Power to grow
Quality manufacturing and customer service have enabled SGB-SMIT to occupy a leading position in Europe that looks set to grow even further as the group looks towards new markets and product developments.
A long and successful history is the solid foundation for today’s SGB-SMIT Group. A relentless pursuit of market and portfolio expansion has defined the company’s progress, and a number of significant acquisitions have been instrumental to SGB-SMIT’s achievements. Today, from six production sites the company serves customers in a number of segments from power generation, public and municipal utilities and infrastructure, to industrial, railway and shipping. A widespread portfolio presents oil-immersed type transformers up to 1200MVA and 800kv; resin-encapsulated transformers to 25MVA and 36kV; oil-immersed distribution transformers; and compact substations. However, the offering never remains stationary, as SGB-SMIT’s continuous programme of acquisition ensures the portfolio constantly expands to serve a full range of demands.
The company’s roots can be traced back as far as 1913, with the formation of the first SMIT transformer factory in Nijmegen, Holland. “Willem Smit was one of the pioneers of energy transmission, building the first public electric lighting system in the Netherlands,” explains Jan Oelscher, CEO of SGB-SMIT.
As for SGB’s history, Starkstrom-Gerätebau GmbH was founded in 1947, with its focus on the production of oil distribution transformers. “This industry was very progressive,” notes Jan. “As experience and market demands increased so did the ratings and capacities of the transformers. By 1963, SGB delivered the first 110kV transformers. Steady, continuously-growing experience led to further diversification and the introduction of cast resin transformers into the manufacturing range in 1979, which opened up even wider access to the industrial sector.”
In order to keep up with growing demand, in 1990 the company founded Sächsisch-Bayerische Starkstrom-Gerätebau in Saxony, Germany. “For this, a brand new factory was built to take over the complete manufacture of oil distribution transformers from the over-capacity Regensburg site,” says Jan. “The new factory soon operated under full load and has been growing constantly every year. This site can also be proud of being the only factory in Germany to still manufacture oil distribution transformers, whilst other competitors have shifted all production abroad.
“In 1995 SGB went intercontinental. AM SGB was founded to manufacture distribution transformers up to 2.5 MVA in Nilai, Malaysia,” Jan continues. “Demand for quality products from Nilai was not restricted to this performance class, so AM SGB entered the medium power transformer level and now sells its largest transformer up to 35 MVA. In 2008 a new strategic step was taken in inaugurating a cast resin transformer factory, SGB Cast Resin, at the same location.”
Come 2006, SGB set its sights on completing its range of transformers and following the 100 per cent acquisition of SMIT Transformatoren B.V., SGB-SMIT Group, “Partners in Power”, came into existence. “By this point SMIT had become specialised in large power transformers with an actual range of up to 1200 MVA and 800kV, and had established a strong presence in the North American market,” notes Jan. “In the following years SMIT intensified its activities in the field of transformer services and in 2010 opened a separate location in Nijmegen to focus on maintenance, diagnosis and repair of all kinds of transformers.” In 2013, on SMIT’s 100th birthday, the company achieved the ‘Royal’ title.
With SMIT’s acquisition opening up the North American market for the entire group, SGB took the opportunity to expand its global footprint and in 2010 it opened a new assembly factory for cast resin transformers in the USA, SGB-USA. In 2012, the group welcomed OTC Service Ltd, based in Ohio, to the group. “OTC, as a well established specialist in the repair and upgrade of small and medium sized transformers represents an important partner for SGB-SMIT in North America, which is a really interesting growth market at present,” explains Jan. “Following this, SGB-USA moved to the OTC location bringing benefits to both parties with regards to know-how and access to markets.”
Most recently, in 2014 and 2015, SGB-SMIT has continued its growth strategy with the acquisition of the majority stake of the transformer manufacturer Retrasib S.A. in Sibiu, Romania and the design company Trafo Proiect. “The main reason to acquire these two companies was to increase our competitiveness in the range of 200 MVA transformers, where in the past these units have been too large to manufacture in Regensburg and too small to make them competitively at SMIT,” expresses Jan. “In addition, Retrasib gives us better access to Eastern Europe, as well as a competitive manufacturing base. Both companies have integrated fully into our quality standards and design systems, and work hand in hand with our other European sites.”
Growth has always been a defining point to the SGB-SMIT group, and this is particularly true for the last couple of years. Jan puts this growth down to company’s core strengths: “The group combines the competitive strengths of being a high quality manufacturer with a high degree of customer orientation and flexibility.
We have a flat structure, are close to our customers, listen to their needs and work with full dedication to serve them. We also have a very strong team to implement and deliver this.”
Product development has also been a major part of the group’s historic progression and Jan explains that this is always dictated by the changing trends in the markets. By working closely with its customers the group has also established a reputation for specialised solutions besides its conventional products, especially with the rise of the renewable energy sector. Jan points out the company’s new controllable distribution transformer, ‘RONT’ and its cast resin solutions for wind energy.
As for the future, SGB-SMIT will be committing itself to the same strategies of growth and development that have secured its present success. “We strive to continuously convince our customers with our dedication to meet their needs at highest level,” Jan concludes. “Internally, we will focus on further improvements to our processes in order to deliver consistently high quality transformers. We are rooted in Europe and we want to use this strong base to further grow here, as well as selectively strengthening our activities in Asia, North America and Africa. Ultimately, with our state-of-the-art products and our commitment to quality we strive to exceed our customer’s expectations.”
Products: Largest pure play transformer manufacturer
Sites: Six production sites