Fortune: Equipment maker Sany’s “bold” ambitions for U.S. market rub some the wrong way

Updated Jun 19, 2013
Sany SCC8500 crawler craneSany SCC8500 crawler crane

In its comparatively young 23-year history, Chinese equipment manufacturer Sany has quickly climbed the global sales ranking ladder to the no. 5 spot, according to a new report from Fortune citing KHL Group’s Yellow Table.

Most notable was its growth during the recession as the Chinese government spent hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure projects. The projects created demand for Sany machines and the company saw its revenues grow from $2.2 billion in 2008 to nearly $8 billion in 2012.

But as the company made clear in a January Wall Street Journal profile, it has its sight set on even loftier goals—namely breaking into the top 3 in global sales and eventually overtaking no. 1 Caterpillar. Again, these are lofty goals. By comparison, Caterpillar took in $66 billion last year.

And even though Sany has bested Caterpillar in China (though Cat isn’t content to allow that to keep happening) in excavator sales, the company is being forced to look to the U.S. to keep its momentum going. The construction boom is slowing in China and its beginning to pick back up again here.

To accomplish its goal here, one move Sany made was luring iconic crane engineer John Lanning away from Manitowoc where he spent 24 years making that company the leader in crawler cranes. After the hire, Sany did a bit of bragging too, hanging a giant inflatable poster at ConExpo/ConAgg in 2011 picturing Lanning and the words “Quality changes the world.”

Manitowoc executives didn’t appreciate the display, Fortune reports. And so, Manitowoc lawyers served Lanning papers for a lawsuit—at the show. The lawsuit against Lanning alleges “he broke a two-year noncompete agreement and went on a mission to poach Manitowoc employees, calling them, meeting them, and giving Sany’s recruiters a list of names and phone numbers of key candidates.”

Neither company commented on the suit to Fortune.

Meanwhile, Sany hopes its ambition results in more activity at its U.S. headquarters in Peachtree City, Georgia. The company has built a sleek, modern facility there but currently only employs 150 workers, hoping to grow to around 400. Fortune described a quiet scene at the HQ , reporting that only a few hundred Sany excavators built at the facility have been sold so far.

As Fortune notes, the keys to Sany’s success will be building a dealer network to distribute its equipment and developing the skill and technlogy to manufacture its own components, which it currently buys from Kawasaki and Bosch Rexroth.

Read the full Fortune profile here.