This month, Sarens is shining the spotlight on the Samoco division, which was created in 1972 as an alliance between Sarens, the French assembly company Montalev, and founder Paul Voois, grandfather of Peter Buyls, Samoco's Sales & Operations Manager. The division's motto is "Solve it with skill, tackle it with passion."
Here, Peter Buyls shares his thoughts on the division's history, growth, and future outlook.
Tell us a little about Samoco's beginnings, and where the division is today.
Samoco's first activities were organized from a small room in the Brouwerijstraat in Steenhuffel, where Sarens was based. It started out with only one container of equipment, but grew bigger over the years and moved to a warehouse in Londerzeel.
Today, Samoco is located in Zwijndrecht, and boasts a large warehouse and spacious offices. We employ 24 white-collar and 100 blue-collar workers, and our people are our main and most important asset. Each of them is multi-certified and flexible to operate in every activity. We also have our own fleet of around 20 cranes, a range of forklifts and cherry pickers and more than 7.000 articles of smaller equipment and tools.
Which services does the division offer?
Samoco is a full-service assembly company. Along with our technical knowledge and extensive expertise in the implementation of projects, we emphasize our creativity and flexibility.
We have four main activities: Equipment erection, industrial moving, port crane services, and bundle extraction. From dismantling and assembling petrochemical installations in acid resisting overalls, relocating complete factories or production lines, and replacing or revising slewing ring bearings from port cranes to executing shutdowns with 20 cranes and 80 riggers on site, we do it all!
Can you tell us about your major projects, plus what's in the pipeline?
In 2017 we were proud to work for VARIAN at the Proton Therapy Installation at the University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark. We installed the complete cyclotron and beams.
Through October, we have a lot of work lined up for BASF, Arcelor, Covestro, Lanxess, Umicore, and Siemens. We just completed the relocation of the Chokotoff production line in December, so even the Belgian chocolate factories don't have any secrets for us anymore!
Nevertheless, every project, big or small, is important to us. We can be proud to have customers who've worked with us for more than 30 years.
Which sector do you believe drives the growth of mechanical maintenance?
At the moment investment in petrochemical plants is slowing down, but the existing installations still need maintenance. We still see a lot of growth potential in industries such as metals & minerals, food & pharma and healthcare.
What opportunities and challenges do you see up ahead?
We've noticed that we're getting more and more known in the market for our industrial moving skills. A lot of new clients work with us to relocate a production line or even a complete factory. In the coming months and year we are shifting our focus from pure mechanical work in petrochemical plants to complex manipulation work in a variety of market segments. Therefore, we are considering investing in skidding systems, hydraulic gantries, and an expanded array of electrical mini cranes. With those machines we are able to offer technical solutions the way Sarens does it, but in a "lighter" weight class.
One challenge we face is attracting the best riggers, technicians, assemblers and foremen, and to reward them correctly and ensure a happy working environment. If we succeed in this, the future for Samoco will be ensured. Robots will never do our work, and for service and maintenance projects we will always need local people.
How do you ensure safety during project operations?
We strive for full involvement of the workmen on the project, from A to Z, in a way that they feel more involved. By correctly performing an LMRA and identifying the risks, you can prevent problems. We launched our Life Saving Rules and even designed t-shirts with all 7 LSR on them. Let's be honest, you won't call on a petrochemical site when there is a prohibition sign on your t-shirt.
You cannot impose safety upon your people; you can only make them aware of the dangers. Safety is an attitude. You always need to point your co-workers to their responsibility and the safety of their team.