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The First and the Best

Spring 2011

Ellicott Dredges has been building equipment since 1885, and that experience is its foundation for success.

There's more to being successful than simply being the first to market, but it's definitely a good place to start. Being the first doesn't automatically mean you're the best, but it does put your company in an excellent position to build experience and establish yourself as a recognized name in the industry. 

Take, for example, the case of Baltimore-based Ellicott Dredges. The company is the oldest manufacturer of medium-sized suction cutter dredges, having built all of the dredges used in the construction of the Panama Canal. Ellicott Dredges has built more than 1,500 dredges since 1885, serving customers in more than 80 countries. 

Being the first and oldest player in the marketplace has proven to be a good foundation for Ellicott's continued success because of the experience and expertise it gives the company over its competitors, according to President Peter Bowe. Because Ellicott has concentrated on manufacturing dredging equipment for more than 120 years, it can offer a level of service unheard of from most of the competition.

"Our principal competitors are European, and we compete with them around the world," Bowe explains, saying that many of those competitors are diversified in other areas in addition to dredging equipment. "They are shipyards specializing in dredging equipment and we are machinery manufacturers specializing in dredging equipment." "Ellicott is the only dredge builder which designs and builds all key components of the dredging system – from winches to pumps, from excavators to spud carriages," the company says. 

"This concept of single responsibility lies behind Ellicott's reputation for reliable and durable dredges."

CLEAR FOCUS
That distinction is one of the keys to Ellicott's success, as the company has the capability to go the extra mile for customers and provide them with exactly the right piece of equipment for their dredging needs.

This capability is the single greatest differentiator between Ellicott and the rest of the industry, according to Vice President Paul Quinn.

"We have much more of a vertically integrated strategy, where we start off very often with just raw steel and add value through several di!erent stages, as opposed to buying semi-completed products and bolting them together," Quinn says. Because Ellicott is able to build standard and custom equipment, it has more control over its products and ultimately provides customers with more certainty that their equipment will be the right tools for the job. Quinn adds that Ellicott knows of only one other manufacturer that is as vertically integrated as the company is. Most dredging equipment companies, he says, have no manufacturing facilities at all. In addition to the company's capability to build custom equipment, Bowe says Ellicott can provide equipment better suited for more customers than a shipyard. 

"It's a question of focus," he says. "If you are a shipyard, by definition your primary customers are ship owners. "Mining is our single largest customer base, so we understand that mining has higher requirement levels in terms of reliability and safety factors," Bowe adds.

BUILT-IN CAPABILITIES
The shipyards that Ellicott competes with tend to think about dredging equipment as vessels used for navigation, Bowe says, whereas Ellicott thinks of them as construction equipment. However, that's not the only difference between the company and its competition. Quinn says Ellicott has taken recently to further enhance its capabilities and provide better service to its customers. "We are the only ones that have recently heavily invested in additional manufacturing capacity, and that's allowed us to respond much faster to the market," Quinn says. 

For example, the company built a new 100,000-square-foot factory in Wisconsin, which was built in two phases in 2007 and 2008. "In addition, we have just in 2010 redone all of our cranes in Baltimore, all of our overhead cranes, and totally revamped our portfolio of machining centers," Bowe says, which has increased the efficiency and accuracy of the company's machining. "By having our machining in-house, we are able to control lead times better," he adds. "We have a unique combination of selections there."

"Ellicott engineering leverages the latest 3-D modeling technology available to ensure that our design efforts are streamlined from concept through production," the company adds.

"Ellicott's engineering staff draws from both a long history and a diverse background to bring sophisticated designs to the market which are easy to operate and maintain."

GLOBAL COMPETITION
Ellicott's depth and breadth of capabilities are absolutely essential for the company, given the fact that it operates on a global scale. Bowe says standards and regulations are different in practically every country. 

In addition, regulations for emissions and other areas are constantly changing around the world, so being flexible and vertically integrated takes on additional importance for Ellicott. Having the flexibility and ability to make changes to its products quickly and easily means Ellicott Dredges is in a better position to adapt to the varying needs of its customers anywhere in the world.

For example, Bowe says, although computer-controlled machines are used in many applications around the world, there are some regions where they are not a good idea. This is mainly because some areas of the world lack highly trained workers who can operate such complex pieces of equipment, he says. Being vertically integrated means Ellicott can build equipment with the appropriate levels of technology for each type of application. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Ellicott Dredges is building a very advanced dredge system for a large project in Brazil. Quinn says the dredge features state-of-the-art control systems and automation, which reflects the size and sophistication of the $1.8 billion project. Ellicott's vertical integration and in-house capabilities also have helped it keep up with the increasing technical demands its customers have. Quinn says mining operations are digging deeper than ever before, challenging Ellicott to develop advanced designs that are able to deliver material from great depths. He says Ellicott is using submerged pumps that result in higher production rates, for example. These submerged systems also mean fewer peaks and valleys in the supply of materials, Quinn adds.

Bowe says the company also has developed auger technology for dredging applications, as well as bucket wheel technology. Previously used in mining applications, Ellicott has adapted auger technology for undersea dredging. Bowe says auger dredging allows for the use of a smaller machine, and it provides a total system solution because it draws up slimes to be reprocessed. 

New technologies such as these have helped Ellicott expand its business, and Bowe says the company looks forward to growing its geographic footprint in the near future. Ellicott already sells equipment to more countries than any of its competitors, and Bowe says the company's formula for success looks to be the foundation for its future. "We will continue to use that process for growth," Bowe says.

Reprinted from Energy & Mining International.

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