Ferro-Tech was created in 2006 by Jean-Luc Doucet and employs today a staff of 80. With a focus on the renewal and maintenance of railways in Luxembourg, Belgium and France, it is one of only two companies specialised in the railway niche in the Grand Duchy.
The machine park is the heart of the company’s activity. “We use large machines that cost at least €2.5 to €3 million, the largest even €7 million,” says Mr Doucet.
“We came to a point when we needed to invest €25 million if we wanted to stay in the market. However, we could not make the investment profitable on the Luxembourg market alone. So we had to start exporting our services.”
Digital monitoring of the machine park
Ferro-Tech therefore decided to call on the experts of the Fit 4 Innovation programme to analyse how to optimise the use of its equipment. “As the material suppliers and the output are imposed on us by customers in their tenders, we mainly concentrated on the profitability of our machines which strongly impacts our results,” explains the managing director.
When a machine breaks down, the consequences for the company are severe. “Everything stops on the site, which causes huge losses and also considerable fines as we cannot move forward with the pace imposed in the contract with our client.” Avoiding these shutdowns was therefore a priority.
With support from the Fit 4 Innovation consultants, Ferro-Tech replaced its rather manual management of the machines with a digital system. Equipped with tablets, the machine managers can now make daily check-ups of their machines and report any defects in real time. The application on the tablets allows them to attach messages, photos and requests for intervention. “This live management will give us a better overview of everything that happens with the machine park,” confirms Mr Doucet.
The first two tablets are currently being tested and the system is still being improved. The intention is to make a full-scale deployment of the digital management system for the end of the year. “We do not have any measurable results yet, but we do believe in the system,” says Mr Doucet.
Ferro-Tech is a family firm, and the management team consists of Mr Doucet, his son and his wife. In order to ensure its sustainability over time, it was also necessary to think about the strategy to implement the day when the father would hand over the reins to his son.
Together with the experts, the company managers decided to prepare this transition by creating an operating manager position. An important step, according to Mr Doucet: “When my son succeeds me, he will have a technical deputy below him who will already be prepared to support him in his work.”
Continuous innovation for the future
What has been then the main benefit from the Fit 4 Innovation experience for Ferro-Tech? “It is clearly having an outside view from a team of professionals who are really giving their point of view,” answers Mr Doucet. “This experience has shown me that there are two kinds of innovation: the company’s own innovation, which allows it to increase its profitability and reduce its costs, and ‘win-win’ innovation that is beneficial to the profitability of the company, but which also brings direct benefits to the customer. Today, we are giving some serious thought following Fit 4 Innovation in order to determine what kind of innovation we need to adopt to continue growing our business.”