marechal’s products are very standardized while Technor’s products are customized and tailored made. Technor manufactures junction boxes and distribution panels in harsh environments, which are quite specific to explosive environments. Technor systems can easily integrate Marechal connectors and we strive to accommodate as many synergies and complementarities as possible.

All in all, we have to learn how to work together. We are also attentive on certification aspects, which are now very stringent in our field. Overall, it was a successful acquisition and we are actually not considering any rebranding because both names have gained resonance in our industry.

5 percent of your annual turnover is invested in R&D. How can synergies be further leveraged between Marechal Electric’s various sectors of activity?

We indeed try to build synergies at the R&D level. Our R&D team in Paris works in close collaboration with Technor’ R&D team. We have recognized Technor’s expertise in stainless steel, aluminum and other metallic products while we have furthered our competencies in plastic. In terms of manufacturing, the objective is to maintain the know-how within Technor plant in Italy and to bolster and reinforce its development. In terms of sales and marketing we allocated more funds and investments in this field. We have hired sales resources fully dedicated to Technor solutions that have been dispatched in several key countries. We are also capitalizing on our subsidiaries in Singapore and Dubai, which we inherited after the merger with Technor. These subsidiaries are today fully capable of selling both Technor and Marechal products.

Oil and gas operations are often sought in harsh conditions with extreme temperatures in remote locations. How do you respond to that?

Marechal Electric and Technor are experienced in developing systems for harsh environments and have built a mature expertise in this field. We provide systems that are integrated within EPCs solutions operating often in extreme environments. We therefore use a common language and we understand very well the challenges of the oil and gas actors like EPCs. We possess in-house testing facilities, where we ensure that our products are resilient and can be employed in different environmental conditions. Our products resist to low temperatures, high temperatures, humidity, Shocks and so on. We have built a few partnerships with major French laboratories and certification bodies in this sense.

You are present in four continents with ten subsidiaries and 25 countries of interests. Which current markets are driving your growth in the oil and gas sector, and what are your priorities in terms of international development for the coming five years?

For the company as a whole and not just oil and gas, Europe remains an area where we can continue our development despite geopolitical issues and a sluggish economic recovery. Our growth will undeniably be spearheaded by our activities in North America, Canada and Mexico. We are committed to conquer new markets in South America, in Brazil, Colombia and Chile in particular. We are now increasing as well our development in Middle East and Asia through our subsidiaries in Dubai and Singapore.

For the oil and gas sector in particular, we are trying to overcome issues in Russia and are witnessing an interesting development phase in the Middle East. We are ready to position ourselves in Iran. We are obviously exploring prospects in Asia, thanks to our activity hub in Singapore. We have also recently driven our attention towards Korea, which we believe will constitute the undisputed Asian market of the future in the oil and gas industry.

As you mentioned at the start, Marechal Electric operates nine production and assembly sites, spread between France and the world. Does Marechal have enough capacity to meet further demand, and most important, deliver in time- within budget the solutions needed?

Absolutely. We are perfectly able to deliver anywhere in the world. We are planning on doubling our activity in the near future.. We are obviously aware of our limits and will not seek every project at our disposal for the sake of growing. We need to careful examine the potential outcome and profitability of each mission that is bestowed upon us. We are of course very active in the EPC world. We work for clients such as Technip, Saipem, Subsea 7 and JGC in Japan. We clearly have to reinforce our position in the United States to fulfill our development objectives. The United States is such an important market that we simply need to position ourselves in our niche and win a substantial amount of market shares to succeed.

We also work in Africa, where we have developed activities in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Gabon for instance. We rely on our subsidiary in South Africa to develop the southern part of the continent with Technor products in addition of Marechal business that is already running today.

Generally speaking, I would like to say that we have the right mindset to address the oil and gas industry’s needs, requirements and expectations. With the acquisition of Technor, we are able to combine products ranges and now clearly appeal to the oil and gas community as a serious player able to deliver worldwide.

On a more personal note. Marechal is as you mentioned, a family-run company. You worked for several years for large corporations. What do you enjoy about being part of a family business?

Part of my decision to join Marechal Electric had to do with its ownership structure. The mindset here is entrepreneurial and not financially driven. It is a completely different management style and approach. We have a unique owner who strives to bolster our development and ensure stability.

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