Focus on sustainability
The history of the Dufour Group began at the turn of the century with the current directors’ great-grandfather. Over time, the coal supply company expanded its activities and became, among others, one of the leaders in heavy lifting.
The "modern" history of the Dufour Group can be tracked back to 1947 when Fernand Dufour created the eponymous company. Today the company is run by the third generation and it has significantly expanded its activities: delivery of petroleum products, rental of earthmoving equipment, special transport, waste collection and sorting, concrete delivery, rental of cranes, elevated work platforms and heavy lift services for wind turbine installation. The secret of such a successful diversity? A solid common thread.
In 1960, the Dufour Company changed from the delivery of coal to that of petroleum products. “Among our customers, there were many construction sites. Construction vehicles and generators need fuel to work. Offering services to construction sites then became the main thread of the company’s development. Today, we can supply the full range of services that entrepreneurs need on their work sites. First, we can deliver the necessary fuel. And then, we can provide demolition and earthmoving equipment, take care of the disposal of demolition waste, rent mobile cranes and deliver the concrete required for the construction. All these services are also available separately, but we notice that entrepreneurs particularly appreciate having a single partner able to meet all their needs.”
The Dufour Group’s gradual diversification was also tinged with regional accents as far as the search for partners is concerned. There are many stone quarry firms operating in the area of Tournai, birthplace of the company. "We naturally started to provide heavy earthmoving equipment specific to this activity: excavators, articulated dump trucks, etc." The company has also progressively specialized in supplying high-capacity mobile cranes such as crawler cranes as well as hydraulic cranes. "We can provide our clients with a full range of lifting equipment, from small hydraulic telescopic cranes with a capacity of 35 tonnes to lattice boom cranes capable of lifting 800 tonnes with a maximum boom length of 196 metres. Our cranes may be used on construction as well as industrial sites, including nuclear industry sites." By transporting its very own outsized construction equipment, the Dufour Company gained valuable experience in special transport and can therefore offer its clients specialized services regarding transport of abnormal indivisible loads.
Wind turbines ?
In the mid-90s, the company decided to specialize in a new field: transporting and lifting the different components of wind turbines. "With our high-capacity cranes and our experience in transport of abnormal indivisible loads, we were ideally positioned to capture a major share of that market. "Just imagine. In order to transport wind turbines, whose blades can measure up to 60 metres long, you need about 25 semi-trailers. To assemble them, you need a crane with a capacity of 800 tonnes and with a 140-metre-long boom. And to carry this massive crane and its 360 tonnes of counterweight, 30 to 35 semi-trailers are necessary!" The Dufour Company invested heavily in the development of this activity. Three years ago, the company even invested in the development of a bimodal port near Tournai. Wind turbines are transported there by barge, then transshipped to trucks that will bring them to their final destination. “This enables us to reduce the environmental impact of transport." "Besides, we are thinking of using the waterways to bring wind turbines closer to their destination." The Dufour Company now occupies a leading position in this very particular growing market. "We are the leaders in the Benelux and we occupy a dominant position in France and Germany."
Concern for the environment
As a result of its involvement in wind farm projects, the company became more ecologically-oriented, which is reflected in all of its choices. "In 1998, we installed a waste sorting centre on our site. "Construction waste is sorted there as well as separated. We collect dirt, wood, brick and concrete. Wood is recycled; brick and concrete are crushed and forwarded to recovery channels; and dirt is sent to a specialized landfill site. We also take care of sorting household waste as well as hazardous waste that is redirected to authorized waste treatment facilities. Although many operations are automated, the sorting is still partly done by hand. This creates job opportunities for less-skilled unemployed persons who often struggle to find work in their area."
Building a sustainable future
Many projects are still only in the pipeline as far as waste recycling and recovery are concerned. "Right now we are thinking of investing in a cogeneration system." "This would enable us to add value to waste treated by us but also to generate some part of the energy that we consume." It is with the same goal of using renewable energy sources that, in 2013, the Dufour Company installed 2000 photovoltaic panels. The fact that the company’s activities are oriented towards sustainable development fits perfectly with the philosophy of a family business. “We are primarily future-oriented. We do not aim to maximize our profits. We just want to ensure the sustainability of the company. And to do so, we must undoubtedly consider as much as possible the environmental impact of our activities."
Strong family roots
Founded by Fernand Dufour, the family business is now completely in the hands of the third generation. "The understanding between us is excellent, each dealing with a specific field of the company." "One of my brothers manages cranes and transport, the other environment, my cousin earthworks and civil engineering and another cousin petroleum products, whereas I am responsible for coordinating all of our departments." But the family nature of the company does not stop at the founder’s descendants. "Among our 500 employees, we have many families. It is not uncommon to see father and son, and even grandfather, working side by side." "We very much value this family aspect and we are very proud to have been able to apply this to our staff as well."
The company invests heavily in training. "We created our own in-house training centre and developed a coaching system in which experienced workers support young workers and show them the ropes." “We not only train our crane operators and truck drivers, but also our own maintenance technicians." The Dufour Company sees to its own repairs and maintenance services. "We became "authorized agents" of different brands for our cranes, our earthmoving equipment, our trucks and even our vans. We have the technical data sheets of all our equipment as well as all the necessary spare parts. In case of mechanical failure, this allows us to intervene faster than if we were dependent on our suppliers." "This advantage is highly appreciated by our clients. Not losing time is vital and they are therefore reassured to know that there is always a team ready to leave 24 hours a day should problems arise."
A long-term job
The Dufour Group has spent more than fifteen years on this progressive integration. A long process which is now paying off. "This is also the advantage of our orientation towards the long term." "We can take the time to make the investments that we think are essential to ensure the sustainability of our business."
Half a century of history
1947 : Foundation of Dufour Ltd by Fernand Dufour. The Company mainly delivers coal
1960 : The Dufour Company adds heating oil delivery to its services
1964 : Fernand Dufour hands down the company to his two sons
1990 : The third generation takes over
1998 : Dufour’s waste sorting centre is built
2002 : First wind turbine installation