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Konecranes in Italian negotiations

Konecranes' Italian operations, taken over from Terex MHPS, could be set for a big change, with reports that Konecranes Lift Trucks plans to transfer production of LiftAce FLTs and masted container handlers from the plant in Brescello di Lentigione to France at the end of this year
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Konecranes Lift Trucks has already consolidated all Chinese production of LiftAce machines at its assembly plant in Lingang, leaving the Xiamen plant (Konecranes Noell China) to concentrate on port cranes. It is reported to be planning to consolidate all European LiftAce production at the French plant in Montceau-les-Mines.

This has prompted three one-day strikes at the plant in Brescello in May, June and July, supported by all the trade unions (FIOM CGIL, UILM UIL and UGL) as well as the statutory workers' council (RSU). The plant has a payroll of around 150.

Konecranes took over from Terex MHPS on 1st January this year and reportedly inherited an operation in Brescello that lost €7M in 2016. Konecranes has been involved in dialogue over the future of the plant with the unions and the RSU for around four months.

These talks are continuing, but according to local media reports the company has told the unions that the current set-up is not sustainable. However, there is room for constructive dialogue, since a presence needs to be retained for service and products support, including field service and repairs of LiftAce machines.

Terex took on a difficult situation in Italy when it acquired the Fantuzzi Noell businesses in 2009. Industry sources in the country say that it did not succeed in addressing the problems, partly due to insufficient volumes, but also due to management errors. The problems were then inherited by Konecranes.

One Italian source said that moving reach stacker production out of Italy in 2013 and consolidating it in Montceau-les-Mines was a big mistake. Many customers of the Italian product were dissatisfied with the move and did not switch their allegiance to the less sophisticated French designs, but looked elsewhere. "Terex then tried to rectify things by consolidating all booms and spreaders back in Brescello, but it was not enough," he said.

It is rumoured that Kalmar, Konecranes and Manitex (which at the time owned CVS Ferrari) were approached by Terex to buy the Brescello plant, but nobody wanted to take it on. Terex instead acquired the IPR and references for terminal and ro-ro tractors from CVS in an attempt to boost activity in Brescello.

The LiftAce heavy lift trucks are the only remaining organically Italian machines owned by Konecranes with the original Fantuzzi "gene." 

When Konecranes took over Terex MHPS, local media in France reported that it undertook to retain the Montceau Les Mines payroll of 220 for one year. Terex had in fact reduced the workforce in 2015. Terex transferred production of the Demag mobile cranes built there to Germany, while production of self-erecting tower cranes was transferred back to Italy (Fontanafredda).

The French plant is building some Terex PPM AT cranes for the African market as a subcontractor to Terex. This one-year agreement runs out at the end of this year (unless it is renewed), but production is limited anyway and does not involve many of the jobs.

In any event, Konecranes is serious about the LiftAce marque. Konecranes Lift Trucks has announced from the Swedish plant in Markaryd that it has appointed Johan Bjerstedt as Global Sales Manager for the Konecranes Liftace line of products. Up to now Mr. Bjerstedt has been involved in sales with the Konecranes SMV product line.

Since acquiring Terex MHPS, the statement goes on, "the lift trucks business unit has two product families: Konecranes SMV, described as 'a range of premium products that are smarter where it matters;' and Konecranes Liftace, described as 'a range of value-based, robust lift trucks that are highly appreciated for the ease of maintenance.' "

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