“Going forward, we actually intend to raise our commitment to the Asia Pacific region even further, as this is the region where we can expect most growth in the coming decade,” said Gilles Martin, Manitowoc executive vice-president, Asia-Pacific.

The two models on show, the first designed since the JV started earlier in 2008, are due to launch in early 2009 in China, according to Martin. (A third crane, the GT10, promised to be shown, was parked outside the exhibition because it did not fit in the confines of the booth).

The company has brought in a western joint-venture manager, and two members of staff from the USA for engineering and manufacturing improvement, said Eric Etchart, president and general manager of Manitowoc. “In Dongyue, what we have done together in the first six months in a joint venture has made years of progress.”

He added that the current range goes up to 50t capacity. “We certainly could expand beyond [that], I am not saying this is the horizon, but there is a big market to serve that centres on 25t capacity,” Etchart said.

The Dongyue cranes are intended for the Chinese customers, Martin said. “Their job is to service their local market as a first priority.”

The ethos is similar in the company’s other Asian factories, Zhangjiagang, for tower cranes, and Pune, India, also for tower cranes, where it now makes six models after taking over former licencee Shirke Construction Equipment in 2007.

“First they go local, and then they export. The Asian facilities are for Asian markets, and then the Middle East and South America,” Martin said. Indian dealer TIL makes licenced Grove rough terrain cranes in India, primarily for the local market.

Etchart explains that Manitowoc’s interest in India is focused on the long-term. “We know India has an overall market size of [only] 300 units [of tower cranes]. But it was 20-25 a few years ago. Our projections for the size of the market make it compelling to establish a business now. We have the mindset of a pioneer,” he said. “Being a pioneer definitely gives us a preferential situation in terms of the supply base and in relationships with customers.”

“We could supply India from Zhangjiagang in the short term, but only in the short term. We are not the sum of small local operations. Manufacturing is not about engineering tools. Manufacturing is about people, improvements from lean, and best operating practice.

“We have a matrix organisation [to share knowledge across sites]. Each different region has its own P&L. The aftermarket business is global. But there is an operational excellence division, headed by John Wheeler, that is in charge of all the factories, so we are moving toward common processes in many aspects. In safety, we have common metrics, and strategies in improvements. Lean is also centre-led.”

Although the company’s R&D centres are all in the west – all terrains in Germany, tower cranes in France and crawlers in the USA, Etchart said that the company is still using engineering resources in Asia.

“We are already deploying a low-cost engineering centre in China that subcontracts engineering jobs from elsewhere in the world. We are not asking them to develop a product from greenfield. We are in a global market, developments are fast, we can have 24 hour engineering. It works like a call centre. This is not yet in India, but ultimately it will.”

In India, Manitowoc has expanded its Crane Care support network to Delhi, Pune and Hyderabad. It has appointed a country manager, Gurdeep Singh, and a vice president, Raman Joshi.

There are now 350-375 people working for Manitowoc in India, including factory workers and crane care,” Joshi said. “The number of people hasn’t really changed [since Manitowoc took over Shirke]. If anything, we have added 20-25 people. We have reassigned people. We don’t want to cut jobs; we need these people, who know cranes, and know how to manufacture cranes.”