From a small garage to a 7000 square metre factory – the success of nozzle manufacturer POK is built on hard work and determination
Alexandra Grandpierre, MD of POK, speaks to Fire Buyer about the history of the company and their vision for the future of the nozzle industry
Can you please give us a brief history of the company?
My father, Bruno Grandpierre, created POK in 1976. He started working in a garage – a bit like you would expect from the typical start-up. Except here it was in the centre of Paris, crowded and terrible for even a small van to pick up the merchandise. My father worked during the day for an employer and at night and during the weekend for his business, until the day he could provide enough money for his family. After moving three times in order to expand, the business finally relocated to Nogent sur Seine and now covers 7000 square metres with four workshops. It is conveniently located one hour away from Paris by train. All our production is done in France.
POK has become the largest manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment in France. The name POK comes from the Breton language and means kiss. It was the name that my father gave to his boat as a child and when creating the company, he chose it again as it was a strong and positive name. Everyone who knows the story of POK agrees that the company grew stronger after each problem that it encountered. Market pressures forced POK to innovate, creating completely new products or drastically reducing costs. That’s how we have a range of more than 3,600 products today.
Today, POK exports 50% of its production outside of France and equips several different industries including fire & rescue and military. Our company ethos is: Reliability, technological advancement and innovation. My father, as President, is passionate about creating new products and comes into the development office with new ideas on a daily basis. He gets his ideas from talking to customers, reading about new technology, watching fire-fighters at work and brain storming with our technicians and sales team. Innovation has always been our biggest focus, whilst also maintaining the highest standards in quality and safety. This means precision, which is only possible to achieve with the most effective machinery. This is why the company invests in the best computer numerical control (CNC) machinery and a highly qualified assembly team. A standard nozzle, such as the Magikador 500, is composed of about 50 pieces and a technician needs about 30 minutes to assemble it. You can easily compare our work to the watch industry: it is extremely precise and you need the most dedicated people to put the pieces together.
Can you tell us about your product range?
Our product range comprises mostly nozzles, monitors, foam equipment and wyes and valves. We have a separate unit concentrating in building hose reels with hoses. We also make flow meters and we sell all types of accessories. We are very strong in foam equipment manufacture including: Foam generators, foam eductors, foam attachments and branch pipes, portable and mobile foam units and foam chambers.
Which new technologies have been developed at POK?
One of the biggest strengths and sources of pride at POK is its research and development team. Since its creation, POK never stopped investing in research and development. This department develops 2 new products per week. At the moment, POK is developing a revolutionary range of products in a new material. This new material is much lighter and stronger than before, unaffected by sea water and highly resistant to chemicals like emulsifiers, making it the perfect material for the navy. It is also 100% recyclable.
Our dedicated department for remote control monitors is also focusing on creating new products – designers are always striving to develop technology that is lighter and smaller, yet more effective and safer.
What investments has POK made recently?
We recently invested in a test station with a motor pump reaching up to 20.000 L/min at 12 bar. We are planning to create another research lab for testing our nozzle with specific water measurements. We are indeed a family business with a passion for creating fire-fighting equipment. Our profit goes into reinvesting in the company and employee participation. This is what sets us apart – we are always looking to the long term. Our research team has 8 technicians and engineers, dedicated solely to developing new products. It is one of the best in Europe.
How does POK ensure the highest quality of its products?
We ensure quality in several ways. We work with foundries of aluminium of first fusion and heat treatment, also gun metal and stainless steel, and we spend a lot of time explaining to the foundries exactly what we need. Our range of the latest generation 24 CNC machines ensures precision to the hundredth. At each step, the products are controlled and then finally assembled by a qualified technician. Once a product is assembled, it is dynamically tested. We have world class monitoring and control dimensions after machining. We also have a dedicated metrology room. And we test each piece of equipment with water before we ship, ensuring that the POK label reflects quality. We make 90% of the couplings we assemble on our equipment to make sure it is of highest quality.
What do you see for the future?
The future of POK will be in producing equipment using the most advanced technology: Motorised monitors with hot spot detection, the entire range of products in new materials, lighter equipment and compact and high power monitors of more than 30,000 L/min.
We have noticed that there is a growing demand for fire safety products. There is a multiplication of water points for hose reel connections, of installation of new extinguishing systems, and the creation of more rescue and relief centres within big industries.
If I had two wishes for the future, the first would be to get more sales requests from engineering offices. As we are very flexible, I am sure that they’d enjoy working with us and find that we speak the same technical language. The second would be to receive more resumes of multilingual English French German and Spanish speaking people. We are always looking for technicians, sales people and other professionals to work in Nogent sur Seine, or willing to open a branch elsewhere. We are always open to new ideas as long as they are smart and ethical. A business is all about smart people making things happen and working together in the same direction.