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Lifting intelligently

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With a unique distinction of having the biggest facility in the Indian crane industry,
WMI Konecranes factory at Pune caters successfully to the challenging Indian market
By Team MT

Extreme operating conditions in the steel industry warrant the need for highly safe, reliable and efficient cranes. In steel production, low operating, maintenance and repair costs are just as important as reliable process without malfunction or production breakdowns so as not to impede return on investment. Guaranteeing all that andmore are the material handling systems from WMI Konecranes.

WMI Konecranes India is a wholly owned subsidiary of KonecranesPlc based in Finland. They set up their Indian operations in 2007 and to cater exclusively to the Indian market they acquired Mumbai based WMI cranes in 2011. “Around 60 million Euros was invested in this acquisition,” says Saeesh Nevrekar, country manager and MD, WMI Konecranes India Ltd. He further adds, “The acquisition strengthened our presence in India.

WMI then had a plants at Bhandup, Mumbai and also at Jejuri,Pune while Konecranes had a plant in Sanaswadi, Pune. To streamline the operations we decided to consolidate the manufacturing operations and facilities at Jejuri itself. Thus, now we have two world class crane factories spanning around 85000 sq-mt. One factory focuses on manufacturing components and the second (new) one is designed for crane steel manufacturing, final crane assemblies and factory acceptance testings.”

The new plant is not only the biggest in the Konecranes groupbut, according to Nevrekar, is also the biggest in the Indian crane industry as of today. The operations at the new facility started exactly a year ago and though it has the capacity to produce 1000 cranes per annum it currently produces 500-600 cranes. On the facility,TeroVallas, VP, head of operations, Industrial cranes, WMI Konecranes India Ltd avers, “The facility has state-of-the-art technology.We have made important investments in a number of equipment and have stringent quality checks at each stage to test the quality of the products and raw materials.”

The company has invested in various kinds of machines like the 3D/CMM measuring devices and CNC cutting machines, which normally one does not see in the emerging market crane industry.Agreeing Vallas adds, “Shot blasting machines in our factory give uniform primer coating to steel sheets, which helps to achieve better quality. We have used our own cranes in this factory, thus, helping us provide for efficient internal logistics with minimised downtimes.”

In the components manufacturing facility they have invested in the machining centres for gear and various kinds of crane components.Size able investments have also been made in the welding processes. “We have installed automated welding portals ensuring extremely good and stable quality,” asserts Vallas.For WMI Konecranes the biggest business comes from the steel industry. General manufacturing and automotive form the other business segments. Their cranes range from five to 500 tonnes. “Recently,we delivered cranes above 300 tonne to our esteemed customers,”declares Vallas.

Vallas stresses that they emphasise a lot on quality and safety while manufacturing their cranes. “We utilise the global supplier control policies and have developed supplier assessment programs to develop the competencies of our suppliers together. Thus, the supplier is aware of our standards and understands our processes and hence delivers exactly what we want and we in turn are assured of the quality.”

Six Sigma policies and Quality Improvement Process (QIP) areused to enhance their manufacturing process. Elucidating further,Vallas asserts, “Crane manufacturing is a very demanding process and starts with us buying our steel plates from local Indian suppliers. After that is inspected it goes into the shot blasting machine and then is coated with precise coating machines.”

The web plates are then cut by precise plasma cutting machines. The plates are joined together  head-to-head by the butt welding process. Thereafter, it goes for box pressing to the boxing portal where all the longitudinal seams are welded into a box. After it’s painted, all the components are assembled and prior to despatch Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) is carried out. “FAT practically means that all the components are assembled together and are tested prior to shipping to the customers. This ensures that the products are safe and reduces the time to erect it at the customer’s site,” adds he.

Tero asserts that it is quality and safety that sets them apart from their competitors. He says, “By safety I mean safety of  my personnel as well as the customers. In India, safety is still not given the highest priority but we accept this as an interesting challenge. We have identified a lot of opportunities to focus on to bring about awareness. And we start off by first training our own personnel.”

The customer mindset on safety is changing and the awareness is slowly building. “We have seen many cases where customers no ware focusing more on safety aspects and are willing to add more safety features. Particularly in critical applications in steel and power plants, automobile industries and heavy engineering industries safety plays a major role. A small accident and consequent downtime of crane can lead to huge losses to customers resulting in low profits. Thus, it plays a very important role in the overall profitability of businesses too. Hence, we are trying to grow with our customers by focussing on safety as one of the most important parameters.”

The Indian market for cranes is huge and the awareness for more intelligent products in India is growing steadily too. Capitalising on this trait, WMI Konecranes is making investments in industrial internet. Seconding Nevrekar adds, “Industrial internet is one of our strategies to develop products to get real-time visibility of the crane. For example, we provide ‘TRUCONNECT’, a remote monitoring and reporting feature in our cranes. The device collects real usage data from the crane through a remote connection and provides with a periodic report that illustrates the actual use of a hoist during that period, making it a great tool for improving safety,optimising maintenance and assessing the hoist life cycle.”

The Indian market has provided the company with an excellent opportunity to invest in. “The kind of investment we have put in here is the biggest in the group worldwide. This shows that we have immense trust in the Indian market,” affirms Nevrekar . Vallas further adds, “What is unique to the Indian industry is that it focuses a lot on the heavy industry. Price sensitivity is another feature to deal with but I think, since, we cater to the customers by providing value through our products we are able to enhance their productivity and profitability.”

According to both the gentlemen,what also gives them an edge is not only the reliability and safety of their products but the advanced technology which they use in their cranes.. “What also benefits us is the way we design our whole process i.e. we not only provide lifting equipment to our customers but also develop their entire business operation together so that they can make the best out of what they have,” avers Vallas.Going forward, the company is looking at emerging markets and introducing new products for these markets.“We are also looking at export in a big way and will focus on ME, South East Asia, and African markets,” concludes Nevrekar.

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