Expert Engineering24 October 2019
MC Levage is a specialist crane manufacturer and part of the Reel International group. Daniel Searle visited the company’s headquarters in Lyon, France.
Designing and manufacturing specialised cranes for sectors such as aeronautics, environmental processes and nuclear power requires a high level of engineering expertise—and so MC Levage, part of Reel since 2007, maintains a high proportion of engineers in its team.
The business is part of a much larger network of engineers within the group— also based in Lyon, and with an annual turnover of €440m—which has 400 engineers within its staff of 2,400. MC Levage is a 100% subsidiary of Reel.
Reel operates four factories in France and one in Canada, with some plants having a specific focus, such as the Nantes plant which focuses on the nuclear industry, and La Rochelle, which handles large parts for offshore activity.
“The business works across a range of sectors, which is very good for the experience of its operators,” explains Sandrine Weisse, in corporate communications at Reel.
MC Levage completes around 15–20 projects a year, says Loïc Stephan, assistant director at the company. The company has an annual turnover of around €10m.
The facility in Lyon includes a 60m by 40m workshop that is divided into two parts, for mounting and wiring, as well as an electrical workshop for manufacturing electrical control cabinets, and a paint enclosure. The cranes are also tested in the warehouse before delivery to customers, adds Stephan.
There is also a fully-automatic welding gantry for box girders at the facility, with automatic MIG welding heads; the company welds on both sides to maintain geometry, explains Stephan, as well as using a bench for accurate alignment. A 6.4t MC Levage crane is in operation in the yard outside to lift the steel used for the cranes.
Whilst the frames for the cranes are built in-house, the components are boughtin, along with any specialised lifting attachments that are required. The company also does not have machine tools for manufacturing parts such as wheels, adds Stephan.
“The main advantage we offer to our customers is that we are present throughout the life-cycle of the project,” says Stephan. “We develop and manufacture a solution to meet their specific needs, then further on provide maintenance, all the time accumulating experience of the project. The manufacturing and design sites across Reel communicate a lot, which ultimately makes the process more cost-effective, and means we can always be improving our processes and in-house capabilities.”
Reel also offers in-house training for customers at its Reel Academy, covering the practical and technical sides of lifting and safety.
Present and Future
MC Levage has a long list of completed projects, serving customers including aeronautic giant Airbus, leading power generator EDF, nuclear power plants including Tricastin in France, and Suez and Vinci for water treatment, waste treatment or biogas plants.
The common theme amongst the cranes designed and manufactured by MC Levage for these projects are that they are highly specialised, non-standard systems. Some of the cranes supplied to aeronautics customers, for example, have very long spans, while others combine four hooks with a turntable to manipulate large components.
Through its parent group, the company serves customers across the world, with a focus on aeronautics projects, says Stephan; aluminium handling projects are more commonly in the Middle East and Russia; nuclear projects tend to be in France; and the hydropower projects that the company supplies are also in France.
The environment, aeronautics and nuclear sectors are providing some new projects, and the maintenance and retrofitting of existing installations is a regular source of work. Environmental projects, such as plants for processing methane, are on the increase.
Reel has worldwide locations, including being settled in the UK for more than 20 years.
The company’s facilities in Stourbridge in West Midlands deliver new lifting equipment and provide customers with service and refurbishment in different sectors such as aeronautics, the metalwork industry and nuclear sector.Reel is also a one-stop shop for Flex Radio Control systems with a full stock of complete systems and all spares to support its customers, adds the company.