‘Thousands have been sold across the region over the past 20 years,’ says Richard Seif, Lincoln Electrics senior vice-president for the Middle East and Africa. ‘It is

something of an icon. It is very rugged and can be operated in the toughest conditions. And with no electronics, it is easy to maintain. It can be fixed with a hammer.’

Established 110 years ago in Ohio, Lincoln Electric is one of the worlds leading manufacturers of arc-welding equipment, providing plant and welding consumables to contractors, manufacturers and oil companies around the world. And since the 1970s, the SAE 400 has been one of the companys most successful products. But although the SAE 400 is still giving good service on plant and pipeline construction projects, the rapid advances in digital technology over the past few years are changing the nature of the construction plant market. One consequence is that, after three decades of good service, the era of the bullet is coming to an end. ‘Technology has moved on and people are looking at the product,’ says Seif. ‘We have a new design incorporating

software that controls the output of the machine in order to optimise welding.’

Fully aware of the need to move with the times, Lincoln is investing heavily in automation technology for the welding industry. ‘Software-driven welding machines improve output,’ says Seif. ‘New technology allows welding to be carried out more efficiently, with less burning. We are seeing more and more automation being issued in welding with automatic welding machines and robot welders operating inside pipelines.’

The energy sector provides Lincoln with its principal source of revenue, although its equipment is widely used on industrial and infrastructure projects. With soaring oil prices driving a global boom in energy projects, it comes as little surprise that the company is riding high, with record sales in 2005 of about $1,600 million, 20 per cent up on the previous year and representing about 12 per cent of the $13,000 million global arc-welding market.

Europe, Russia and the Middle East are some of Lincolns fastest growing markets, and this year the company will open a new production plant in Turkey to serve these expanding territories. Sales in the Middle East also grew by about 20 per cent in 2005. They were driven not only by increasing pipe mill construction and pipeline projects, but also by the expansion of industrial projects, such as aluminium smelters, in the region. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are Lincolns biggest Middle East markets, although it also sells in Bahrain and Qatar, in Iraq through a local distributor, and Libya and Algeria, where it has an agent.

Lincolns product range, which includes submerged arc-welding equipment, power sources such as the SAE 400 and welding consumables, has been developed in consultation with contractors and oil companies in the oil and gas sector. But while state-of-the-art products remain at the core of the business, Lincoln is aware that, where in the past contractors have been able to fix problems with even the most basic tools, the increasingly sophisticated designs of today can be maintained only by trained technicians. Consequently, Lincoln is investing heavily in staff and customer training at key locations around the world, including Dubai. As part of a major expansion of its regional office in Jebel Ali, Lincoln opened in May its first training centre in the region.

‘The key for us is to have people on the ground in the vario