Manitowoc has invested in its European Potain factories to deliver new levels of quality, safety, productivity and environmental sustainability.
Industry-leading cranes require industry-leading manufacturing facilities, which is why Manitowoc is continuously investing in its production sites. Over the last three years, the Potain tower crane factories in Charlieu and Moulins in France, Baltar in Portugal and Niella Tanaro in Italy have received considerable investments to keep them at the forefront. With a combined area of 400,000 m², these facilities form a significant part of Potain’s industrial presence, not only in Europe but worldwide, so it is vital their capabilities match the brand’s high ambitions for the finished products.
The 150,000 m² Charlieu factory, established in 1969, manufactures the Igo T range of self-erecting cranes, as well as the mechanisms, electrical cabinets, cabs and safety devices for all the European Potain ranges and some of the Asian ranges. It also houses the workshop for reconditioning used cranes as part of the EnCORE program.
Manitowoc recently invested in a new production line here for 2.45 m pivots for top-slewing cranes, which will help to improve the quality and lead times for these components. The new production line includes volume setting tools for improved ergonomics and safety, as well as an innovative, automated submerged welding process. This allows not only for a large deposit of solder but also optimum penetration, improving quality and saving time.
The 133,000 m² Moulins factory, established in 1959, produces the MDT range of topless cranes, the MD range of top-slewing cranes and the MR range of luffing jib cranes, as well as certain customized parts. Here, Manitowoc has replaced the old tube cutting line installed in 1991 with a new automated line, measuring 35 m long and 11 m wide. The line has been designed to Potain specifications and was commissioned in October 2021. Now operational, it brings greater precision, quality and safety to the manufacturing process.
The Moulins factory has also received new bespoke tooling to enable the mass production of 3.33 m regular mast sections, as well as 5 m K mast sections. By increasing production capacity, the new tooling will offer customers shorter lead times for these masts.
Established in 2005, Baltar is responsible for the manufacture of tower cranes in the MCT and MDT Topless City ranges. Since 2017, the factory has undergone a major transformation to modernize and extend its facilities. This was necessary to integrate production from the former Fanzeres site in Portugal, which no longer met requirements and had no land reserves for increasing capacity. In overhauling this key Potain manufacturing site, the team drew heavily on the principles of The Manitowoc Way.
The increased production volume and diversity at Baltar necessitated the extension of the welding and assembly halls, as well as the indoor and outdoor storage areas. The factory now has a covered area of 18,000 m² and a total area of 43,500 m². The project has significantly increased the quality and efficiency of production, benefitting MCT and MDT customers.
In addition to extending its operational area, Baltar has received a new generation high-performance machining center to replace two ageing machines. This allows the production team to produce very large mechanically welded elements, such as cab masts and pivots, at the end of the manufacturing process. Machining fully welded elements has enabled the factory to take a step forward in the quality of these elements, significantly improving compliance with tolerances and ultimately the assembly of cranes on site.
Finally, several investments in tools for the welding stations have enabled the factory to increase production and quality, while improving employee safety. New manipulators, for example, which guarantee optimal welding conditions, have led to better organized and more ergonomic workstations.
Niella Tanaro, Italy
Niella Tanaro is where the Potain Igo, Igo M, Hup and Hup M self-erecting cranes are built. The site was established in 1969 and covers an area of 86,000 m². Here, Manitowoc has constructed a new building dedicated to the manufacture of crane transport axles. At the same time, the factory has received a new stitching area to test finished products, while the logistics flow for shipments has been completely redesigned. Until now, the stitching and delivery of cranes were carried out in confined spaces.
Once again, the lean principles of The Manitowoc Way played a key role in delivering improvements to better meet customers’ needs and improve employee safety, productivity and factory delivery times.
The team at the Niella Tanaro factory has also made great strides with the paint line. Operational efficiency has increased while downtime in the painting area has decreased and overall paint consumption has reduced by 10%. The facility has also switched to non-toxic solvents in the process, lowering environmental impact.
Continuous improvement through The Manitowoc Way
Christophe Simoncelli, SVP for Tower Cranes Europe at Manitowoc, said: “These are just a few examples of how Potain is leading the way in the production of tower cranes. The investments and changes also highlight the extent to which The Manitowoc Way methodology of continuous improvement has become the daily tool through which Manitowoc is delivering greater quality and efficiency.
“Potain offers a wide range of innovative, reliable products, adapted to the needs of the market and designed with customer feedback in mind. To maintain this market leading position, it is essential that Potain tower crane production remains close to the customers and design teams in Europe in modern facilities seek continuous improvement, while demonstrating concern for the environment and working conditions of employees.”
For more information on Potain tower cranes, please visit the Manitowoc website.