Spanish Genset maker Himoinsa reveals the secret of its success
Himoinsa’s automated production processes have enabled the manufacturer to produce a hybrid generator tailored for the Middle East’s telecoms sector.
It’s fair to say that Himoinsa is still a relatively young player within the context of the global portable power market. However, this isn’t to say that the Spanish manufacturer of generator sets and light towers lacks experience. The company might still be in its youth, but it has achieved a great deal during the last three decades.
Founded in 1982 by Francisco Gracia, the firm has expanded from its hometown of Murcia, to encompass 10 subsidiaries across five continents, eight production plants across four continents, more than 1,000 employees, and annual revenue of around $300mn.
There have been three primary drivers behind the genset firm’s growth. Himoinsa has succeeded because it has remained a family-run, vertically integrated manufacturer, with a strong commitment to automated production.
The robotised nature of Himoinsa’s manufacturing facilities is the result of a conscious effort to engender consistent high quality across its product portfolio. The technologies being used in Spain are ubiquitous amongst the company’s global production plants, meaning that a generator set produced in China is guaranteed to be of exactly the same quality as one that leaves the production line in Brazil.
“Wherever the factory and whatever its purpose, we believe very much in automation,” explains Lydia Gracia, executive director of Himoinsa, and daughter of the company’s founding father. “We don’t believe that we would be able to produce the highest quality products with non-automated processes,” she added.
So what does Himoinsa mean when it says that it’s a vertically integrated manufacturer? Essentially, this refers to the fact that the company produces all of its own components – with the exception of the engines that power its generators and light towers.
“Being a vertically integrated manufacturer is vital to Himoinsa’s business model,” says Guillermo Elum, sales and marketing director at Himoinsa. “It means that we can adapt our products to the requirements of our customers, and the typical operating conditions of particular markets. If you are not a vertically integrated manufacturer, you cannot do this,” he added.
Himoinsa clearly takes great pride in the fact that it produces its own components according to its own standards and requirements. From canopies, to alternators, to control panels – everything except for the engines is designed and produced in house.
However, as Gracia explains, the firm does not have sufficient capacity to build its own engines at this juncture in its evolution. “To manufacture engines, you are talking about a huge investment. Prestigious companies like Scania, FPT Industrial, and Yanmar, have production capacities that reach hundreds of thousands of units per year.
These are companies worth billions of dollars so they are equipped to make the necessary investments.
“An annual capacity of 60,000 units is not enough to justify an investment of this magnitude. It remains a dream, but it’s simply not possible for Himoinsa at this time,” she added.
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Even so, the company goes to great pains to ensure that it procures engines from suppliers that pose no threat to its commercial autonomy.
“One thing for which we have constantly striven has been independence, both in terms of our products and our distribution network,” she explained. “We have to grow as much as we are able; not as much as other companies allow us to grow. Our policy is to retain independence, and our engine procurement strategy reflects this,” added Gracia.
This leads us to the third component that Himoinsa ascribes to its ongoing success; the fact that the company remains family owned and operated.
“One of the benefits of this model is that the business can remain fast and flexible,” says Gracia. “This market moves very quickly, so it is obviously advantageous to be able to make quick decisions. Also, we are a young company, but we are very much focused on investing resources back into the business – to make the business grow,” she added.
The executive director’s father, Francisco Gracia, certainly agrees with his daughter on this point. Moreover, despite Himoinsa’s rapid expansion, he sees no reason why the firm’s familial foundation cannot be retained for years to come.
“Why not? Why can’t we keep this model? Big organisations have boards of directors, and this is one way to manage a company. However, from our point of view, this model is very expensive and very slow. One of the positive things that we have been able to bring to the market is speed. This is something that we are still able to offer, and for us, time is very important.
“If Himoinsa were to lose its speed and flexibility, it would lose part of its strength. I think that if one day we do lose these attributes, it will be because the company has become too large. Himoinsa’s size remains one of the strengths of its business model,” he added.
The three facets that Himoinsa ascribes to its success are intricately connected to one another. The fact that the company is family owned means that decisions can be made quickly, and without the need to consult shareholders. In turn, the vertically integrated nature of the manufacturer means that it has been able to retain its flexibility when responding to individual customer requirements. Finally, automated production ensures that the quality of Himoinsa products remains high and consistent, regardless of where in the world they are produced.
Himoinsa recently unveiled a product that is the culmination of its aforementioned tenets; a variable speed, hybrid generator tailored to meet the needs of the Middle East’s telecommunications sector.
“Himoinsa’s hybrid unit is a combination of technologies,” explained Augustin Rodrigo, the firm’s network development manager. “We’ve combined a variable speed genset with batteries and renewable energy sources. This combination means that the genset’s running time is minimised, resulting in reduced emissions and significantly lower operational costs,” he said.
By selecting a variable speed Yanmar engine with a range of 1,300 rpm to 3,000 rpm, Himoinsa has created a unit that can optimise its performance and fuel consumption according to the energy requirements at any one time.
Moreover, the batteries – which can be charged by either the genset or renewable energy sources – are able to provide power during low-load demand, negating the need for the diesel generator to run. The result: power product with a variable output of 5kW to 15kW.
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The benefits of this variable speed, hybrid genset are manifold. First and foremost, fuel consumption is slashed. However, this also precipitates a number of advantageous side effects.
For example, not only does Himoinsa’s hybrid boast 500-hour maintenance intervals, but a unit fitted with the optional 1,000L fuel tank – 500L being the standard format – can power a modern telecoms repeater for a month without the need for refuelling. And that’s assuming that the operator hasn’t connected the hybrid to a renewable energy source.
The potential applications of this product are clear to see, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where repeaters are often situated at remote locations. If a telecoms provider chooses to power its repeaters with Himoinsa’s hybrid units, its fuel, maintenance, logistics, and labour costs will fall significantly, compared to conventional off-grid generation methods.
“Operational costs are one of the most important considerations for telecoms companies,” explained Rodrigo. “Here, we are speaking not only about fuel consumption. Providers have to send their employees out to these very remote areas, so the fewer times that this is necessary, the better.
“One of Himoinsa’s variable speed hybrid units will cost approximately two-and-a-half times more than a conventional genset, but you will recover those costs in as little as two years if you make use of renewable energy sources,” he concluded.
As it’s new to the market, Himoinsa’s hybrid has yet to prove itself in the field. However, Rodrigo and his colleagues seemed supremely confident that their variable speed power source could dramatically improve the bottom lines of end users in the telecoms sector. So, will the hybrid help Himoinsa to continue its success over the coming three decades? In the words of the company’s founding father, why not?
- 1982 The year Francisco Gracia founded Himoinsa in Murcia, Spain
- 5-15kW The variable output of Himoinsa's new hybrid genset