China’s rapid industrial development during the past decade has created a fast-growing market for hoists used in a wide range of industries including metals, construction, transport, manufacturing and the electricity sector (see p19 for more on the market). Already a large number of Chinese companies have started manufacturing hoists in response to demand while many leading foreign hoist makers have expanded their sales operations in China to supply the increasing demand for high quality products and customer services.

The new factory

KCI Konecranes opened a hoist assembly plant in Shanghai in November 2002 to produce industrial cranes up to 10t. Sales have grown quickly since then, encouraging the Finnish company to start construction on a new factory building at the same site that will double its Shanghai production capacity when the new facility is completed later this year.

KCI Konecranes started supplying in China in the early 1980s, importing all cranes for local sale. After supplying electric overhead travelling (EOT) cranes, harbour and shipyard cranes initially, the company began selling industrial cranes in China in the 1990s.

But the Chinese plant does not produce products sold only in China. Last year the company started exporting components worldwide. The plant services not only the local market, but has just started exporting these parts worldwide. ‘We also export part assemblies to Finland and the United States for final assembly. Our complete products are mainly for the mainland [China] market,’ says maintenance service director at the Shanghai plant, Knut Stewen. The company exports about 10% of products by value, to a total of between 200 and 300 units.

The company’s annual report, released last month, emphasises the importance of its global sourcing policy. ‘In 2004, we restructured noble-parts [components] production and moved from largely Finland-based production to a global procurement network, using low-cost suppliers when applicable and upgrading our own production for efficiency. The result then – and now – was and is a sharply increased cost efficiency in comparison to our competitors,’ the company said.

Konecranes’ Shanghai plant assembles CXT wire rope hoists up to 10t capacity, including the electrical package such as controls, and coordinates the procurement of industrial crane components in China. Built with a planned production capacity of up to 5,000 wire rope hoists per year, the factory is located in Futurity Island industrial park in Taopu, Putou district.

The purpose-built facility consists of a 4,300 square metre factory and 1,000 square metres of office space on a 13,300 square metre site. In addition to production and office facilities, the Shanghai plant houses a showroom and a training centre that opened last year for customers and service technicians. During 2004 KCI Konecranes hired 91 new employees, to 211 in China. The factory is estimated to create 100 additional jobs in 2005. The company reported it had 675 employees in total at the end of 2004.

Konecranes is investing US$3 million in the factory expansion scheme, mostly on new machinery. Construction started in mid-2004 to add the additional 6,000 square metres factory area on an adjoining site to assemble heavy crane winches. Production in the new facility is due to begin in September 2005.

‘We have just got a licence to make hoists up to 20t capacity. We will start production fast,’ Stewen says. ‘In our new factory building we will produce SM winches of over 100t capacity. We have already started SM winch assembly in rented premises in January as preliminary assembly.’

Producing larger hoists and winches in Shanghai will increase the level of support offered locally to customers. ‘We already supply large CXT hoists to customers but we import them from Finland,’ Stewen says, ‘Assembly here will bring quicker delivery and customer service. Assembling up to our CXT 20t range will bring a bigger portion of customer benefit. About 50% of our orders are hoists up to 10t.

‘Once the new factory is up and running we will produce SM winches up to 400t and CXT hoists up to 80t, but few in number. EOT models are for overhead travelling cranes. We will cover up to 400t by August 2005. Transformer companies need very heavy cranes. The biggest EOT cranes in China are for transformers and power plants. The biggest we have supplied in China are up to 400t.’

Supplying the local market

Konecranes estimates there are about 30 companies making hoists in China. Most are part of larger business groups that also make cranes. The number of crane companies in China is thought to be in the hundreds. Shanghai alone has 30 to 40 crane companies.

‘Shanghai is also our Asia-Pacific headquarters (before it was Singapore) as China represents the biggest market for us in the Asia-Pacific region.’

In China, Konecranes has sales offices in the four autonomously governed cities – Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing; also Guangzhou and Yantian in Guangdong province, Dalian in Liaoning province and Changshu in Jiangsu province.

‘We have national coverage through our own offices,’ Stewen said. ‘Also, through three joint ventures in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Guangdong for individual cranes.’

Konecranes’ Shanghai plant supplies three joint venture companies with hoists and the main components to make the cranes according to Konecranes’ technical specifications. The three joint ventures are Guangzhou Technocranes in Guangzhou in Guangdong Province; Shanghai Hitech Industrial Cranes in Shanghai; and Jiangin Dingli Hitech Cranes in Suzhou in Jiangsu Province.

Konecranes works with six crane builders in China for sales and service. The companies are in the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shandong. All six are privately owned and make their own products in addition to making cranes for Konecranes.

Special cranes

Konecranes’ special projects division has covered China for the past 10 years, originally being based in Singapore before moving to China when the Shanghai plant opened. The division is responsible for managing the supply and execution of large projects such as equipping paper and pulp mills, hydroelectric and thermal power plants, generator manufacturers and transformer manufacturers. The key customers in China at present are cold roll mills and hot metal handling facilities in steel mills.

‘We do cross selling through Konecranes sales offices. We get a lot of leads through that organisation,’ explains Konecranes special cranes area director, Taisto Jarvinen. ‘There is a huge amount of Chinese competition. We differentiate ourselves with local companies with our technology and quality of cranes. We also make cranes for processes where the crane is part of the automated plant.’

Process cranes of 50t to 400t are supplied. These have been imported until now but will be built in the Shanghai plant once the phase two extension opens later this year.


In addition to competitive labour costs, another reason attracting Konecranes to invest in the Shanghai plant is the number of companies in the region that can produce parts for local hoist assembly operations. Konocranes buys hoist axles along with forged and cast steel parts from a number of Chinese suppliers.

‘We opened our factory to make products for the local market and for big local sourcing of parts,’ Stewen explains.

‘Reliability of suppliers was an issue before 1998; there were quality problems and other issues,’ Stewen says. ‘Today, Chinese suppliers know what western companies need; but we must be thorough and follow our suppliers closely.

‘Reliability is not an issue now. We have tight quality control. We select only the best suppliers available. Many of our suppliers are suppliers to the automotive industry to companies like Volkswagen and General Motors. If they are approved by them it means they have had extensive screening.’