Lewis Equipment Introduces Another Chinese Crane Line to the North American Market

Citing product availability, engineering excellence and flexibility as the biggest factors in taking on another line of mobile construction cranes, Lewis Equipment, Dallas, Texas, announced it has become the exclusive North American distributor for the Zoomlion line of mobile construction cranes manufactured in China. The other factor, according to Kevin Messenger, general manager, is the relationship the company has built with its Chinese suppliers.

“That they don't have the backlog of orders other manufacturers do is the critical piece,” said Messenger, whose company is also a distributor of the China-made SunCrane line of tower cranes. “But it's all about relationships at the end of the day. Nothing happens overnight, but through the relationship with Sun and in visiting manufacturers over there, it's one of those things that evolved over time, meeting and talking about their ability to produce.”

Company President Kyle Lewis said the relationship with Zoomlion has been under development for more than 15 months. “In fact the Chinese manufacturer sent 12 engineers to Lewis' offices in Dallas as part of a planning strategy to ensure the equipment designed for North America is world-class,” Lewis said.

Zoomlion makes a variety of cranes. Its truck cranes range in capacity from 25 to 130 tons; ATs run from 100 to 300 tons; and crawlers range from 50- to 600-ton capacities. Lewis Equipment has purchased an undisclosed number of truck, all-terrain and crawler cranes. Messenger said the company produces “a nice-looking piece of equipment.” Production time on larger cranes is currently about six to eight months, but the factory can kick out smaller cranes in approximately 90 days, he said.

Lewis has one Zoomlion machine in its Houston, Texas, yard, and at press time was awaiting the arrival of a couple more. Lewis will be receiving the units on a regular basis over the next year until all machines have been delivered. Some will be placed in the distributor's rental fleet. “It's a wonderful way to show what the product can do,” said Messenger.

“We also have some customers who are actually ordering them for sale,” Messenger added. “The buzz is just starting to hit, so we may end up having to sell some that might have gone into our rental fleet, depending on the circumstances.”

Zoomlion has a history as a Chinese supplier. The company has been manufacturing truck cranes since 1972 in China. Over the last three years, they've expanded distribution to cover five continents in more than 30 countries.

“They've made a relatively new entrance into the global marketplace,” said Messenger, adding that that's the reason the manufacturer is able to cut its production lead time to half that of the industry's average. “Other manufacturers have a lead time almost double,” he said.

In 2005, Lewis introduced the modular-style SunCrane tower crane into the United States and offers six models in capacities ranging from 4 to 32 tons. They've been well-received in the North American market, according to Messenger, and are operating across the United States as rental machines. “On the Dallas skyline you can see a couple, as well as in Houston and Austin,” he said. “It's been really exciting to be able to introduce them into the market.”

Lewis also recently purchased acreage in Grand Prairie, and plans to move its offices just down the street from its current headquarters. Messenger attributes the move to growth the company has experienced over the past few years. “Unfortunately it's a moving target, but I'd say we'll be in new offices within six months.”