The 2011/02/01 at 11:42
Alexandre T. Analis
When, on a given market, the major technology being used undergoes change, it is fairly rare to see the same company maintain its dominant position. Yet this is the case of Bucher Vaslin, based in Chalonnes-sur-Loire (French department of Maine-et-Loire) and specialised in the manufacturing of equipment dedicated to viticulture. When the company Constructions Mécamétalliques Chalonnaises was founded in 1945, it focused exclusively on the construction of machines for uprooting hemp in the Loire Valley – mainly for agriculturists from the Chalonnes islands. Two years later, the newly created Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA or National Institute of Agronomical Research) showed in a scientific study that hemp could be merely cut rather than uprooted. This new observation felled the activity of the growing company.
A rich history
In 1947, the company bought out the artisanal activity of Vaslin horizontal press construction and prepared to turn this into an industrial activity. This second departure would set it on the right track! The company remained independent until 1973, the year when the Institut de Développement Industriel (IDI) became a stakeholder along with the Institut de Participation de l’Ouest (IPO) and the Société Régionale de Développement (SODERO), then the company Leroy-Somer. The takeover of the Coq company, a producer of continuous presses and harvesting machines, led to ten years of difficulty for the company: the merger was arduous and the petrol crisis of the 1970s did not improve matters.
The government at the time set up grants for agricultural investment, firstly leading to a flare-up, then a fall in winegrowing investments. Coq would cease its activities in 1980. Between 1983-1984, the company adopted the name of CMMC and once again focused on its central activity by renewing its range of presses. In 1986, the Institut de Développement Industriel and its three co-shareholders handed over CMMC to the Swiss group Bucher, which immediately decided to transfer all its pneumatic grape press activities to Chalonnes-sur-Loire. Becoming Vaslin Bucher in 1994, the company took on the name Bucher Vaslin from 2006 onwards. Its economic model is based on two main traits. The first is evident when one retraces the company’s history: Bucher Vaslin has steered its geographical development towards a distribution network with local correspondents. These dealers, linked by exclusivity contracts, are in charge of selling products and providing services to clients.
Development of cutting-edge technologies
The company born in Chalonnes-sur-Loire managed to develop throughout the region, extending throughout France from the end of the 1950s. The company then exported products to Germany, Spain and Italy, then to Japan from the 1960s onwards. Ever since this time, it has been number one in horizontal presses, then in pneumatic presses. For the second trait of Bucher Vaslin – and also its major claim to success – is its propensity to innovate. Other than presses and stemmers, the company develops cutting-edge technologies for viticulture, such as tangential wine filtration and optical grape sorting.
Its integrated research and development team is made up of around forty persons, and has developed a number of partnerships with various research institutes and universities throughout the world, including INRA (France), Institut Universitaire de la Vigne et du Vin (IUVV) in Changins (Switzerland), University of Piacenza (Italy), University of California in Davis – widely known as UC Davis. Research teams come up with solutions for wine growers, but also pay attention to inventors. This has enabled Bucher Vaslin to buy patents and to sign licence partnerships. “We only register patents when they meet European standards, for European patents are recognised for their quality,” specifies Jean-Pierre Bernheim, 62 years old, an engineer holding a PhD in fluid mechanics, and Chief Executive Officer of the company since April 1983.
Four product lines
Thanks to both its own inventions and the patents it buys, Bucher Vaslin today offers four product lines: Delta, Bucher, Flavy and Cascade. Delta offers technologies relating to grape preparation from the moment they are harvested up to their arrival at the wine press. Bucher includes pneumatic presses and vertical presses – specially for red wine – with a capacity to press between 300 kg and 200 tonnes of grapes. Flavy uses membrane techniques including tangential filtration of wine, grape must and vat deposits, while Cascade offers systems for treating waste cellar water.
More information on www.buchervaslin.com
• Founded in 1945
• 370 employees, including 280 in Chalonnes-sur-Loire, 50 in Rivesaltes, 27 in Santiago (Chile), 10 in Romans d’Isonzo (Italy), 10 in Sebastopol (California, United States) and 3 in Melbourne (Australia)
• 3 plants including 2 in France and 1 in Chile
• Sales in 40 countries
• Consolidated turnover in 2009: 50 million euros
• Share of exports in 2009 turnover: 60%
Source: Bucher Vaslin SA –December 2010