Gantry cranes: The factory start-up

28 March 2024

GH has unveiled an initiative to streamline the company’s collaboration with start-ups, as Julian Champkin reports.

Can innovation or new ideas come to the apparently mature gantry crane sector? In Spain, manufacturer GH has unveiled an initiative to make exactly that happen. It is called GH StartUp Factory.

Start-ups tend to be small operations with a single new, and either gamechanging or destined-to-fail, idea. The GH programme aims to streamline the company’s collaboration with start-ups, accelerating the integration of fresh technologies into the crane maker’s products and processes.

In the company’s own words, “It serves as the initial destination for startups looking to make an impact in the industrial lifting and logistics industry, providing a platform for validating solutions, gaining insights on the industry, and connecting with influential decision-makers”.

Previously, start-ups would come to GH and pitch their ideas. It is the standard approach, but a passive one; now, GH actively seeks solutions.

“We’ll identify problems first, then find the start-up ecosystem answer,” is how Ines Puyadena, co-lead of GH StartUp Factory, explains it. The idea has been maturing in GH’s mind for some time.

“We’ve been working with start-ups and external agents for several years now,” says Eneko Ariznabarreta, the other co-lead. “Some projects have turned out better than others, but overall, these collaborative experiences have been very positive. However, until now we didn’t have a structured procedure for working with start-ups.”

“Five or six years ago we started meeting different start-ups to make initial contact with them but we soon realised that we had to do more,” adds Puyadena.

“Our goal with GH StartUp Factory is to reverse or turn around the way we collaborate with start-ups. Until now, they would come to us, show us their ideas and then we would see if they were a good fit for us or not. In our opinion, the process should be the other way around. So from now on, first we’ll identify the problems or needs we have and then we’ll go to the start-up ecosystem and look for the solution we want. With GH StartUp Factory, we are aiming to integrate and structure the collaboration with start-ups within our innovation processes.”

Ariznabarreta picks up the story: “If a start-up comes with a good proposal, we’ll obviously study it and, if it’s worthwhile, we’ll actively collaborate.

“However, experience has shown us that this doesn’t usually happen. The work of this new unit will consist of actively searching for start-ups that have relatively mature or advanced products.”

The company is not looking for experiments or off-the-wall fantasies, says Ariznabarreta: “We are looking for near-market products that we can quickly incorporate into our processes.”

“Regarding the type of start-ups we’re looking for,” says Puyadena, “on the unit’s website – – you can see the three areas of innovation that most interest GH: connectivity and digitisation, automation and autonomous driving, and Industry 4.0.

“First, a pilot project will be carried out ‘at scale’, so to speak. Once we’ve verified that the solution provided by the start-up is valid or that we consider it to be suitable for our needs, we’ll begin with its actual implementation. Our intention is for it to be an agile process, at least in this first phase of verification. Afterwards, the actual implementation of the project will take as long as it takes, but we want the previous step to be dynamic and fast, both for us and for the start-ups.”

Puyadena highlights the “agile and fast” process in contrast to large firms’ typical slow decision-making, and adds: “It is essential to point out to the start-ups that we don’t want to take their intellectual property away from them. The intellectual property of their product remains entirely in their hands. We are only looking for a customer-supplier partnership.”

The location of the start-up doesn’t matter. “We are a global company,” says Ariznabarreta, “and we’re looking for startups with the best solutions worldwide, regardless of whether they are close to our headquarters or anywhere else.”

The company has set itself the target of bringing two or three projects forward this first year and another three or four next year.

“We already have a project underway to address an automation problem for an internal manufacturing process, and another focused on a digital twin for hoist production,” says Ariznabarreta. “GH StartUp Factory is a tool that will allow us to develop and integrate new technologies into our products and processes in a more dynamic way and faster.”

It will be interesting to see if other manufacturers, in this industry or others, follow the new approach.

Ines Puyadena.
Eneko Ariznabarreta.