A rare business partnership makes machine operators safer
How Manitou Italy and Gefran worked together to build smarter equipment
In the construction, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors, there are stringent regulations and compliance protocols around machinery design and usage. Ultimately, these rules are in place to keep workers safe, regardless of the job they are doing and the equipment in use. Manitou Group manufactures forklifts, cherry pickers, telehandlers, and other heavy equipment used by these industries, and its subsidiary, Manitou Italy, was looking for robust sensors and components to ensure the safety and reliability of the equipment they made.
The multinational Manitou Group is publicly traded on the Paris Stock Exchange, employs 5,000 people, and in 2022, capitalized over €2.4 billion ($2.62B USD) between 140 countries. Over the last 60 years, Manitou Italy establish itself as a market leader with a wide range of products, including telehandlers, forklift trucks, aerial work platforms, and other warehousing equipment, as well as a wide range of interchangeable attachments, including grippers, buckets, and winches. Manitou Italy also offers equipment customization services and has supported specific customer needs for mining, defence, and aeronautical applications.
The EN 1459 safety standard applies to self-propelled trucks operated by a seated rider and has variable reach to handle loads of all kinds using specific attachments, and when this standard was updated in 2020, Manitou Italy was looking for sensors for their telehandlers to control lifting systems, stabilizing devices, and starters that are best suited to meet these detailed safety requirements. That’s when the company turned to Gefran, a manufacturer of sensors, controls, and automation systems.
“Manitou is known for exceptional machine performance, user comfort, lower cost of operation, and reduced environmental impact,” said Manitou purchasing manager, Alessandro Tonini. “In our industry, operator safety and machine reliability and versatility are of paramount importance. Our customers expect safe and technologically advanced equipment. We needed precise sensors that allowed machines to automatically switch themselves off or stop operating in case of danger. Gefran makes exceptional sensors that could meet our needs.”
Manitou Italy worked with Gefran’s sales team to determine which products would be most beneficial for these applications. The GSH, a contactless wire linear position transducer in the Hall effect, was selected for crane arm and aerial work platform extensions, as well as stabilizing equipment legs. The GSH is compact, with a dimension of only 6.4 cm. Manitou Italy also wanted the KH pressure transducer for controlling and monitoring applications. The KH is equipped with advanced SMD and SiL2-certified electronics that can accurately measure pressure in hydraulic circuits. They also selected the GIB inclinometer, certified with IP67 protection and MEMS technology. The GIB protects the cab driver in the cab by preventing overturns.
Tonini continued, “The reasons behind this multi-year partnership are related to three essential factors. First, we see Gefran as a one-stop supplier. In addition to providing all the sensors we needed – a wire stabilizer, sensors for pressure and position, and inclinometers – Gefran delivers on time, and with fewer suppliers to work with, operations are simplified. Second, Gefran excels in technological expertise, which creates synergies for our internal engineering departments. Gefran engineers support us in co-designing innovative and custom solutions quickly. Third, Gefran is a quality partner, always thinking about continuous improvement. It makes the company a satisfying collaborator.”
Gefran invests heavily in research and development (R&D). The company hires highly specialized engineers, designers, and software developers, who work in close partnership with customers. Over 90 people, or 14 percent of Gefran workers are dedicated to R&D, and every employee average 33 hours of continuing education, per year. On average, six percent of Gefran’s annual revenue is reinvested into R&D.
“Gefran and Manitou Italy share a common goal, which is to put customers at the center of every decision. That leads to innovation and safer applications,” shared Renzo Privitera, Gefran’s sales director for sensors and components in Italy. “Gefran offers Manitou Italy a wider range of high-performing products, is a reliable supplier, and supports their development and production teams.”