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Cementing a New Relationship

 

Making the critical business decision to enter a new market often requires a distinct leap of faith since no one can reliably predict if a venture, no matter how well thought out, will ultimately succeed or fail until it is actually presented to the market. That leap is less precipitous, however, if the business has a history in the market to reflect back upon, as well as a number of key market-based relationships already in place.

 

That was the case in 2010 for De Dijcker NV, Vlierzele, Belgium. Founded in 1923 as a provider of transport services that initially featured horse-and-wagon deliveries, De Dijcker NV, after purchasing its first truck in 1927, has grown into a European powerhouse in construction, concrete, recycling, and waste-transport operations with major operations in the Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany, and Great Britain and five divisions:

 

  • De Dijcker, DD Mix (concrete plants)
  • DD Recycling (recycling of concrete rubble)
  • DD Top (uncontaminated topsoil)
  • DD Shipping (barge transport and storage)
  •  

Over the years, De Dijcker had offered dry-bulk cement-hauling operations, but about a decade ago had gotten out of that business because of cost concerns. But the most successful companies are willing and able to reevaluate and modify their operations as market conditions change, so when the opportunity to purchase a 30-unit cement-truck fleet made itself available in late 2010, De Dijcker decided to initiate a move back into bulk-cement transport. It helped that De Dijcker was able to contract for use of its new fleet with Holcim, Zurich, Switzerland, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of cement, aggregates (crushed stone, gravel, and sand), ready-mix concrete, and asphalt.


The acquisition of the cement fleet reintroduced De Dijcker not only to the cement market, but also to trucks that required the presence of screw compressors.

"De Dijcker had been involved in the compressor business before but had stopped for a few years," explained Dirk De Bruecker, CEO of De Dijcker NV. "We once had a lot of trucks doing international transport for bulk and fluids because the prices were low. When the prices started going up, we decided to only do national bulk transport in Belgium and a tiny bit in the north of France. Now, we’ll do a lot of cement business with that one company, Holcim. It was a good purchase to buy those trucks and to strengthen our relationship with Holcim."

Wise Decisions Turn Profitable

With De Dijcker preparing to outfit 15 of its newly purchased cement transports with new screw compressors and related equipment, the company turned to an old business partner to secure the latest in screw-compressor technology for its fleet.

Paul Humblet is founder and owner of Humblet Hydraulics, Kontich, Belgium, a leading provider of hydraulic mobile systems – including Hydrocar PTOs – for a wide range of dry-bulk haulers in the Benelux countries since 1975. Humblet Hydraulics had been supplying De Dijcker with mobile-hydraulic equipment for its tipper trucks for more than a decade. The timing of De Dijcker’s purchase of the cement trucks and De Bruecker’s discussions with Humblet regarding the potential need for at least 15 new screw compressors couldn’t have been more fortuitous.

Due to their long-lasting business relationship, Humblet had recently been in contact with Luca Munerati, Hydrocar’s OEM Global Sales Director. Hydrocar is a business unit of Interpump Hydraulics Spa based in Nonantola (MO), Italy, a world leader in the manufacture of power takeoffs (PTO) and hydraulic pumps for transport applications. As a producer of the dry-bulk transport industry’s most-respected PTOs for more than 30 years, Hydrocar had developed a relationship with Humblet.

In those discussions, Munerati informed Humblet about the soon-to-be-released MH6 Screw Compressor system, which was the result of a research-and-development partnership between Hydrocar and Mouvex®, Auxerre, France, a leading manufacturer of pumps and compressors for use in liquid and dry-bulk transport operations. The actual genus for this relationship was the European Union’s Euro 6 legislation, which was introduced in June of 2007 and will go into full effect in 2014. Euro 6 puts stricter limits on exhaust-pipe, evaporative, and crank-case emissions from passenger vehicles, vans, and commercial vehicles intended for the transport of passengers or goods, or certain other specific uses. For this reason, fleet owners are constantly looking for smaller equipment to install on their trucks.

The resulting MH6 is the world’s first combination screw compressor/power takeoff (PTO) unit that is compatible with a truck’s gearbox, making it ideal for optimizing dry-bulk transport applications, such as cement, fly ash, lime, flour, etc.. The MH6 has been designed to offer many benefits to the end-user in dry-bulk transport applications, while at the same time offering a 70% weight reduction (150 to 200 kg/331 to 441 lbs) when compared to existing equipment. This weight reduction provides fleets with increased turnover per truck per year that equates into improved revenues. The MH6 also increases the efficiency of transport-loading and -unloading applications because Mouvex has long set the standard in cost-efficient screw-compressor operation, thanks to a design that offers non-contacting internal parts, oil-free operation, compact size, easy installation on 3-axle tractor units, high flow rates, and wide speed range.

Though Humblet was initially lukewarm to the MH6 – "I didn’t think I was interested," he recalled – Munerati’s persistence, combined with a trip to the 63rd Annual International Motor Show (IAA) Commercial Vehicles in Hannover, Germany, last September, where Mouvex and Hydrocar were displaying the MH6, was all he needed to become convinced in the MH6’s potential.

"Luca called me and said this is a fantastic product and will provide a distinct advantage for transport companies in the dry-bulk market," Humblet said. "When he pushed me, I knew it was important."

Seeing Is Believing

As it turns out, De Bruecker was also on hand and saw the new MH6 technology on display at the IAA Show. So, after seeing the MH6 in action in Hannover, De Bruecker and De Dijcker didn’t need much more convincing that it was the right component for its new cement trucks. The first MH6 was installed by Humblet on a De Dijcker cement truck in January with two more installed in March, six in April and the final six in May. The other 15 cement trucks that were purchased were equipped with screw compressors that were less than a year old, so will be upgraded to MH6s over the coming months.

"We began using Mouvex’s Typhon Screw Compressors in 1995 in our international transport business, but we stopped using them when we got out of bulk," said De Bruecker. "Since we already knew the quality of the Typhon, which was very good, and with the Mouvex name we thought the MH6 looked promising and we were very eager to being using it. I have one driver who tested the first one and he was really impressed. He said it’s more silent, the integrated gearbox allows it to go really fast, and he likes the handling and usage of it. This is a guy who has 25 years of experience with bulk carriers and he’s very enthusiastic about it.

"The reduction in weight is also significant. The MH6 is lightweight so we have more loading capacity and it unloads really fast, much faster than other brands. This provides a distinct advantage for De Dijcker over our competitors. Thanks to the MH6, we can carry larger loads per delivery more often, which ultimately improves our bottom line."

Another person who became sold on the MH6 for use in dry-bulk applications during the IAA Show last year is Stefan De Herdt. Working for one of Mouvex’s competitors at the time, De Herdt saw so much potential in the MH6 that he left that company in January 2011 and came to Humblet as Commercial Manager for the MH6 line.

"Every other screw compressor on the market is pretty much on a level playing field. However, the MH6 is the world’s first combination screw compressor/PTO unit that is significantly ahead of the competition. I felt so strongly that this was such a great opportunity to represent an innovation in the dry bulk market that I left my old company and joined Humblet," said De Herdt.

Conclusion

As mentioned, any time you introduce a new product to any market there is a fear factor in play. If the early returns are any indication, however, that won’t be the case for the MH6 in the dry-bulk transport industry. That’s because not only is the product backed by two of the most respected names in the industry – Mouvex and Hydrocar – but because it meets so many needs and solves so many challenges for dry-bulk transporters.

"The MH6 is unique because it’s a close-coupled machine attached to a PTO that gives benefits today and in the future with Euro 6," said De Herdt. "It is possible to be installed on every type of truck: 4x2, 6x2, 6x4, 8x4, and short wheelbase. If you only work with traditional ways of doing things, you will have problems, so the MH6 can be a good advantage. We were attending the unloading of a truck with the MH6 for De Dijcker and we spoke to the driver and he told us he was very satisfied with the results. He said the temperature was good, the noise was better than the others and the speed of unloading was the same as before. In fact, the noise level was so low you could speak while standing beside the truck without any interference. We even put our hands on the hose between the truck and the compressor and the hose was not too hot."

With all of these positive features and benefits to present to his customer base, De Herdt is looking forward to enthusiastically continuing to pursue the possibilities that the MH6 has in the dry-bulk market.

"Our calculations show that the new MH6 will pay for itself in four to five years when you calculate the increased payloads trucks can carry due to the 200 kg weight reduction. That’s a huge advantage for anyone in the dry- bulk transportation market," said Humblet.