For Tractel in North America dimensions height are unlimited. If anything – or anyone – needs to be lifted or moved, Tractel Group® provides product. No matter how construction grows, or how high a project goes, the company offers a safety net, reports Dan Harvey.
For Tractel safety is the key word for all activities, according to Thierry Bertrand, president of Tractel Ltd. (Along with Tractel Inc., Tractel Ltd. is part of the Group’s North American operations, which is headquartered in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada).
“We adhere to stringent regulations in our markets to avoid any catastrophic situations,” says Bertrand.
The company has to. Tractel designs material and personnel lifting products, and via its safety-focused mission, it boasts a global presence in its niche market. (14 countries are included, at last count). Indeed, Tractel has earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading producers of lifting products. The organization fully comprehends the dangerous environments where its equipment is deployed – hence, the “safety-first” company mentality. This approach has led to development of its industry’s most dependable and longest lasting products.
Tractel’s broad line includes wire rope hoists (powered and manual), chain hoists (manual, electric and anchorages), electronic products (load indicators, load limiters), and floor handling products (pallet trucks, heavy machinery dollies, manual rack jacks). Essentially, Tractel provides an efficient, innovative, and safe solution for any project where lifting and moving comes into play.
Again, the organization operates in a niche market, and Tractel is at the front. “In North America, we’re considered number one for the kind of equipment we offer,” says Bertrand.
That equipment is marketed through distribution and also finds itself deployed in high-rise construction projects – a potentially dangerous setting. So the company understands that it’s more than preventing injury; lives are at stake. As such, it is committed to quality assurance (Tractel is ISO 9000-certified).
Four Project Categories
Tractel’s product line encompasses four categories: permanent building maintenance, temporary suspended access, fall arrest (safety) and material lifting and handling. “Those are the four legs of the stool upon which the Group is based – both internationally and in North America,” says Bertrand.
Along with quality commitment, the entire Tractel organization places a strong focus on continuous improvement. In its mindset, safety has no endpoint. Innovations always must be developed. True this can prove costly, but Tractel willingly – and with great enthusiasm – makes the investment.
This means that Tractel judiciously chooses the suppliers it works with. Quality, safety and cost efficiency are key elements in Tractel/supplier relationships.
One of the advantages that Tractel in North America can boast is that it is part of the international Tractel Group, which is headquartered in France.
“The Group’s history dates back to 1941, and the basis of its growth is unique equipment that became useful during Europe’s reconstruction after World War II,” relates Bertrand.
The Group’s early major impact occurred when the enterprise acquired a license for the Griphoist®, according to the company. The hoist is a pulling and lifting machine that operates with a wire rope passing through the machine. At the time, the Griphoist® product was revolutionary, as it made it far easier to maneuver various load types. Even in its early years, the company was focused on continuous improvements, as it continually upgraded the Griphoist® product. A testament to this is the numerous patents granted for functional and industrial application improvements made over time.
In 1975, the company introduced a new generation of motorized hoists: the TIRAK™ innovation. Today, thanks to the Griphoist® and TIRAK™ hoists, Tractel is a major world player in both the production of manual traction hoists with wire ropes passing through the machine and the production of electrical traction hoists for suspended scaffold. Tractel is also the world leader in the production of permanent access machines and platforms for building maintenance facades.
“Also, it was during this period that the Group established subsidiaries throughout the world – first in Europe and then in South Africa, Brazil, Singapore, Japan, and the United States,” reports Bertrand. “Establishment of North American operations placed us closer to a large portion of our customer base. As Tractel specialized on niche products – fully comprehending niche market needs – it determined that it had to be flexible when it came to customer requirements.”
This approach led to the introduction of products like TIRAK™. “This proved a very effective scaffold hoist,” comments Bertrand. “This also led to better access equipment for construction, cleaning and maintenance. This further led to access equipment sold or rented, what we call temporary access equipment. Another of our major activities involves permanent access, which is project-based equipment permanently fixed on top of buildings, for inspection, cleaning, and maintenance of a building façade.” Through the years, Tractel has created a broad range of material handling equipment, with the idea of bringing all material handling products within the expanding distribution network.
Innovations also came in the 1980s (e.g., the introduction of a range of dynamometers with digital displays with maximum capacity of 250 tonnes, under DYNAFOR™ brand name). In the 1990s, demonstrating its engineering expertise, Tractel entered the market for PPE height safety equipment. Subsequently, Tractel again became a world leader in this product area.
Today, Tractel boasts a global network of more than 8,000 distributors. “This involves both the rental and purchasing of equipment,” describes Bertrand. This network allows customers access to a broad product portfolio that addresses diverse needs. Tractel has found that no customer problem is too challenging.
Tractel in North America operates from two main production facilities. “One is in Toronto and the other is in the United States,” says Bertrand. “The Toronto plant manufactures permanent equipment, and it is essentially the engineering arm for North America.”
With its world-wide sister companies, Tractel North America enjoys access to the best componentry and products. From a local perspective, in Toronto, the organization’s team demonstrates knowledge and expertise about the industry and equipment, as well as how the technology can be best applied. In addition, the company will manufacture a product to fit an exact shape, depending on the type of project.
Engineering expertise – which leads to new-generation product – places Tractel at the top of the world, as far as its markets.
Economic Challenges Leads to Diversification
Global economic circumstances provided Tractel with business challenges in recent years – as with other businesses involved in construction. But Tractel responded well; it diversified, which took it into new markets like the new energy sectors, as well as into the chemical sector. In particular, its “climb assist” product helps customers in the emerging wind-produced energy sector. As the company moves forward, it plans on diversifying when and where it feels necessary. After all, constructions keep getting bigger, in terms of height. That’s where Tractel demonstrates its advantage.
Bertrand adds this about future vision: “We’d like to spread more throughout North America, as we believe the economy is starting to pick up – at last. We see traction. That means potential for internal growth, as well as exterior growth. We are always on the lookout for the appropriate acquisitions that will foster further growth.”