The interview: Tower of strength


Christophe Simoncelli, vice president for GME tower cranes

Christophe Simoncelli tells us how Potain maintains its market leadership and what it’s doing to strengthen total cost of ownership.


Earlier this year Christophe Simoncelli became vice president of GME Tower Cranes at Manitowoc, responsible for the Potain top-slewing range. The creation of the new position, along with the separation of top-slewing and self-erecting ranges, marked a change in strategy. It has created a more agile structure and aligns Potain with the principles of The Manitowoc Way. The brand is now 90 years old and over its history has established itself as the world’s favorite tower crane company. Safe and reliable performance backed up with excellent resale values have made Potain the go-to cranes for rental companies and contractors. With the company’s push to new technologies and initiatives to strengthen cost of ownership, the future looks very bright, said Simoncelli.


LU: Can you explain what customers love about the current generation of Potain cranes and how that delivers better cost of ownership?


CS: There are several factors our customers love, but I will focus on two in particular: CCS and crane design. CCS is our Crane Control System that we provide on many models, including our MDT range. It gives the operator a better driving experience and enables them to tailor the settings to suit their preferences. It also means they can adjust to different situations, for example if they need precise placement. CCS makes our cranes safer and more productive, too. The system intelligence shuts down operations in the event of failure and allows commissioning to be done from the cab. No other operating system does this. CCS also works hand-in-hand with our CraneSTAR Diag diagnostics program. This lets owners access the crane’s operating system from any remote device and identify issues at an early stage, minimizing downtime. In terms of design, customers really see the benefits we are providing in our latest generation of cranes. This means aspects such as easier transportation, faster erection, simpler commissioning, better flexibility, etc. All of these contribute in their own way to tangible improvements in cost of ownership.


LU: What is the strategy around product development and how will the Potain crane line evolve into the future?


CS: Our product development strategy is guided by The Manitowoc Way and it’s easy to see the impact it’s having by looking at our latest model, the MCT 565. This was designed and built at our Zhangjiagang factory in China. It’s our largest topless crane yet and gives an indication of how our product range will develop. Our topless crane range up to 400 tonne-meters is unbeatable. Now we want to extend that into higher capacity classes and the MCT 565 is a great start. Customers should look out for further announcements in the future, too! Another important part of our strategy is improving total cost of ownership. We have been doing this for some time but it’s important to highlight that it remains a focus. It’s about focusing on aspects such as productivity, technology, reliability, transport, safety and more.

LU: How is new technology improving crane ownership for Potain customers?


CS: There are two important areas where technology is improving Potain ownership. First is in terms of technology on the crane itself. For example, CCS and CraneSTAR Diag, which we mentioned earlier. But there’s a second area where technology is improving crane ownership, and that’s in design and testing. I don’t think this gets the appreciation it should. For example, with our latest design software we’re able to develop cranes with performance and durability levels that would have been unachievable five years ago. We’ve also been able to speed up the design process and try innovative new designs. The MCH 125 is a great example. This is a hydraulic luffing jib crane with a topless design, a completely new model that no other manufacturer has. Not only did design software enable the development of this crane, it also helped achieve it in record time. In many ways, this is what The Manitowoc Way is all about.


LU: As a global brand can you explain how you serve customers in so many diverse markets?


CS: Being close to our customers is very important and having factories and offices in different countries helps us do that. It means we can stay on top of the market and really understand what our customers need. We don’t believe you can build one product and sell it in all markets. You must understand the needs of different customers and build products that suit. Another factor that helps us remain a market leader is our agility. Innovation and velocity are the core principles of The Manitowoc Way. And to be more responsive to customer needs we must be more agile. With the lean principles we’ve introduced at our factories, it’s much easier for us to adapt quickly to changing market needs.


LU: Potain is a global leader but how do you maintain that in such a competitive market?


CS: There are two important parts to this. First is to maintain the design and features that customers love. Second is to innovate, to respond to changing market needs. There are many reasons customers love Potain cranes. One is our high resale value. You can sell a Potain crane anywhere in the world. Service and reliability are important, too. We work hard to make our cranes the most reliable in the business. But at the same time we’re not going to reduce our commitment to Manitowoc Crane Care support. Our service team and dealer network are the best in the world and that’s something we must protect. Alongside that we must focus on new product development and doing this as fast as possible. Plus continue to improve our lead times. We’ve already made great strides under The Manitowoc Way, but continuous improvement means it’ll never be done. We’re proud to be the global leader in tower cranes. We’re excited about the future and look forward to sharing new developments with our customers.

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