By Doug PicklykPlumbing factory France plumbing pumps toilets
Guests of SFA Saniflo Canada experience an immersive factory tour in France.
SFA Saniflo Canada has a story to tell.
While the brand is widely recognized for its macerating toilet solutions that enable versatile washroom placements, there is much more to discover about how the company has leveraged its pumping technology to develop an array of products catering to domestic, commercial and industrial needs. And as a manufacturing company, SFA Saniflo upholds a commitment to design and quality, exemplified by its dedication to manufacturing its products in France.
In early April, SFA Saniflo Canada welcomed a group of customers to Paris—home of its parent company SFA Group—to foster a deeper understanding of the global organization and shed light on the direction of the growing Canadian operation.
The guest represented companies ranging from sales agents and wholesale partners to mechanical contractors, all of whom had experienced significant business growth in their partnership with Saniflo over the last five years. Phil Warren, the mastermind behind the excursion and managing director of SFA Saniflo Canada, expressed his delight at finally being able to showcase the collective strength of the company’s global group to its Canadian partners who provide unwavering support on a daily basis. “We are thrilled to have had this opportunity to share our worldwide capabilities with them.”
The feature event was a tour of SFA Group’s manufacturing plant in Brégy (an hour northeast of Paris). The factory is a multi-building integrated pump manufacturing facility producing finished packaged products.
Upon arrival, visitors experience a working showroom featuring the breadth of the SFA Group offering including products distributed across Europe and other parts of the world. Display areas showcase product categories including macerating toilets, drain pumps, lifting stations, condensation pumps, large water storage, grease interceptors and much more.
Warren, who has been with the company for a decade and has led the Canadian operation since November 2019, hosted the tour group along with Regis Saragosti, CEO of SFA Saniflo North America.
A stairway from the showroom leads to the motor manufacturing division, an area which produces upwards of half-a-million motors per year for residential and lifting station pumps.
While people operate on the periphery, up to 85% of the manufacturing is automated. A conveyor transfers raw iron stator cores into a caged station where robotic arms lift, turn and manipulate the iron cylinders. Insulators from rolls of mylar are punched out and precisely positioned, and fine copper wire is drawn from industrial-sized spools to create the windings.
The process travels from station to station delivering a near finished product. Workers complete final connections and inspections before the final motor is charged and tested.
In the same building, a recently added clean room manufactures circuit boards. An automated process picks and places the small components on the board before feeding it through a specialized welding machine. The boards are manually tested and programmed before moving to final assembly.
A separate building houses a complete plastic injection molding operation. The plant receives totes of raw pellets for over 40 types of plastics or rubbers. An overhead highway of tubes delivers the granules to the necessary molding machines where the parts are formed.
A vault of over 400 molds, some weighing up to 6 tons, allow the company to reintroduce parts into production when necessary. Plastic casings, fittings and gaskets used in pump products are all produced in this factory.
Final assembly of the products and testing is done by hand in another building. The watertight casings are tested with compressed air to ensure there are no leaks.
An on-site laboratory is consistently cycling finished products to ensure durability and quality.
The factory also hosts a major warehouse for finished products. Logistics and shipping around the world begin in Brégy.
Made in France
The Canadian customers on the tour were pleasantly surprised by the extensive and self-contained production of SFA in France. Bryan Richardson, president of Centon Sales, was astonished to discover that SFA manufactures the majority of their products in-house, surpassing his expectations. The company’s complete control over their processes left a lasting impression on him and others who shared similar sentiments.
While the tour participants appreciated the sights and historic monuments of Paris, Steve McCrary (Lambert & Bégin) expressed his amazement at the SFA factory tour. Witnessing the dedication SFA puts into crafting high-quality and reliable products bolstered their confidence in conveying the SFA story to distributors and contractors.
Pierre Houle (J.U. Houle) described the trip as fantastic, being treated with royal hospitality. Frédéric Boucher (Plomberie EPF) was particularly impressed by the amazing factory and assembly plant. He marveled at the quality of Saniflo products and the meticulous testing of each part.
Phil Warren emphasized the message they convey to customers, highlighting SFA’s status as a manufacturing company rather than just an assembly company. This distinction allows SFA to wholeheartedly stand behind their products, ensuring their performance. “Unlike other pump makers, SFA prioritizes manufacturing pumps as their core business, investing every dollar into developing and perfecting their pumping business.”
SFA Saniflo Canada
The SFA Group was founded in 1958 in Paris with the invention of the macerating pump, and after establishing itself across Europe, the company’s entry to North America began by setting up a Canadian office in 1988 and the USA office in 1998. The Canadian operation continues to operate independently while working very closely with SFA Saniflo USA.
“The corporation is investing a lot in North America, giving me the power and support to develop the market,” says Saragosti, who adds that the Canadian operation has been a growing and dynamic force under the current leadership of Warren.
“The growth we’ve had in Canada has been the result of hiring the right people, developing better programs in the marketplace for our partners, and creating more awareness in the industry,” says Warren. In the past year, the operation has grown in headcount; adding three business development managers, two regional sales managers and increasing its expertise in its after sales division, including projects, to cover all regions of the country.
The broad message Warren reinforces is the diversity of potential applications with the Saniflo product line. “We’re not just a toilet company, we’re a pump company offering solutions for people with industrial, commercial and residential applications. You can add or relocate any drain and plumbing fixture anywhere you want—not many companies can say that!”
Warren has been evangelizing the applications of the SFA Saniflo product range for years, and has uncovered opportunities in the hydroponics market, restaurants, and when the pandemic struck, creativity led to applications within temporary field hospitals or any industrial or institutional sites with short-term or long-term needs.
“I didn’t realize the size and potential of the market until I had a deeper understanding of the whole line and the reach that it can and does have,” says Richardson from Centon, who has been representing Saniflo in most of Ontario since 2019.
The depth of the Saniflo product line in Canada covers residential and commercial bathroom needs through its existing line-up of macerating and grinding pumps, above floor plumbing solutions with its various drain pumps and lift stations, as well as its condensate pumps for HVAC applications. Yet opportunities for expansion still exist as the company has more products in the pipeline in Europe.
“Our ultimate goal in the next 10 years is to be able to bring as much product as we can to North America,” says Saragosti, acknowledging that it will require product development and certification for North American standards.
“It took time to create awareness of our current Saniflo product line and to remove the brand notion that we’re just a toilet company,” admits Warren, adding, “Now we’re ready to come to the market with new products and new technologies, so stay tuned.” <>