The forerunner to Groupe SAFIR was founded in 1988 and quickly made a name for itself thanks to its specially designed basement garage doors for multi-occupancy buildings. The company still holds several patents for its innovative solutions.
The company was taken over by Paul-Marie Edwards in a leveraged buyout in 2003 with a simple goal: to bring together diverse door manufacturers, each of them specialists in their niche, and offer their product ranges to the professional installation sector. He gradually took over additional companies operating in similar fields in order to expand into complementary areas of activity.
Today, Groupe SAFIR is a holding company that unites three operating companies under its aegis. SAFIR Collectif in Gargenville, which makes doors for apartment blocks; SAFIR Habitat in Cuvilly, which targets the private residential market, and SAFIR Industrie, which offers a range of heavy-duty doors and gates suitable for the industrial sector.
Mr. Edwards continues to head the company as its President and majority shareholder. “We offer the installation sector an unparalleled range of high-quality solutions that are all made entirely to measure,” says Mr. Edwards. “We also work closely with architects to ensure that individual models are designed to fit in with the overall look of the building.”
For each of its target customer groups, Groupe SAFIR offers a broad range of different solutions. The largest individual sector is the manufacture of automatic doors for parking garages. The choice is wide and ranges from horizontal and vertical roller doors to sectional doors and sliding gates. “This is our core area of activity, accounting for twelve million EUR in sales,” confirms Mr. Edwards.
The range is divided between up-and-over doors, folding sliding doors and fixed gates. Each door type is available in a variety of different colours and finishes with options such as windows, ventilation grilles and surface decors all available as special options.
The second-largest customer segment is the industrial sector. This sector generates seven million in turn-over for Groupe SAFIR each year and includes specialist solutions such as vertical roller curtain and sectional doors for internal and external applications. The remainder of Groupe SAFIR’s approximately 22 million EUR annual turnover is generated from the supply of doors for the private sector.
“There is a lot of overlap in terms of the technical knowledge required to build doors for these varied segments,” says Mr. Edwards. “We have our own research and development department and have taken out numerous patents on innovations that have been developed in-house.”
The trend in the industry is moving towards ever-greater personalization and automation. With a steady stream of new models coming onto the market, Groupe SAFIR can offer an appropriate solution for any requirement. The company also prides itself on its speed of response.
“We are very reactive and process orders within two hours of receipt,” says Mr. Edwards. “That means that even large doors and automatic gates can be ready for installation within between five days and three weeks. The big players in the market cannot match us for speed.”
Thanks to its broadly diversified product range and customer base, Groupe SAFIR is bucking the market trend and posting satisfactory growth. Its response to the other major trend affecting its industry, digitalization, is typical of its approach.
“More and more doors and gates are automated today,” explains Mr. Edwards. “At the same time, remote control via building management systems is becoming increasingly prevalent. We are beginning to develop doors that will be capable of being opened with a smartphone in response to this trend.”
Heightened security concerns are also having an impact on Groupe SAFIR’s business. “The recent spate of terrorist attacks in France have increased demand for robust doors and gates that are able to delay access,” says Mr. Edwards. “The fact that they are automated and can be controlled from a distance also enhances security.”
Groupe SAFIR is active on behalf of installation companies throughout France and its overseas territories. Exports account for a relatively small slice of turnover and are focused on customers in Switzerland, Belgium, Tunisia and the UK.
In addition to supporting installers with its wide range and prompt service, Groupe SAFIR also provides them with comprehensive installation support in the form of clear instruction manuals and regular training.
“We are certainly open to the idea of cooperation with more installation companies in foreign markets in order to expand our geographical activities,” says Mr. Edwards. “We are also working on new products that will allow us to target end consumers more directly. A possibility in this area could be the window manufacturing sector.”