Selectarc is the only French manufacturer of welding and brazing products. Founded in 1870 under the name Forges de saint-Hyppolite, this SME belongs to the family company Vieillard- Migeon et Cie, which has been in existence for more than two centuries. From its very beginnings, Selectarc has been firmly rooted in the historic French forging industry, with two production sites: Roche-Lez-Beaupré (Doubs) for brazing, and Grandvillars (Territoire de Belfort) for welding. Firmly rooted but not immobile, the company can also count on two distribution subsidiaries in Italy and Canada, and sales offices in India, Asia and the Middle East. Selectarc employs 150 people, most of them in France, and generates sales of €45 million. Jean-François Petitet, Director of Operations, talks to us about this nugget whose expertise is spreading to the moon!
What are Selectarc's activities in the nuclear industry?
Our business cuts across all industries, and our products are used in cutting-edge industries such as nuclear power and aeronautics, as well as being distributed to craftsmen and the general public via dedicated distribution networks.
We design and manufacture welding and brazing products. Welding involves fusing the base metal part and the filler metal, while brazing involves melting only the filler metal, not the base metal. We manufacture electrodes and welding wires, as well as alloys used in other processes such as laser and thermal spraying. Selectarc is able to supply all types of materials that can be used for welding to assemble, coat and protect, or for additive manufacturing. Our customers in the industry include principals such as EDF and Framatome, as well as their suppliers and subcontractors.
A nuclear power plant contains several tonnes of filler materials. Most of the time, the alloys used in the nuclear industry are fairly common, but they can have very specific characteristics, in particular impurity levels that are lower than the norm. This requires a large number of tests on each production batch to ensure that it complies with the RCCM, the regulations governing the construction of nuclear power plants, as well as specific storage and packaging conditions and an extremely robust quality system.
What's new at Selectarc?
We are currently investing in the modernisation of our industrial facilities, as well as the massive digitalisation of our processes in production, sales, logistics and support functions. We are also working on expanding our R&D laboratory, devoting more human and material resources to it. Our medium-term objective is to become autonomous in the processes for validating the quality and characteristics of our products via ISO 17025 certification.
Unlike many of our competitors, who are now large international groups or independent Asian companies, Selectarc concentrates on small and medium-scale production of a wide range of products with the highest quality standards. This flexibility is a fundamental focus for Selectarc. While the battle with Asia is lost on price alone, the major challenges, particularly in demanding sectors such as nuclear power, are of a different order. Quality must be at its highest and most consistent level, because the lifespan of equipment depends on it. Responsiveness and technical expertise are other assets in supporting a sector that is reinventing itself, and will be a guarantee of renewed energy sovereignty.
This ongoing quest for agility is reflected in our constant efforts to increase the versatility of our teams - a versatility that makes our jobs more interesting and attractive, as the tasks are less repetitive and more rewarding.
We are also seeking to raise our profile, because for too long we have remained in the shadow of our distributors and associated brands; we are in the process of setting up a training centre to train our customers and distributors. Selectarc was a partner in the French welding championship held last May. Welding very often illustrates the industry in the media and symbolises very well the current challenge of rehabilitating our trades in the eyes of the general public and more specifically of the younger generations. There can be no industrial revival in France without massive enthusiasm for our trades among the generations currently at school!
Finally, Selectarc can be proud of the fact that its products are even present on the moon, since the Indian probe Chandrayaan-3, which landed on August 23, was assembled using only filler metals designed and produced in our factories. This success is extremely gratifying for our teams, and bears witness to our unique expertise, which has been recognised on a continent that is dense with local competitors!
What are Selectarc's medium and long-term development prospects?
Naturally, we intend to be part of the dynamic that is driving the French nuclear industry, with some exciting projects in the pipeline!
Having streamlined our offering by reducing the number of our own brands, we're now looking to broaden it to cover all the needs of the market and achieve sufficient business in the French market, a prerequisite if we're to project ourselves more effectively on the export market.
We also intend to expand into other areas, such as the naval sector (we recently signed a partnership with Naval Group to develop products for the next generation of SNLEs), as well as the railways and continuous-fire industries such as steel, paper, sugar and quarries. We will therefore be recruiting more engineers and sales staff dedicated to these markets. Selectarc currently has 16 strategic areas of activity, and we won't hold back from going all the way to the general public, under our own brand, thanks to a fully integrated production tool.