Eric Etchart, president and general manager of Manitowoc, said the new factory would improve customer service in more than one way.

“This factory is important to us for a number of reasons,” he said. “First, it brings us closer to our growing customer base in Russia, the C.I.S. and Eastern Europe. It allows us to build cranes for those markets faster and more economically as freight costs are lower. Second, it is the first factory designed entirely around our Lean Manufacturing process we introduced last year. And third, it gives us additional capacity at other Potain factories by relieving some of the pressure caused by the high levels of global demand for tower cranes.”

The Velky Saris facility is Manitowoc’s first to be designed entirely around principles of Lean Manufacturing, which offers improved production efficiency by minimizing stock levels and strengthening processes from order to delivery. Manitowoc has now introduced Lean Manufacturing to all its factories.

The plant in Slovakia is producing four cranes at present from the Potain line including the MDT 178 from the topless range and the MD 208 A from the standard top-slewing tower crane range. The company acquired the facility in August of last year and spent months transforming the brownfield site to a modern tower crane factory.

The factory is home to all new equipment, including the shot blaster, paint line, welding equipment and welding jigs. Manitowoc also invested heavily in staff at the new facility sending everyone to the company’s other Potain facilities in France for four to six weeks to learn more about Manitowoc, its products, its processes and its principles.

Laurent Guesdon, plant director at the Velky Saris location, said the workers are a vital component in the new facility. “Our workforce here is highly skilled and highly professional and they all benefited from their extended inductions in France.”