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Leaning forward

Following the implementation of The Manitowoc Way in 2016, Potain factories are now setting new standards for productivity, cleanliness and safety.

In terms of manufacturing, The Manitowoc Way is centered around the concept of lean production. For the six Potain factories worldwide, this means faster material flow, reduced lead times and new systems for more accurate delivery forecasting. And for customers, that equals improved product quality, faster delivery times and greater satisfaction.

Bruno Vecchi, vice president of operations for GME production in EurAf, said the timing around the switch to The Manitowoc Way was particularly effective. “The intensive use of lean manufacturing in The Manitowoc Way helped us cope with the steep rise in demand for top slewing tower cranes over the past few years,” he said. “After introducing lean methods, we then developed a framework for continuous improvement to eliminate waste. Next, we are moving to a program of what we call Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). All combined, we are well on our way to reaching the ambitious production goals we set for ourselves at the start of the year.”

The Manitowoc Way kicked off in the Americas and Europe, and has since been implemented further afield. Manitowoc’s new Potain tower crane factory in India is a great example. With a smaller land area plus new equipment and lean processes, the new facility produces Potain MCT 85 and MC 125 cranes more efficiently and with greater quality than the factory it replaces. Meanwhile at Manitowoc’s production facility in Zhangjiagang, China, the major focuses have been improving 5S methodology, safety, processes and TPM. By improving 5S (which stands for sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain), time spent searching for unnecessary tools and materials is reduced. Efficiency is improved, as many unnecessary items are removed from the work site, which also improves safety. By continuously improving production process and site layout, production cycles are shortened, while the focus on TPM keeps operations running smoothly.

The forefront of R&D

In addition to implementing lean processes, Manitowoc has also invested heavily in Product Verification Centers (PVCs) for its Potain plants. These play a vital role in the design and testing of new products and components, and help Manitowoc retain its position as the leader in innovation and design for the crane industry.

Bruno Roni Damond, vice president of engineering for tower cranes, said the PVCs increase the velocity and quality of new crane designs. “We can validate our designs a lot quicker using our PVC facilities plus the latest software,” he said. “We can test designs faster and try more configurations. As a result, our Potain cranes have better load charts because we’ve harnessed new technology. However, the work going on at the PVCs is not just about performance, it’s also about durability. We can test things like resistance to corrosion, humidity, salt spray and more, to ensure our cranes are more reliable and have longer working lives.”

Manitowoc continues to add new test benches in its PVCs. At the center in Lusigny, France, for example, it has installed a noise test bench. This comprises a purpose-built concrete platform configured with microphones to measure noise output. With this, Potain can ensure its hoists not only continue to meet global standards for noise emissions, but exceed them.

Similarly, thanks to a new mast improvement test bench, also in Lusigny, Manitowoc can test the performance of its tower crane masts over their full working life. With this kind of insight, the company can offer its customers more assurance on product performance, even looking 25 to 30 years into the future. One direct result of this important work is that all Potain tower crane masts are now designed in such a way that certain elements will become noticeably worn long before the integrity of the structure is compromised. This vital visual warning not only gives greater peace of mind to customers, it also helps eradicate potential downtime.

“Safety is always a major focus for Manitowoc,” Roni Damond added. “It’s been great to see the tangible results in product design from the PVC work we’ve done around noise reduction and mast improvement. Now we’re carrying out tests on our ropes and pulley systems, climate control in our cabs, as well as finetuning our new Potain Cab-IN product, our in-mast elevator system for accessing a Potain tower crane cab.”

While it’s clear that much has changed at Manitowoc’s tower crane factories around the globe since the introduction of The Manitowoc Way, the customer focus that sits at its heart means the pursuit of continuous improvement will never be done.


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