Berthier Équipements kicks its diversification into high gear in Provence

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Berthier Équipements kicks its diversification into high gear in Provence
Philippe Merle, General Manager of Berthier Equipements
12 May 2022 / Grow your business

The company expands 5 years after opening a site in Provence

When manufacturers need unique, custom-made machines and tools, they turn to Berthier Équipements. Five years after opening a site in Provence, the Lyon-based industrial SMB just left Vitrolles for more spacious facilities in Bouc-Bel-Air. With assistance from Provence Promotion, the company ‒ originally a nuclear specialist ‒ is diversifying with new automation projects that could revolutionize the railway sector and the laundry business! Philippe Merle, CEO, and Amandine Reymond, Head of the Bouc-Bel-Air site, have lofty goals to grow the Provence site.

After first expanding the branch in the Les Estroublans area in Vitrolles in 2019, Berthier Équipements, which designs specialized manufacturing equipment, has moved into larger premises in a brand new building. The new space is in the Parc de Sauvecanne in Bouc-Bel-Air, a few steps away from the large Decathlon sports center where engineers and customers come to stretch their legs after work.

Provence Promotion first helped the Lyon-born company get a foothold in Provence in 2016; today it is working with Rising Sud and Pays d'Aix Développement to support the design office with its growth phase.

France Relance beneficiary for the nuclear industry

Berthier Équipements has been settling into its 3,200 ft2 of workshops and 2,700 ftm2 of offices since May 2021 and is picking up the pace of its development. A beneficiary of the France Relance stimulus scheme in October 2021, the small manufacturing firm is participating in the design of an automated drawbridge to allow large parts to enter the reactor building at nuclear power plants more quickly and safely. Its R&D is also making progress on SMRs (small modular reactors) as part of the Nuward project co-sponsored by the CEA, EDF, Naval Group and TechnicAtome.

Meanwhile, it is leading a European consortium alongside SNCF Réseau and a Belgian paint company to automate the stripping of catenary supports. It is also designing new machines that could revolutionize laundry services.

"The customer drops off their laundry — scanned, weighed and tagged with an RFID chip — and then picks it up when they receive a text message. The machine, which we are designing as a project for Conciergery, a company in Aix-en-Provence, is housed in a container that allows users to clean their clothes in the city or in rural areas, at any time of day," enthuses Philippe Merle, CEO of Berthier Équipements.

The Grasse native and Ecole Centrale graduate took the reins of the industrial SMB in 2013. The company, founded in 1972, now generates 65% of its sales in the nuclear sector. "We are currently designing a 14-foot-long machine for EDF to clean the studs in the tanks at nuclear power plants," says the engineer.

Philippe Merle's company is also working as a subcontractor on the construction site of the ITER thermonuclear reactor. "Alongside Engineering and Consulting, we are integrating PLM (product lifecycle management) software that aggregates and archives technical documentation from the design phase through to the dismantling phase," the executive adds. Berthier Équipements employs about twenty people and will post total sales of about €2 million in 2022. With projected growth of 10% per year, the small manufacturer plans to hire additional staff in 2023.

Embedded in the local ecosystem with Cyclium

Since 2021, Philippe Merle has been vice-president and representative for the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region within the Cyclium business association. The association aims to help participants in the nuclear industry improve their organization and skill up. For example, Cyclium offers its members a free training course on the ISO 19443 certification, which is specifically adapted to the industry's norms.

Philippe Merle would like to forge closer connections with other organizations such as Capenergies and UIMM to create synergies amongst all stakeholders. Today, the association includes 55 SMBs and major contractors. Cyclium, which was founded in the Rhone-Gard region, is building out its network by opening up to subcontractors in southern France.

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