First publishedin Aggregates Business Europe
Thierry Pigeon says there is reason for optimism in the Grand Ouest (north-west) region of France where Pigeon Carrières is based
Part of the Groupe Pigeon
, an independent family-owned company, Pigeon Carrières has over the past 80 years become a major player in regional town and country planning activities, and with 60 companies, 115 agencies and production sites, and more than 2,300 employees, the group is currently chaired by Thierry Pigeon.
Its main activities are quarrying, public works, lime, concrete, the trading of construction materials and processing of plastics.
The company started out in quarrying and today it remains one of the group’s main business activities from which all of the others are linked. With 420 employees, the 49 operating sites provide an annual production of 10.5million tonnes and contribute to one-quarter of the group’s non-consolidated sales (its turnover was €100.3million in 2010).
“The global financial and economic climate is uncertain, but we have reasons for optimism in this region,” explains Thierry Pigeon. “This is an area that is continually developing. For example, the construction of the TGV between Le Mans and Rennes on the high-speed rail network is going to be a very important project. We also expect a new metro line to be built in Rennes and there is the possibility of a new airport in Notre Dame des Landes, between Nantes and Rennes.”
One of Pigeon Carrières’ largest quarries is situated at Louvigne-de-Bais, 30km to the east of Rennes, which was initiated in 1941 and became fully operational five years later. The working quarry covers 50 hectares with a team of 52 staff, who work over two shifts, 6am-1.30pm and 1.30pm-9pm. It has the capacity to continue extracting granite, microgranite and quartz for at least another 60 years.
The rock is blasted with three tonnes of explosives every other day. It is then loaded on to rigid dump trucks by two large Hitachi
excavators, a brand new ZX870LCR-3 and a ZX670LCR-3, and transported to the crushing and screening equipment.
After the aggregates have been crushed, screened and washed, the different sizes are stockpiled and then loaded on to the delivery trucks by a Hitachi ZW310 wheel loader.
Pigeon Carrières delivers 60% of the materials, while the remaining 40% is picked up by customers.
The fleet of Hitachi construction machinery working on the site has been supplied, and is maintained, by Cobemat, one of the leading dealers in the French network, thanks to the wide range of Zaxis excavators that it supplies to its customer base.
The dealership was founded in 1995 by Xavier Beaulieu, who had previously worked with his father in a construction equipment business. Seven years after the company’s inception, he set himself a target of becoming a distributor of Hitachi construction machinery, succeeding in 2002 when Cobemat was appointed by Hitachi Construction Machinery (Europe)/(HCME) as an authorised dealer for Brittany, Basse-Normandie and the Loire region.
“We enjoy between 10-15% market share in all excavator categories, from mini excavators through to large crawler excavators,” says Beaulieu. “As there are many quarries in this region, the most popular models are the [Hitachi] ZX470LCH-3 and above. The 20tonne Zaxis medium crawler; ZX140W-3 wheeled excavators, and ZW310 wheel loader, have also sold well.
“Our customers are offered full-service contracts of between two and five years. This gives them the option of covering everything from preventative maintenance,” says Beaulieu.
Christophe Bourniche has worked with Pigeon Carrières for five years and has been the main operator of the ZW310 since it arrived on the site in March 2011.
“There is always a high demand and we have to load 150 trucks or 3,000tonnes of materials per day. The traction, drive and pull-out force are all impressive. It takes four passes to load each 25tonne truck,” he says.
Pigeon Carrières is one of Cobemat’s longest-standing quarrying customers, and the company recently took delivery of a new ZX870LCR-3 excavator at the Louvigne-de-Bais site with another delivered to a limestone quarry within the group.
“The Cobemat team looks after the routine maintenance on the machines, and in addition, HCSF [Hitachi Construction Machinery Sales and Service France] visits this site twice a year. The Hitachi European Parts Depot is also able to deliver parts quickly,” says Thierry Pigeon.
As a subsidiary of HCME, HCSF is responsible for a network of 18 autonomous dealers, each covering a large, specific region, and it serves as a direct link between Hitachi and the large French construction companies.