Complications overseas don't discourage Point Eight Power Inc.

While most of its U.S. and European competitors target areas where they can sell mass-produced standardized equipment, the Belle Chasse, La., electrical switchgear manufacturer is ringing up sales in environments with unusual operating conditions, multiple electrical standards and unique switchgear units.''The more complicated the task is, the greater our comparative advantage,'' said Jim Campe, vice president of sales and marketing.

Point Eight Power specializes in building switchgear, relays and motor controls that suit the unique design requirements and site installations of a particular plant while still conforming to various applicable electrical standards.

Most U.S. switchgear exports are sent to Canada and Mexico, where U.S. standards are the norm. But Point Eight Power has gone all out to reach businesses seeking customized equipment in developing countries from Argentina to Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Campe makes three or four round-the-world sales trips annually and takes care in selecting and training reputable foreign agents with experience selling complementary products.

This is particularly vital in countries like Kuwait and Indonesia, where local laws make it difficult to fire an agent for poor sales performance.

The plant in Belle Chasse is ISO-9001 certified, often giving Point Eight Power the same clout with customers that better-known European manufacturers enjoy.

The company's engineers have come up with some innovative switchgear that satisfies the requirements of both the American National Standards Institute, for U.S. standards, and the International Electric Code, widely recognized throughout Europe and in countries worldwide.

What's more, Point Eight Power has formed licensing agreements in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Venezuela to procure homegrown raw materials, enabling it to satisfy the local-content requirements of various foreign procurement projects.

In 1996, exports reached $4.73 million, or 26.4 percent of total sales, and more than double the 1993 export sales figure. Despite a drop in sales in ailing economies in Southeast Asia, company officials expect 30 percent to 35 percent growth in its overseas business this year.


CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Thomas N. Reagan, president.

HEADQUARTERS: Belle Chasse, La.

EMPLOYEES AND FACILITIES: A staff of more than 170 work at the 75,000-square-foot plant in Belle Chasse, while 45 overseas representatives sell equipment in 38 countries. A new docking facility and an 11-acre land plot will facilitate shipments of packages to destinations worldwide.

There are also product-servicing and parts-stocking warehouses in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Thailand.

BASIC BUSINESS: Point Eight Power manufactures customized low-voltage and medium-voltage electrical switchgear and motor control centers. Products are sold to offshore oil and gas platform companies, pipeline compressor stations, refineries, petrochemical plants, thermal power plants, electric power distribution plants, fertilizer plants, pulp and paper mills, generator control facilities, fuel-handling equipment suppliers and the shipboard market.

EXPORT STRATEGY: Mr. Campe will focus strongly on developing business in Latin America - particularly Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela - this year. ''We selected the four countries that had the largest potential to handle exports and had significant oil and gas reserves,'' he said. Then it will move on to Russia and neighboring countries.


In 1978, Thomas Reagan purchased Point Eight Power from Anixter Power Systems in Skokie, Ill..

For years, the company ran a profitable business servicing the Gulf Coast's booming oil and gas, power and marine industries. But when the local economy soured in the early 1980s, sales suffered, prompting the new owners to look overseas for better prospects.

They first sold to a firm manufacturing ships for AT&T in Singapore, and then targeted energy companies stationed in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Equipment has since been installed in Africa, the Americas and Europe.