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The Jewel in the Crown

How Gulf-based KBW Investments is taking Italy’s Raimondi Cranes to new heights

It was on the eve of the last ConExpo that it was announced that Raimondi Cranes had been acquired by Prince KBW Investments, a company founded and chaired by the California-born Saudi prince HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal.

The acquisition of the Italian crane-maker came at a turbulent period for the Italian construction equipment and automotive industries as it was seemingly being picked off by a series of circling investors. Concrete specialist Cifa had been purchased by Zoomlion in 2008 and Dressta fell to fellow Chinese giant LiuGong in 2012. By the time KBW Investments picked up Raimondi in 2014, it felt like the country’s manufacturing base was being stripped away.

Fast-forward three years and it is clear that, in the case of Raimondi Cranes, the slide into KBW’s swollen and highly diverse portfolio has signalled a new beginning. It goes to ConExpo with a renewed sense of purpose and vigour to take on the US market. But it is also surging forwards in other markets where it had previously stalled and, unsurprisingly given KBW’s standing in the region, the Middle East and North Africa is a stand-out destination.

Domenico Ciano, technical director, Raimondi Cranes

“Raimondi Cranes was officially launched as a ‘direct’ entity in the MENA region after the KBW Investments acquisition,” explains technical director, Eng. Domenico Ciano of the Legnano, Milan-based company. “That being said, Raimondi products, especially our range of tower cranes, were already at work in the region long before the acquisition. The main change post-acquisition was that Raimondi’s Middle East main headquarters in Dubai functions as a client-direct office, not in an agent or third party capacity. Dealing with Raimondi in the Middle East is the same as dealing directly with Raimondi’s global headquarters in Italy.”

Ciano performs dual roles as an executive and as the head of Raimondi’s technical team. He is responsible for all R&D and all technical aspects at the heritage manufacturer. He tells CBNME, that the company will focus on reconnecting with its North American customers at the event.

“It’s less about raising our profile, and more about getting back in touch with our North American client base and reintroducing the brand itself. Formerly, Raimondi Cranes had a decent market share in North America – we weren’t the biggest player by far but we did have solid repeat clientele and market interest. The company went through some significant shifts, and during that period we weren’t attending to the US and Canada the way we probably should have,” he explains. “Now that we’ve gained so much ground in Europe and the Middle East, it’s time to re-engage North America.

He adds that the past two years in the Australian market have also been been truly “phenomenal” with its two agents there clearing benchmark after benchmark.

“This success, in a competitive and hyper-driven Western market, has helped to shape our strategy for countries like Canada and the United States.”

Raimondi has opted out of showcasing its cranes at ConExpo. It is a move Ciano explains that will enable executives from the technical and after sales care teams to be onsite and communicate with potential clients and forge fresh relationships. He adds that this is a deliberate switch in strategy from last year.

“At JDLMED 2016, ANKOMAK 2016 and at BAUMA 2016, we did showcase cranes as those markets – respectively France, Turkey, and Germany – as the main players there already know Raimondi’s executives on a one-to-one basis. North America, being a very nascent market for us, perhaps needs more to connect with our people, some of whom have been with the company for more than two decades,” he says. “It’s our priority to convey to the construction industries of Canada and the US – our people think of the client first, and that our quality and heritage of craftsmanship will be an investment that pays for itself. Raimondi’s history of durability, productivity, and a precision is what we want the North American construction companies to learn about us.”

According to Ciano, one of KBW Investments’ early moves post-acquisition was to make significant investment into R&D which alleviated the pressure on the technical team.

“With the newly allocated resources, they could now explore technological alternatives and bring on key team members that would inject fresh perspectives into product development,” he says. “It allowed them to become imaginative and innovative, and to take their time finding new solutions that best served the construction market’s needs. From a business standpoint, it has been fantastic as it has allowed for a renewed confidence in Raimondi’s production capabilities and even encouraged a lot of bespoke requests that we were both excited and happy to meet.”

KBW has been highly involved some hugely prestigious projects in the Middle East while it has continued to strengthen the construction arm of its portfolio, including acquiring a 50% stake in Arcadia Engineering. Its Saudi Prince owner considers Raimondi as a jewel in the portfolio and in turn his Italian crane-maker is able to move onto projects it may have otherwise missed out on.

“Certainly, KBW’s ongoing work and large-scale projects across the Middle East have already provided new opportunities for Raimondi Cranes. Just recently, Klampfer Middle East, a KBW company founded jointly with Basma Group and Klampfer GmbH of Austria, contracted a Raimondi MRT152 erection in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates,” says Ciano. “The MRT152 is scheduled to be onsite for the duration of 24 months, and as part of a highly-publicized worksite we’re proud to have a Raimondi model so prominently featured. As a ‘parent’ company, KBW looks to continue to support and grow Group ventures through cross-portfolio engagement, so whenever and wherever there is a suitable fit you can expect to see Raimondi involved.”

He adds: “KBW Investments is currently involved in two separate infrastructure projects, and we would readily present best-fit alternatives from the Raimondi Cranes range for both projects. We are open to all opportunities where our models can add value and surpass client expectations, and infrastructure is a big part of overall construction.”

Client support, he emphasises, is something that Raimondi Cranes takes very seriously.

“This is the standard for every client, not just those that are part of the KBW Investments portfolio. There is literally no job that is prioritised in terms of client servicing – be it one crane or ten cranes, we present every Raimondi customer with every available support mechanism. One of the highlights of working with a Raimondi crane is that we make our experts secconded and on-call for clients, and this can be from everything to technical aspects to things like heavy machinery administrative tasks like import paperwork assistance.

“We are committed to client servicing, and that means from inception stage onward should the customer request our involvement, input and assistance. Some of the jobsites that Raimondi can be found on are heritage projects, meaning that the worksites themselves are extremely delicate. One such example is positioning of a Raimondi luffing LR60 crane at Great Scotland Yard placed by our official British agent Bennetts Cranes Limited. As you can imagine, it’s a very densely built-up zone – there is literally no margin for error as each building is a heritage site in itself. Raimondi prides itself on listening to the client’s requirements, and then helping to propose and develop the most seamless alternatives to best realize all stakeholder objectives.”

Last year, saw the company launch a new luffing crane, the Raimondi LR213, and a new topless crane, the Raimondi MRT159, together with the Raimondi Deluxe R16 Crane Cabin. While Ciano and Raimondi will not be scaling any cranes at ConExpo, he says that the company is continuing a role out of new technology.

“We have a very busy year ahead. We’re putting into action the needs of various markets that we previously communicated about in Q3 2016,” he says. “In our scope for 2017 is plans for a new luffing crane and a flat-top tower crane targeted at the North American market. These two new models, as well as some European-targeted easy-mount machines are part of this year’s strategy. We’ll be communicating more about these models as our plans come to fruition.”

In the Middle East Raimondi will be focused on presenting two new Raimondi models, a new luffing and a new topless cranes. He tells CBNME that Middle East has demonstrated a clear preference for its MRT294 topless crane with the two newest models following closely behind, the MRT159 and the LR213: “The 40t-plus range is in progress, and that will also broaden our scope in terms of addressing client needs.”

How cranes can projects on plan and on budget

“The productivity of a worksite together with optimal safety are two keys to a successfully-executed project. Cranes, as a cornerstone of the construction industry, are basically one of the top decision points on how smooth and how quickly things will go. You often find that your investment in a quality European crane pays for itself – for example, a crane idling onsite while a part is sourced is basically one way to veer your project off-budget very quickly. Investing in reliable and intelligently-designed heavy lifting machinery is one of the best ways to proactively ensure that you’ve done everything in your control to keep projects on-plan and on-budget.”

How advances in cabin design also aid safety and productivity

“Crane cabin designs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. One of the least employed tactics in cabin design is one of the biggest potential pitfalls, in my opinion,” says Eng. Domenico Ciano. “Namely, forgetting to check with the crane operators on what exactly it is that they need to best execute the work at hand in the safest possible manner.

“During our BAUMA 2016 exhibition, a crane operator actually came in and told us how excellent our new design was because it addressed one of the key issues onsite: visibility. We positioned the R16 at ground level so crane operators could freely enter the cabin and get a hands-on feel for it. Back during our R&D stage for the Raimondi Deluxe R16 Crane Cabin, we spent hour after hour with crane operators.

“All of the operator feedback was taken into consideration when we developed and iterated the new cabin design. Some R16 features that have earned Raimondi very positive operator feedback: more than 80% of the total area is glass including underfoot and the actual cabin door, and the specially-formulated two-toned windshield glass reducing glare and reflection while preserving extreme visibility.”