John Bair talks about the progress Grove has made in recent years in enhancing rough-terrain crane reliability and efficiency, along with the arrival of Italian-made GRTs.
John Bair is well-rounded when it comes to the various product lines within Manitowoc’s product portfolio. He’s been with Manitowoc since 2007 and has held a variety of roles. Starting as a sales administrator and working his way through product management across all of the Grove product lines, his experience gives him unique insight into what dealers and customers desire in their mobile cranes.
Currently, Bair is a product manager who focuses on the Grove GRT rough-terrain crane lineup. And though he is based in Shady Grove, Pennsylvania, U.S., Looking Up learned during this interview that his global view of product development transcends conventional borders.
Looking Up: A few years ago, Manitowoc introduced the “GRT” line of rough-terrain cranes. Can you tell us about the introduction of these cranes and how they are faring in the market?
John Bair: The reintroduction of Grove rough-terrain cranes as the GRT range signified a tremendous shift in focus for us. We are now wholly focused on what customers need and what the market needs to succeed. That means greater reliability, longer booms with strong capacities, enhanced operator comfort and improved efficiency. We have spent a lot of time particularly on reliability and efficiency, and we’re seeing a very positive reaction to these cranes among our customers and dealers.
LU: How have Grove rough-terrain cranes improved over the years?
JB: We put great focus on reliability, comfort and efficiency for our customers, and the cranes reflect these improvements. For example, the Crane Control System (CCS) that is introduced on all of our new cranes makes operation easy, and it is very simple for an operator to go from one model to the next with minimal training required. And we’ve improved the overall comfort for the operator, too, such as enhancing the heating and air conditioning systems. In addition, we’ve recently introduced our new wider full vision cab that will be 3 inches (8 cm) wider with redesigned armrests and include an assortment of creature comforts such as USB plugs, foot rest bars, increased storage behind the seat and a three-camera visibility package providing greater operator comfort and convenience. This new cab was launched first on the GRT9165 and will also be used on our new GRT8120 that made its debut at CONEXPO earlier this year.
Reliability has also been greatly improved. We have redesigned and reengineered our rough-terrain cranes from the ground up to be more reliable. Our work at the Product Verification Center (PVC) has enabled us to ensure every component on a GRT crane is of the utmost, industry-leading quality. We’re confident enough in these products that we now offer a standard two-year warranty on new GRTs with up to five years of total coverage. No one else in the industry is doing that.
LU: How have things changed at the factory where GRTs are built?
JB: Over the last few years we have made several improvements at the Shady Grove factory to help us improve efficiencies and better react to changing market demands. We’ve added new robotic frame welders and five new plasma burners that enabled us to increase capacity and provide consistent quality, for example. Grove is now manufacturing GRTs out of our Niella Tanaro factory in Italy in addition to our Shady Grove plant in the U.S. This enables us to better serve customers in Europe, the Middle East and other regions outside of the Americas. These Italian-made cranes are manufactured to the same standards as those in our Shady Grove plant and offer benefits in these regions, such as not having to pay to ship cranes across the Atlantic Ocean, shorter lead times, and fewer taxes and tariffs.
We’re also moving to a new value stream organization that allows for closer collaboration between various departments such as product management, engineering, manufacturing and sourcing for a specific product family. One of the key goals is to ensure everyone is aware of the customers’ feedback and that our new cranes meet market desires. I’m excited to be working closely with these other departments and to further strengthen the link between the “Voice of the Customer” and product design.
LU: As a global brand, how do you ensure Grove rough-terrain cranes appeal to such a diverse range of customers?
JB: By talking to them. We are in a constant dialogue with our customers and dealers from around the world to learn about their needs. It’s through this consistent communication that we can best comprehend the global market.
LU: Are there any new technologies or design features that are resonating?
JB: Definitely. We’ve designed lots of new features that enable customers to be more efficient and our cranes to be more reliable. For example, our new encoded smart outrigger beam cylinders use magnetic pulses to identify the position of the beam, which is then relayed to the CCS display. Prior to this new design, manufacturers were mainly using cable systems that are susceptible to jams or breaks, and that means unplanned downtime on the job site. With this new design, we conducted extensive life-cycle testing at our PVC, and they showed 100% accuracy. This is a great step forward in improving the overall reliability of our cranes. We look forward to implementing this new design as we move forward with new models and product updates.
We've also added the ECO mode feature, which is part of the CCS, to improve fuel efficiency and decrease wear and tear on the powertrain and hydraulic systems.
As I mentioned, we recently launched the GRT8120 and with this new model we have also incorporated our MAXbase variable outrigger positioning system. This new technology provides maximum access to congested jobsites by allowing the crane to set up in asymmetrical outrigger positions when needed. In addition, MAXbase also maximizes the lifting potential of the crane by providing increased capacities over a traditional 360° load chart.
These are just a few examples of the many updates we’ve made to the GRT line, and we look forward to expanding these cranes' global reach.