Shape of success
Since 1950, Douce Hydro SAS has been a proud designer and manufacturer of hydraulic cylinders and piston accumulators – a focus that hasn’t dimmed over 60 years on.
From its roots in the north of France, where its worldwide headquarters are based, the business has grown into a global brand with 90 per cent of sales generated from export, all under the umbrella of a family owned company.
Although its first market remains northern and western Europe, other hotspots for Douce Hydro include the US and Canada, and fast growth within the likes of South America, Singapore and areas of South East Asia. The company retains a number of other areas of potential interest for the future such as Russia.
“Our major customers are integrated engineering companies,” begins Laurent Lasser, global business development manager. “More specifically looking at the oil and gas market, and the drilling sector, the centre of the world for these clients is on an axis between Norway and Houston.
“We have more than 20 engineers fully dedicated to hydraulic cylinders making this the strongest engineering department in the whole cylinder industry right now, and a key factor in our success. We also have the global cylinder industry’s strongest integrated capacity in terms of machinery and production, and in addition to our worldwide service capabilities this has enabled us to assume the leading position we currently hold,” he continues.
Whilst Douce Hydro’s product portfolio has a very specific focus, it is not limited in terms of applications for hydraulic cylinders, with many critical industries utilising these in one respect or another. The company has carved itself a further niche though in the form of custom designed hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders. Few design parameters are imposed with clients able to choose from any type of raw material, mounting, attachment, treatment, coating, painting, fluid and testing. This extends to single acting, double acting, telescopic, servo-positioning, low friction, hydraulic or pneumatic constructions.
Elaborating upon Douce Hydro’s approach to each individual contract, Laurent says: “We are not only providing a cylinder but are creating a whole solution for the customer. With all of our technologies we design and manufacture the right cylinder for the application of the customer, which enables this to be far more efficient. Therefore early on one of the most important things is to identify the application of the cylinder, the environment it will be working in, the expectations of the customer in terms of reliability and time between maintenance, and their overall goals, which we can then translate into technical drivers and create the ideal solution.”
In support of its cylinder production, Douce Hydro has also invested in complimentary technologies such as coatings to help prolong operational lifetime and efficiency. One of the more unique innovations to be born out of this work is the Keradouce rod coating. Incredibly hard, waterproof and corrosion resistant, this multi-layer coating is Douce Hydro’s answer to the increasingly harsh environmental conditions customers are putting hydraulic cylinders into. Keradouce shows considerable benefits over chrome or nickel chrome coatings in all areas such as scratch, abrasion, wear, impact and corrosion resistance, as well as overall improved surface finish properties. “At present Keradouce is probably the best coating in the industry for most applications within the oil and gas, and marine sectors,” enthuses Laurent. “However, for those requirements where Keradouce may not be so suitable we also offer a range of other coatings, such as laser cladding.”
Keradouce can also be retrofitted to a client’s existing cylinders as part of Douce Hydro’s repair division. In addition to its other clear advantages, Keradouce incorporates a unique reparation method in the case of accidental damage of the rod, which can be applied on site without disassembling allowing production to resume again quickly. On a wider basis, Douce Hydro performs repairs on any type of hydraulic or pneumatic cylinder, regardless of the original manufacturer. The business has long recognised this after sales service as an essential element in maintaining its strong customer relations, and as such operates its own large repair centre and parts warehouse. At request, Douce Hydro can also provide on site technical assistance at customer facilities throughout the world for new product installation or maintenance.
At a time when a lot of the world’s markets were suffering from the economic downturn, Douce Hydro saw the opportunity to invest in its facilities without inconveniencing its customers. As a result, in January 2010 the company opened the doors to its new 5050 sq m capacity extension at its headquarters in Albert, France. Encompassing production, assembly, testing and painting, the development of the site also saw the addition of new machine tools including two heavy duty CNC turning lathes, five overhead travelling cranes of 20 tonne capacity, and two overhead travelling cranes at 40 tonnes.
Laurent highlights how this has benefited the business today: “As a result the factory, including the extension, is already fully booked for 2012 and business has been secured for part of 2013, which enables us to ensure a 30 per cent progression compared to 2011. Last year we also continued to raise our productivity to ensure we are able to absorb the high volumes that the oil and gas industry is expecting from its suppliers.”
The main challenge facing Douce Hydro at present is being able to follow it clients into the deeper waters and harsher environments that form the landscape of the oil and gas industry today. “We have the right facility and the right people in order to meet the next challenges of the market, and our customers see Douce Hydro teams as an extension of our own project teams, and thus a preferred partner. Right now the oil and gas market is a bit stronger than other industries, and we have every confidence that this will increase so that we can maintain the same figures within this market, but balance that with other industry sectors,” concludes Laurent
Products: Hydraulic cylinders