A wide ranging issue

3 October 2019

This month, we cover the industry about as widely as we could: at one end of the capacity scale, our regular correspondent Stuart Anderson takes a deep dive into the small telecrawler sector; on the other, feature writer Julian Champkin, visits the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, where he saw one of the world's biggest cranes at work.

Stuart's piece follows one by Julian last month on industrial lifting. Julian looked at a range of different equipment used in factories, including minicranes. Stuart, this month, goes a slight step up from these cranes, looking instead at swing cab machines. These aren't always much bigger than the walk-behind machines, but offer some distinct benefits. It looks, by the range of models Stuart has covered, to be a segment with strong potential.

At the other end of the scale, is the nuclear sector. The characteristic here is size and reach. As Julian reports, it was Neil Lampson's development of the Transi-Lift, with its high reach and capacity, that helped shape the industry and allow for the modern 'over-the-top' method of reactor construction: building the reactor's containment first, using big, heavy, highly engineered pre-cast concrete segments, and then reaching over the roof to place the reactor itself.

Lampson has continued, building larger and larger versions of the Transi-Lift, and is today working on the US's one current nuclear construction project in Waynesboro. At the same time, other companies have developed their own huge lifting devices suitable for these jobs. One of the most recent, and possibly the world's biggest, is Sarens' new crane, the SGC 250, which Julian saw at work.

I think these two articles demonstrate something important about the industry. Whether you're using a 5t telecrawler, or a 5,000t purpose-built giant crane, you're benefiting from highly engineered machines, optimised for the task it will perform.

A lot of that innovation and engineering excellence is the work of a few engineers. One of the most significant of those innovators was Hans Liebherr, who fifty years ago set up a new factory for his business in rural Ehingen. I visited the plant, which now builds all of the company's ATs, RTs, and crawlers over 300t. Liebherr's range is well known for its technological excellence. But, I think, Hans Liebherr's most important insight wasn't a technical one but an organisational one. By committing to investment in the community around his factory, bringing young people into the company, and offering long-term skilled careers, he secured the most important asset any business can have: a loyal, expert workforce.

Commitment and skill is as important in the journalism trade as it is in lifting. One of most qualified and dedicated journalists I've worked with has been Sotiris Kanaris, who has, for the last three years, been assistant editor on the title. I'm glad to say that now, he will be stepping up to become editor of Cranes Today. He'll be taking on responsibility for the monthly workflow on each issue, and will increasingly be the 'face' of the magazine. I'll not be going far—I remain as group editor, for Cranes and our other lifting magazine, Hoist—but Sotiris will now be taking on a much bigger role. I'm confident he's the right person to do that.