Specialized Fabrication Equipment (S.F.E.) Group is the best example of how coming together of industry pioneers could help in the advancement of technology. As a result of a merger between four companies in the USA, UK, and France, the group offers its customers six brands to help them achieve excellence, repeatability, and quality output. The brands manufacture everything imaginable and innovative that could assist the tubes and pipes industry. Tube & Pipe India feels fortunate to converse with Mr. Himadri S. Pal, Regional Manager – India & Middle East, at Steelfab Sharjah, Dubai, as he elaborates on the business and production model of S.F.E. Group. He also shares the group’s views and plans for the Indian market in the upcoming years.
Tube & Pipe India: Could you please give us a brief outline of your business journey and crucial milestones?
Himadri S. Pal: In 2019, B&B Pipe and Industrial Tools LLC (USA), Mathey Dearman Inc. (USA), and TAG Pipe Equipment Specialists (UK) merged to form Specialized Fabrication Equipment (S.F.E.) Group. Recently in 2022, we acquired AXXAIR (France) as well. As of today, our group operates through six brands, namely, Mathey Dearman, B&B Pipe & Industrial Tools (B&B), TAG Pipe Equipment Specialists (TAG), AXXAIR Innovative Orbital Solution (AXXAIR), PPM Pipe Purge Masters (PPM), and Fit-Up Pro. Although the group is newly formed all the member companies have individual experience ranging from 25-75 years. We cater to industries that require machinery or systems for manufacturing and maintaining tubes and pipes of any kind. We also manufacture mechanized solutions for welding, closed welding processes, semiconductor applications, pasteurization process plants, and pipe forging and fabrication.
TPI: Kindly cast some light on the infrastructure, manufacturing capabilities, and machinery installed at your facility.
HSP: We have manufacturing plants in the USA, France, and across Asia. Four out of our six brands, TAG, AXXAIR, PPM, and Fit-Up Pro, are integrated at our France plant, while Mathey Dearman and B&B are integrated at our USA plant in Houston. At both locations, we carry out extensive Research and Development processes to better our existing technology and engineer new ones. In India, we have set up our Sales and Services Office in Pune, where we offer our customers varying services and support. This includes assisting with operational training, system servicing, and assisting through any breakdown.
TPI: Tell us about your product portfolio along with its key strengths and applications.
HSP: Each of our brands provides specialized solutions to our customers. Mathey Dearman manufactured products are used for swirl oxygen-based cutting, plasma cutting, bevelling, pipe alignment clamps, pipe reforming clamps, pipe rigging equipment, etc. B&B’s product range is for pipe support systems for leveling and aligning flanges, such as pipe jacks and stands, mega rollers and stands, and material handling equipment. Fit-up products could be described as welder’s accessories. TAG-manufactured systems are used for cold cutting, beveling, welding preparation, etc. PPM systems are used in pipe fabrication and forging. Our brand technology ensures that as the outer pipe gets forged the inner channel does not oxidize. Lastly, AXXAIR products could be used for orbital welding, closed head, open head, pipe-to-pipe welding, and tube to tube welding, etc.
TPI: What are the recent developments and future plans at your company?
HSP: We had elaborate plans at the time of S.F.E.’s establishment, however, due to the onset and effects of Covid-19, they hit a roadblock. From 2022 onwards we have restarted our development plans. We have developed tube-to-tube sheet welding for heat exchanger process plants. At Mathey Dearman, we are developing portable gas or plasma-cutting machines. Portable systems are not popular in the industry. However, at S.F.E., we strive to make portable systems so that they could be fitted on the pipe area that needs to be cut and simply do the cause. At TAG we are developing varying tooling requirements for new metals. We engineer special application designs and systems for newly developed metals. Our most recent addition, AXXAIR, is special in its own stand. For instance, in the milk pasteurization process, milk is heated and cooled within a very short time to increase its shelf life and make it marketable. It is required to pass through a channel of pipes that go through heating and cooling chambers where its temperature shifts from 80 to 4 degrees centigrade within a span of 15-20 seconds. These stainless steel pipes must not have any kinks or protruded welding for milk droplets to be left as the spoiled milk will spoil the whole next batch. Our AXXAIR manufactured systems help in ascertaining the exact sweet point and power consistency to achieve such welding results.
TPI: Please shed light on your market footprint and clientele.
HSP: Our systems have applications in all industries that require pipes and tubes. Some of the major clientele includes the power industry, oil and gas industries, shipbuilding industries, aviation industry, food and beverage industries, nuclear energy sector, petrochemical industries, pipe fabrication industries, and refineries. All types of process plants or infrastructures that have an application of process engineering can use our systems to ensure the smooth and efficient working of their process plants.
TPI: What is your outlook on the tube and pipe industry? What do you believe is its future?
HSP: Indian tubes and pipes industry has a lot of scope for development. Clearly, this for S.F.E. Group means a lot of opportunity and market in India. Presently, the Indian pharmaceuticals industry is so well developed that varying European organizations have established their plants here. Our systems that have applications in the pharmaceutical industry could be used on a wide scale in India. Moreover, process plants are expected to grow in numbers in India due to the shift in Geopolitics. As India looks forward to becoming self-sufficient, various outsourced processes shall be now home developed. Semiconductors are the best example of this. Until now India was importing them from countries like Taiwan, South Korea, China, etc, but now they are being manufactured in India itself. Another upcoming sector of process facilities is nuclear energy plants, as the power source is being used to replace fossil fuels.
TPI: What is your technology and business roadmap for the future?
HSP: It is a common debate and notion of the current era that in the future everything shall be robotized, which is true, but only to an extent. Even with robotization, human skills and intervention could not be nullified wholly. For instance, in India, many processes require a high level of manual intervention and we offer our systems to organize the practice for better results. Our systems shall help you to achieve results with zero errors and continued repeatability. Hence, human skillset shall still be a requirement to operate the system. But with the convergence of their experience and intelligence with our technology, the time and resources shall be saved from being wasted.
TPI: What are your opinions about the Indian market?
HSP: S.F.E. Group has been closely working with the Indian market for the last five to six years, that is since our establishment. We have been fortunate to witness that change in the attitude of the country. The government of India has already initiated the Make in India campaign, and industries and companies have been highly supportive and welcoming of the initiative. We have observed a demand for tools and systems that provide accuracy, repeatability, and efficiency. Our Indian customers seek solutions that get them the desired results in the first application. Moreover, Indian infrastructure is also being upgraded and developed to assist this shift. For example, here in UAE, it is easier for us to supply and support our customers as the roads are very good. India has grasped the difference made by the general infrastructure and is consistently working to better it. We expect exponential growth for the Indian market and industries in the upcoming years.