Century of success

Anglo-Belgian Corporation (ABC) has a century-long history in engine manufacture that began when a group of three industrial investors came together to develop a semi-diesel internal combustion engine. The first meeting occurred on October 26th 1912, at which point a 500,000 Belgian Franc investment was secured from Richard and Marcel Drory. The third participant, engine manufacturer Carels, bought the Diesel Engine license against a royalty of five per cent on total turnover. The company quickly began production on its range of six, eight, 12, 16, 24, and 40 HP engines.

Despite suffering major impacts to production ability and business during the two World Wars, ABC has remained steadfast in its determination to deliver market leading engines. A landmark development in the company’s modern history occurred at the end of the 1970s when the DZC range of engines was added to its portfolio. This model offered double power compared to its existing DU engine but with almost the same cylinder volume. By the latter half of the 1980s, DZC engines comprised nearly 75 per cent of turnover and helped the ABC brand gain significant recognition through Europe and Africa. The model remains a popular choice for clients today. In 1997 the company began development on what would become the (V)DZ engine, which contained higher power output and enabled the company to take on bigger and more complex turnkey projects than ever before. The (V) DZ became a global success and is now together with the DZC-range ABC’s flagship product.

Sales director Jean Christophe van Acker explains what has made ABC a successful company for 100 years: “As a small organisation we have to make sure that our engines are the most reliable and durable products on the market, as we cannot afford to spend fortunes in warranty and claims when sending our products to the far side of the world. We also like to take a more personal approach to business, taking on more difficult projects and serving the customers as we cannot rely on huge marketing campaigns to grow but rather count on word of mouth and a good reputation.”

Many European companies are still feeling the impact of the recession. The last few years have seen a quieter period of business for ABC due to the contracted shipbuilding market but the quality of its engines has meant that what opportunities have been available were often won by the Belgian manufacturer. Though not always the cheapest capital investment available for ship owners, the company helped many recognise the long-term savings made with the more fuel efficient, reliable, durable, and more easily maintained products in ABC’s range.

Respectable business performance has enabled ABC to continue investing in development of its product range at its production facility in Ghent, resulting in the creation of the DL36. Jean Christophe provides more details: “This engine is the first to comply with IMO tier three regulation (commencing in 2016) in the marine shipping world and achieves this by combining multiple technologies such as exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), variable valve timing, Miller timing, and common rail technology to achieve lower emissions that would otherwise need expensive and large catalytic converters in the exhaust system. It brings IMO-3 compliant engines to the range and also high power at a relatively low RPM range, meaning better fuel economy. It also adds durability and reliability. The engine is designed to work with various types of fuel such as gas and diesel (in dual fuel mode) or combining HFO, MDO, and gas in tri-fuel mode.”

The DL36 was launched October 2012 and has already received very positive feedback from end users. Placing time and money into the research and development of new products can prove risky as client reception cannot be reliably predicted, but the DL36’s success so far has reassured ABC that it made the right engineering and commercial options for bringing a new engine to a tricky market. Furthermore it affirms the company’s philosophy of a deep connection between research and development and production as a path into the future.

ABC is 100 years old this year. Proud of its diverse and pioneering heritage, the company decided to open a museum of its history to mark the occasion. The museum’s collection consists of original historical documents, representative landmark engine models, personal anecdotes, and other exhibitions to tell the story of the people that helped ABC become the company it is today.

“We sincerely value the long-term relationship enjoyed with our customers, mainly in the marine industry, often over different generations of boaters,” says Jean Christophe. “Our story is their story too. Besides that we believe that an engine manufacturer selling solutions that need to perform for the next 20 years or so at least should be able to demonstrate a track record of building engines lasting that long. Displaying models that are still operational dating from the 1930s helps us in publically showing that track record.”

ABC has used the anniversary as an opportunity to rejuvenate its image as well by changing its logo to remove the ‘diesel’ suffix, bringing it inline with the company’s more diverse offerings today. Though diesel remains central to its solutions, the manufacturer has brought into its portfolio engines capable of running on diesel and gas dual fuels, biofuels, tallow, vegetable oils, and many other alternative fuel sources that will become increasingly prominent in the future. An updated website providing more comprehensive information about the company’s past and present has been launched as well, further reinforcing the desire to communicate its rich heritage.

With the launch of the DL36, ABC is ready to push the boundaries of its business once again by entering new markets. Jean Christophe ends with the Belgian company’s plans for strengthening international presence and improving infrastructure: “So far, Europe and Africa have been the two core business areas for ABC. We are happy we can tap on any other market area to grow business. Considering in many countries we have not been actively structured yet, we can offer new customers in those areas the service solutions they find most suitable for their own needs. Our interest is strong in developing business in Asia, South America, and the Middle East.

“To achieve this, we plan to take on new area sales managers to start up distribution partners around the world. We will maintain our future product development plan for 2016 and beyond as well as invest in an office in China to support our sales there, though production will remain in Ghent. From 2014 we expect to grow our business twofold, building on the right partners and growing the correct network.”

Anglo-Belgian Corporation
An century in business
Newly launched engine
Expanding across the globe