Cranes and names

5 August 2021

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Peter Eiler, Rudolf Becker, Helmut Blasé, Heinz Heyer, Dieter Jurgens... Have you ever heard of these people? The answer is ‘probably not’; and it is a pity. They are, or were, engineers of great skill, perhaps genius; and in his article on page 21 Stuart Anderson explains what it was exactly that they did and achieved. Spoiler alert: all these people and more contributed hugely to the development and improvement of the hundred-tonne all-terrain crane to make it the hugely-useful lifting and carrying tool that it is today.

Most of us will know of Liebherr, Demag and the rest as companies that have led the advances in all-terrains. But companies are made up of people. Most of our modern word has been created by engineers; and we recognise very few of their names.

There are exceptions. Ask who first connected London and Bristol with a broad-gauge railway during the great Victorian age of expansion. You could answer ‘The Great Western Railway Company’; or, more likely, you could answer ‘Brunel.’ Both answers would be true. Without the company, the 150-odd miles of cutting, embankments and bridges – and the engines and carriages that ran on them - would never have been built; and if the company had not employed Isambard Kingdom Brunel they would have been built, if at all, to a much lesser standard of engineering excellence.

But Brunel is an outlier. In Britain at least, few other engineers are household names.

Liebherr, Demag and the rest are great engineering companies and their contributions should be acknowledged; but perhaps one of the signs of a great engineering company is that it spots great engineers, employs them, and gives them rein to carry out their imaginative and far-seeing solutions. There are doubtless many profitable companies who have never performed anything original in the whole of their existence; copying existing and proven designs is much easier than thinking of improved versions of your own. In tower cranes, in crawlers, in mini- and spider cranes there are doubtless engineers who have contributed as much to their development as Eiler, Becker and the others have done for all-terrains. They are, for the most part, anonymous and unknown. It is a pity as well as an injustice. Innovative companies should be given credit in the history books and in the public consciousness; and so should the engineers whose skills and passions have made their achievements possible.

On the subject of giving credit to individuals for their work and achievements, this is the moment to give recognition and thanks to Sotiris Kanaris, who has been Editor of this magazine for the past twelve months and deputy editor for many years before that. Many in the crane industry will have worked with him on articles and news stories; and as a writer on this magazine I can say that his professionalism and unfailing patience and courtesy have made it a pleasure to work with him. He is now leaving Cranes Today to go on to higher things. I am editing this issue as a caretaker, and a new editor will be appointed for the September issue.

Julian Champkin, Acting Editor