Fascinating interview with Philippe Laforest, CEO of Baku Group | A prominent disc on the international scene

For more than 60 years now, the Baku Group has been innovating in the field of electromechanical equipment and today achieves more than 95% of its sales on the international scene in three very different business segments, from the same patented lifting system, the solenoid. Its CEO, Philippe Laforest, tells us how the drum developed by the Baku Group conquered the world.

Posted at 7:00 am

Jean-Philippe Decari

Jean-Philippe Decari
Journalism

The Baku Group was born in 1960, in downtown Montreal, where the company’s abbreviation, now established in Saint-Hubert since 1992, is still clearly visible on Wellington Avenue to all motorists entering the city.

“My father, an engineer and a colleague from Polytechnic, joined one of the officials to establish the Baku Group with the aim of developing electromechanical equipment and industrial solutions for different sectors of activity.

Photo CATHERINE LEFEBVRE, special collaboration

The Baku Group was born in 1960, in downtown Montreal, where the company’s abbreviation, now established in Saint-Hubert since 1992, is still clearly visible on Wellington Avenue to all motorists entering the city.

“They quickly designed the concrete block pallet that was so successful in the 1970s across the North American market. At the time, we made 90% of our sales in the US and 10% in Canada,” says the trained economist who joined the family business as manager. Executive in 1989.

At the end of the 1970s, Théâtre Denise-Pelletier Groupe invited Paco to design an automated conveyor system, and the company soon realized that this was a promising market.

Paco Group was an integrated workshop, the idea was to develop several products at the same time. We got into it and quickly understood that there was an interest in systems capable of lifting large payloads while keeping their size small. This is where we designed the electromechanical winch we named the Spiralift.

Philip Laforest

Spiralift allowed the Paco Group to make international advances in the field of stage machinery during the 1980s and 1990s as their systems were installed in the world’s largest performance halls through their Gala Systems division, from Las Vegas to New York or Tokyo.

“We continued the development and started designing and installing convertible rooms, whether they were conference rooms, banquet halls or multifunctional centers. Since the first decade of the twenty-first century, it has been the most growing sector that today generates 70% of our income”, defines the CEO of Paco Group.

From the car to the foldable pool

Baku Group offers convertible room solutions in more than 60 countries. The company has had successes in Australia, India and even Africa where it has established a major cultural complex in Namibia.

All countries seek to equip themselves with cultural or tourist infrastructures on a large scale, and Gala Systèmes enables them to implement projects for convertible halls.

At the same time, Paco Group is always looking forward to offering new solutions to companies in various industrial sectors.

“In the 1990s, we saw good potential for our Spiralift lifting system for car manufacturers to lift their ergonomic tables in their assembly line. They couldn’t use hydraulic jacks because they posed a contamination risk.

“We worked with Renault which finally approved the Spiralift cylinder system and modified seven of its plants around the world. Then it was Hyundai, Kia, General Motors and some Chrysler plants. Altogether, our Paco Spiralift division had to install more than 20,000 starters for auto manufacturers around the world,” As assessed by Philippe Laforest.

The rapid transformation of fully electric vehicles opens up great potential for the Paco Group, as all major manufacturers have to convert their assembly lines to retrofit them with their new production.

“It is a very thriving market for us, the volume of units produced will be large, but in terms of added value, it will still be less important than the segment of stage machines and convertible rooms where we are also project managers. We are the ones who do all the installation and room turnover, not just manufacturing and cylinder breaking. ‘,” says the CEO.

Finally, less than ten years ago, the Paco Group created a new division, Akvo Spiralift, specializing in movable floors for swimming pools.

“We started this activity at Université Laval, where we installed our first movable bottom, which allows us to adjust the depth of public swimming pools according to clients.

“Now, we install our systems in hotels and private homes where we can turn the swimming pool into a large balcony, depending on the event. Here we are at Space Management,” notes Philippe Laforest.

The Gala Systems division generates 70% of the group’s revenue, Paco Spiralift, 20% and Akvo Spiralift, 10%. The company is always trying to find new innovative industrial solutions and has a team of about thirty people doing it.

The Paco Group employs approximately 130 people at its facilities in Saint-Hubert and relies on mobile teams that have set up sites around the world. The company generates 50% of its turnover in the United States, 45% in Asia and Europe, and 5% in Canada.



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