Zoomlion Europe has opened a new factory in Italy to manufacture its cranes. Sotiris Kanaris speaks to the newly appointed General Manager Petre Babiceanu about the new plant and the company’s current and future crane offerings.
The Chinese construction machinery manufacturer Zoomlion Group has expanded its international presence in recent years. It has set up R&D centers in Europe, Brazil and the USA, as well as sales and service offices in Africa and the Middle East.
In 2018, the Chinese group selected the Italian concrete machine manufacturer CIFA (which had been acquired ten years earlier) as the hub for the production and distribution of various Zoomlion brand product lines in Europe. This led to the creation of Zoomlion Europe. At the beginning of this year, the company opened a new 10,000 m² plant in Solferino in northern Italy.
It will host Zoomlion’s assembly and manufacturing activities of tower cranes, mobile cranes, auto pumps, forklifts and aerial work platforms for European customers. This will be the only location in Italy where the company’s cranes will be manufactured.
Petre Babiceanu joined Zoomlion Europe in April as General Manager. He previously worked for Terra, a sales and service company for construction and industrial machines with a presence in Central and Eastern Europe, where he was most recently General Manager for lifting machines.
According to Babiceanu, the management of Zoomlion Group sees Europe as a strategic market for expanding its international business and this was the reason for the decision to invest in a new European plant in Italy.
CIFA was instrumental in creating the new facility, helping to raise funding from Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and SACE through Garanzia Italia, the liquidity relief tool designed to help Italian companies cope with the Covid-19 emergency. to secure.
The workplaces have already been set up in the plant and overhead traveling and slewing cranes have been installed. Babiceanu informs about the new facility: “The structure is fully wired to allow the connection of the most advanced 4.0 technology machines; the environments are organized according to the logic of lean production and the safety systems – such as the sensors for the gas leak, which make it possible to locate the leak and automatically block it – meet the highest standards. “
He adds that reducing the environmental impact was an important consideration when designing the new facility. A solar panel system was placed on the roof to provide electricity to the production activities, while LED lighting is used throughout the plant.
The company decided to enter the all-terrain crane market in Europe in 2017. Babiceanu said at the time the top-selling capacities were the 60-ton and 100-ton machines, and that’s why they chose those capacities for their first models. At Bauma 2019, the industry had the opportunity to take a first look at the 60t ATC960 and 100t ATC1000 demo devices.
“Both models are being pre-ordered by top Italian customers,” says Babiceanu. “We decided to take our first steps in Italy to stay closer to the units and follow them on the field. The testing phase for all-terrain cranes is really a sensitive phase, so we are still in the internal commissioning phase as we want the units to be really reliable and to support our customers’ business. Both models ATC960 and ATC1000 have received full homologation and are CE certified. “
The company opted for European suppliers for the components. “As we are a young company in this highly competitive market, we made a strategic decision to source all components in Europe from premium brands. This will help us to support our products with a high after-sales service for our customers and to deliver warranties and spare parts directly from our suppliers, as we found this aspect very important for our customers. “
Regarding the market for these cranes, Babiceanu says: “The mobile crane business in Europe is a real challenge because it is the most demanding market and our competitors have very strong positions. Nevertheless, we see customer segments in the market in which we can penetrate and meet the demands and needs of customers with our units and services. “
Zoomlion Europe plans to further expand its mobile crane portfolio in the near future with various models in the pipeline. “We are in the homologation phase for a new two-axle city crane with 40 t load capacity and a completely new 45 t rough terrain crane. These two models are entirely designed and manufactured in Italy. “
Babiceanu says the next step is to introduce a new five-axis all-terrain machine. He adds that the company is considering bringing cranes made by Zoomlion in China, particularly telecrawlers and lattice boom crawlers, to the European market.
Since last year Zoomlion Europe has offered two flat-top tower cranes, the T7020-12 and the T6515-8. The T7020-12 has a maximum lifting capacity of 12t and 70m jib, while the T6515-8 has a maximum lifting capacity of 8t and 65m jib.
They note that the tower crane market in Europe is doing well despite the impact of the pandemic. According to Babiceanu, Poland is currently the strongest market for the brand’s tower cranes and is seeing positive signals from other European countries.
The manufacturer plans to launch two more tower crane models this year, the W6522-10 (205mt) and the W7025-12 (270mt). “Development of the second phase will begin in September, which will include the introduction of heavy flat-top cranes in order to have a full range of flat-top cranes in 2022,” adds Babiceanu.
About the introduction of luffing jib tower cranes, he says: “We are aware of the importance of a complete range (Flat Tops and Luffer) in order to introduce the Zoomlion brand across Europe and to be able to reach an excellent market in countries such as Great Britain, where the luffing jib crane König is. Zoomlion R&D is working on it. “
When asked whether it would be easier to penetrate the tower crane market than the mobile crane market in Europe, he replied: “Introducing a new brand is not an easy task. We believe that product development in collaboration with key players in the rental sector is very important. Indeed, this strategy is bringing the expected results. In the end we can say that there is room on the market for both products. “
The company has tried to build a dealer network and Babiceanu says it has already signed many distribution agreements. “It is important to us to create relationships of trust that last over time.”
The new Zoomlion Europe plant in Solferino, Italy.
Inside the new facility. It will house the assembly and manufacturing activities of tower cranes, mobile cranes, car pumps, forklifts and aerial work platforms.
The Zoomlion ATC1000 all-terrain crane.
The tower crane T7020-12H.