In West and Central Africa and Morocco, Topcon works hand in hand with Smartfleet, a subsidiary of BIA. Topcon brings the product innovation required to meet the needs of the field, while Smartfleet brings its exceptional network and experience of African markets. Together, they stand out from the competition thanks to their quality of service and proximity, as Jean-Yves Chouteau, Director of the Gécamines quarry (Vicat Group) in Diack, Senegal, can testify.
From the Diack quarries, 3 million tons of basaltic rock, from gravel to riprap, are extracted each year for public works and marine construction sites, as well as 500,000 tons of limestone for cement factories and lime production. These quarries employ workers who live nearby and whose access to education is not guaranteed.
Jean-Yves Chouteau: "Our loader drivers, whom we have trained and continue to train, can for the most part barely read, write or count. So we came up with the idea of equipping our loaders with a weighing system that is very easy to use. Topcon was the only company to agree to help us develop a solution that combines a simplified version of one of their products with the Vicat Group's own weighing system, which is being tested here in Senegal.
Jean-Yves Chouteau: "The advantage of Topcon and Smartfleet is that they listen. They did not come to sell me a pre-existing equipment, to take or to leave. They really took the time to understand my needs and to adapt the equipment according to my remarks to make it a technology really adapted to the careers in Africa. The advantage of working with a company that has been in Africa for a long time, as Smartfleet/BIA has, is their understanding of what we do here. The cultural and intellectual levels are not necessarily the same everywhere in the world and it is a question of putting in place systems that allow us to employ a maximum of local personnel rather than bringing in people from elsewhere.
The goal is to be able to load a truck as quickly as possible, simply by reading a QR code and a beeper that tells the truck driver when the quantity is reached. This way, the truck is loaded correctly the first time, goes over the weighbridge and leaves the quarry. Without this system, most trucks were over or under loaded and had to go back and forth between the quarry and the weighbridge to lighten or top up the load...
Tests have shown that the average time spent per truck on the site was reduced by 30 minutes. Jean-Yves Chouteau: "As we load between 250 and 400 trucks per day, the time saved is considerable, as is the saving in diesel. Better still, the system allows us to better comply with the WAEMU regulation, article 14, which aims to limit truck overloads in order to extend the life of the roads. Thanks to the training of loader drivers in better filling, respecting the axle weight, we are almost certain not to generate overloads.
Fabrice Simon, Sales Support Manager Topcon Africa & Middle East: "The Gécamines quarry in Diack is one of the most important sites for on-board weighing in Africa. RDS, our entity specialized in weighing systems, has been interested from the start because it is in its DNA to listen to the needs of local markets. Getting feedback from the field that corresponds to reality is only possible by being present on site, not to mention the relationship of trust that can be established with the customer. In addition to simplifying the interface to the extreme, we have reinforced the wiring and protection of the sensors after having seen on site that this could be useful. Future deliveries will of course also benefit from this. In addition, Topcon's commitment is always to offer a complete solution, so we continue to think along with the customer to offer new technological advances in the future."
Local support and service... even in Africa
The partnership between Topcon and Smartfleet is at the heart of both companies' success in the African markets. And the customer is the primary beneficiary.
In Africa, Topcon does not work directly but relies on well-established partners such as Smartfleet. Smartfleet represents Topcon products in Africa, not only in terms of sales but also in terms of service and support at all levels. Topcon provides additional support by accompanying the partner to the work area. The customer can therefore count on doubly effective support. Fabrice Simon: "Selling products is easy, but providing the right support is a big challenge. That's what makes us different in the field.
Nicolas Antonezak, Business Manager Smartfleet: "Smartfleet works in West and Central Africa with BIA agencies located in different countries. In most of the countries covered by the BIA group, we have trained technicians in the agencies, which means that we do not have to send Smartfleet staff to install the equipment and provide training every time. It's easier to plan such an intervention when you are present in the country." Not to mention the quality of after-sales service, which is also a question of proximity.
Fabrice Simon: "For a customer, there is no question of having systems installed, even the best in the world, without the supplier being able to intervene quickly in the event of a problem. If I'm running 24 hours a day and my machines break down, I have to be able to call someone to come and fix them quickly. BIA, with its network, has the advantage of being able to guarantee that speed of response."
Nicolas Antonezak: "The Vicat Group began by purchasing a system for the Gécamines quarry in Diack that we installed last year. After a few months of use and testing, the group decided to purchase 7 additional systems, 4 of which are equipped with the QR code system. They now have 5 loaders equipped, directly linked to a computerized weighing system, which is itself linked to a Vicat ERP system. They also have two systems installed at their outside depots for control purposes. If everything goes as well as it has so far, 7 more systems will be ordered by the end of the year. And it shouldn't stop there.
Jean-Yves Chouteau: "Vicat France's technical department has already looked into the system and, as it is coupled with the group's own weighing system, there is a real possibility that the system will be extended to all the territories in which Vicat is present."