Interview: Tibbloc finds new temperature control rental stream

Bastien Roth and Yann Dauce from Tibbloc, the French temperature control rental specialist, tell International Rentals News’ Murray Pollok about the company’s growing steam boiler business.

The dream of any business owner is to find a new revenue stream that builds on its existing company know-how and yet gives access to new markets and customers.

French temperature control company Tibbloc offers a template in doing just that. In 2018 it added steam boiler rental to its core business - which is renting boilers, chillers, HVAC equipment and air compressors - and that new activity now represents around 30% of revenues.

Photo of Bastien Roth and Yann Dauce of Tibbloc rental company in France. Tibbloc managers Bastien Roth, sales director (left), with Yann Dauce, managing director, pictured at the IRE exhibition in Maastricht. (Photo: IRN)

The 40 steam boilers in the fleet are used by companies in food and beverage processing, petrochemicals and pulp and paper, including some customers who are new to Tibbloc.

The business also has the benefit of high barriers to entry, because it requires very specialist knowledge and high levels of investment.

“You need a lot of knowledge to get into the business”, says Tibbloc sales director Bastien Roth, a former Aggreko and Atlas Copco manager who joined the company in 2017.

“It involves pressures up to 25 bar and temperatures of up to 250 degrees centigrade. It’s really technical.”

Yann Dauce, Tibbloc’s managing director, who joined the company in November last year after a career in engineering and industrial maintenance, agrees; “We train the customers, monitor the installation, check it every day. And we will call our customer to help them manage their steam boilers properly.”

What applications?
The boilers, manufactured by Cometi and providing steam flow rates from 250kg/hr up to 17t/hr, are used to replace existing boilers on site, sometimes to heat products used in a process, or to help with chemical cleaning.

One of Tibbloc's new steam boilers. A new 10t/hr steam boiler, manufactured by Cometi, in Tibbloc’s fleet. (Photo: Tibbloc)

In the past it was boiler manufacturers who supplied the units, but Tibbloc is now able to offer a technical rental solution.

“It can take 1 year to order a new boiler”, says Dauce, “So, renting is very efficient for them. Most customers didn’t know they could rent a steam boiler.”

The typical rental period is six months but can be as long as two years, often for planned maintenance of existing boilers or during major upgrade projects. “You can’t stop production, even for a day”, adds Dauce.

The steam boiler division has a newly opened, dedicated location in Angers in the North West of France, with plenty of indoor storage space and a 50 tonne capacity overhead crane.

Growth in revenues
The new business has been one element of the dramatic recent growth at Tibbloc. In 2018 it was posting annual revenues of around €12 million, which had increased to €33 million last year and it will grow again this year.

French private equity company Ciclad became the majority owner in 2020, and since then – following a flat period during Covid – the business has continued to expand.

Soon after Ciclad’s involvement, Eric Merilhou came on board as CEO. Merilhou has many years’ experience in industrial maintenance and energy systems with companies including Endel (before it was acquired by Altrad) and IDEX.

Photo of Tibbloc's new steam boiler rental centre in France. Tibbloc’s new steam boiler centre of excellence, in Angers, France. (Photo: Tibbloc)

Yann Dauce says the investment is going well, and points to a particular aspect of Ciclad’s ownership style; “We are free to pursue the strategy we want. I think that’s why we are growing so fast. People are free to pursue things – I think that’s our strength.”

As part of that, says Dauce, “all the employees can become shareholders this year. Only a few companies our size are doing that.”

Ciclad may provide leeway for Tibbloc’s managers to run the business, but they have been supportive of significant investment in the business, which amounted to €5 million last year alone.

Adding locations
And alongside the steam boiler initiatives, Tibbloc is expanding its footprint. A new location was opened in Brussels, Belgium, last year and there was also a recent opening in Metz in Eastern France, to help serve markets including Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland.

In addition to the Angers opening, Tibbloc has just moved its depot in southern Paris, in Guibeville, to a larger facility at nearby Saint-Germain-Lès-Arpajon. Another new location in Toulouse, in the south of France, is also planned, which will bring the total network to eight locations.

The steam boiler business has actually helped the company find work in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Poland, says Dauce. France remains the company’s main market, though, and is also where there is a big opportunity to create a rental market for steam boilers.

Steam boiler rented by Tibbloc being craned into place at a manufacturing facility in France. A Tibbloc steam boiler being installed at a manufacturing plant in France. (Photo: Tibbloc)

Of course, the main business of renting heating, cooling, air conditioning and air treatment products to industrial customers continues. It now has a fleet with a total energy output of 400MW.

Dauce says that ‘core’ business remains good. This month, for example, it rented 8MW of boilers, heat exchangers, pump skids and 465m of flexible hoses for process testing at a research centre in France.

Like many businesses, it is looking at lower carbon technologies. It is too early for hydrogen technology – customers are not ready for it, says Dauce – but it is considering boilers fuelled with wood, electric boilers and heat pumps.

The energy transition will offer big opportunities for Tibbloc going forward. For the moment, however, it is the transition to steam boiler rentals that is winning business.

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