Cranes on the factory floor

17 September 2019


Industry needs lifting power for many regular lifting, maintenance, and one-off tasks. Julian Champkin finds spiders, minis, crawlers, and others are all used in the role.

Overhead cranes are part of many manufacturing factories and plants; so too are process cranes. But factories need other types of lifting power. There are machines to be moved for repair or replacement; there are raw materials to be moved from outdoor yard storage areas to inside the factory, and there are finished products to be moved in the opposite direction. And there are always the one-off tasks that are just waiting for the time, opportunity and equipment to do them.

These are the realms of the factory crane. The basic idea is that such a crane moves around the factory, under its own power, on four wheels or on crawler tracks, doing whatever needs to be done, picking and carrying as required.

Within that envelope various basic designs compete. In rough order of capacity they range from compact spider and mini cranes via small crawler-mounted telebooms or knucklebooms that will fit through an ordinary doorway to larger machines that will pass through a wide and high factory doorway. These latter include yard or carry-deck cranes, a transatlantic speciality less used in Europe but with advantages that make one wonder why not. Mobile gantries are bigger still. Other solutions are the tractor crane—an almost solely Indian product—and articulated-chassis cranes, which, again for no obvious reason, are a preferred solution in Australia and New Zealand and little used elsewhere.

"What you want from an industrial crane is small size, good manoeuvrability and large capacity," says Andy Crane, sales executive for Kranlyft, importers and master distributors of Maeda Mini cranes. Factories are frequently cramped and crowded environments, and colliding with other machines, walls or people is clearly a bad idea.

Maeda offers spider cranes mounted on tracked carriers with outriggers as one option. Maeda’s new MC285CWM-E-3 now has fully variable outriggers that allow the crane to be set up and operated in very tight spaces.

For indoor use, an electric power option is generally preferred. Most Maeda spider cranes come diesel powered as standard with an optional electric power pack that runs of a three-phase supply, the new MC285CWM-E-3 now has a removable power pack that reduces the size and weight of the crane for transportation he says.

All Maeda cranes are equipped with telescopic booms. The MK1033 is unique in Maeda’s range in that it is a knuckleboom narrow aisle crane. Other popular options for Maeda include searcher hooks with capacities from 300KG to 2000KG on the new CC1908, this is a fixed hook on the end of the boom that allows the operator to lift loads into areas with restricted head room. Fly jibs are also an option on the MC405CRM-E-3 and MC815, the MC815 fly jib has a fully hydraulic luffing and extending fly that gives it a serious up and over ability, says Crane.

These two models also have the ability to pick and carry with a load, perfect for moving loads around a factory or machinery removal. The MC405CRM-E-3 can travel with 500KG and the MC815 can travel with 1000KG, this crane can also be driven via the HBC radio remote control giving the operator a perfect view of the load.

But Maeda offer another solution. Crawlers, Crane says, could be a preferred option, more suited to moving around a factory. “In my opinion the benefits of crawlers are massive. Their working footprint is much smaller, it can be the width of the tracks, there is near zero tail swing and the pick and carry capabilities are much greater. Maeda have three crawlers in their range just now, the prototype of a fourth was premiered at Bauma and is due out next year.”

The CC423 is the smallest crawler, at 2930KG capacity and 9.46m lifting height. The working footprint is 2125mm long, the optional blade adds 380mm. The width is 1740mm, that footprint is tiny compared to spider cranes and it can pick and carry 1465kg.

Next up is the 4900kg CC985 and the largest in the present range is the 6000kg capacity CC1485, both can pick and carry 2000kg and a CC985 has recently been fitted with an optional remote-control system.

The new model out next year, is the CC1908. The maximum capacity is 8100kg, with a lifting height of 20.1m on the main boom extending to 26.0m with the optional hydraulic extending and luffing fly jib. It can pick and carry a massive 3500kg.

“I think crawlers are overlooked in a lot of cases,” Crane says, “They are so versatile; they are used for a lot of applications that you would not immediately think of and the pick and carry ability is really good. The new CC1908 has an EU stage V compliant engine and is fully equipped with airconditioned cabin with new 10 inch programable moment limiter, slew limitation and 360-degree surround view camera system, perfect for working in restricted areas.”

Daniel Ezzatvar, marketing manager of spider- and mini-crane specialists GGR says: “Spider cranes in confined factory areas can get to places that other cranes cannot reach unless you take the roof off. But generally they cannot pick and carry. For that, we have a range of products, such as our new GF30 wheeled teleboom. It is pedestrian-operated, 3t capacity, with full radio control, and the idea is you can have lots of different attachments for the end of the boom. So it can have a hook for pick-andcarry, and a forklift if you want for palletised movements as well as crane-type. You can get both of these from the same machine. Typically, buyers want versatility—a machine that will do more different things for the same investment.

“Industrial lifting is an interesting area,” he says. “It is not just a case of a machine in a building. The sector can stretch to waterways and rail, and to anything that is in an industrial setting, indoors or out. There is a lot more to it than warehouses and production lines. Common features are confined spaces and sometimesheavy payloads. The work can be carrying components, assembling components, or disassembling them. De-commissioning work is often the more complex.

“Our machines range from the smallest walk-behind to the Galizia GF250 which has a cab and is driven by an operator on board. It is a wheeled pick and carry that can shift and place loads up to 25t and place them up to 10.8m, or 14.2m with the searcher hook.

"These are material handling machines, not simply cranes. If you are in a warehouse you will want something that can be a forklift, and a telehandler, and a pick-and-carry crane; with different attachments the same machine can function as all three of them. And of course it will have non-marking tyres and be very compact. Our competition may be forklifts and telehandlers but we can give the best of both those worlds. With something like our GK20, which was featured at Vertikal Days this year, you get versatility, which is everything in this application.” The GK20 is tracked, with 2t capacity at 0.45m radius, and working radius of 3.45m. The G20 is wheeled, with similar or slightly greater capacities.

“They are battery-powered, for zero emissions. That makes them attractive for working outside as well, in low-emission zones such as London and other inner cities. We see them in general construction and in environmentally-sensitive sites such as grain silos, food processing and hospitals.”

Italy seems to specialise in minicranes. JMG have been making small electric pick-and-carry cranes for factory applications since the company was founded in 2007, making walk-behinds, remotecontrolled, and cabined versions. Next year the company is expanding into a new plant in Cremona. The ability of a mini-crane to position itself very close to the load and dropping point means, they say, that it can replace heavier-lifting machines. Their current offerings are battery powered, therefore noiseless with zero emissions. The new MC 80.06 is compact, with a short boom that can be equipped with forks, for carrying under low headroom, as well as a hook, and a wheelbase that is extendable. The normal capacity is 3t; when the wheelbase is extended that rises to 4t.

Extendable outriggers feature as well on the company’s new MC 405S and MC 180S, which have front compass-type outriggers for heavier jobs. Capacities are 20t and 12t respectively.

Also in Italy, Ormig has recently introduced a new range of electric pick-and-carry cranes for lifting and handling in internal places and in industrial activity. Again, a design priority has been small dimensions, low weight, and high manoevreability. The cranes have capacities from 5.5t to 60t, some with the specific designation ‘INDOORS’ for work in restricted spaces inside the factory.

They are wheeled, on rubber tyres; nevertheless the design allows the cranes to rotate on the spot, on their own axis, thanks to a patented system which avoids tyres having to slide and keeps them always in firm contact with the ground. There are several options of hydraulic and mechanical fly-jibs, and the remote control display allows checking of all the crane’s functions.

The flagship of fellow Italian manufacturer Jekko’s mini range, the SPX424, comes with diesel engine or with lithium-ion batteries and with a single-phase or threephase external power pack for cable operation indoors. Three different jib configurations are available: an 800kg hydraulic fly-jib, a mechanical fly-jib, or a searcher hook. It can be fitted with low-marking white tracks for indoor operation. Outrigger positions are detected automatically (a very compact outrigger position is possible) and tool detection is automatic. The working radius is 11.9m and the capacity is 2.4t.

Palfinger offers crawlers and knucklebooms combined—or, if you prefer, in two pieces. “As an overview of the market, the feeling around crawler cranes is that we saw in the past there was a potential market for knucklebooms that were mounted on crawler chassis” says Thomas Schlader, head of sales, crawler cranes. “The realisation came to us a few years ago because some of our dealers were building such machines, as one-offs for clients, using Palfinger knucklebooms and custom-mounting them as individual solutions for clients who were asking for them.

“Being customised, these were being built in small numbers, but when we investigated we saw that there was indeed a demand, and that it was increasing, so we started our own design process. But we wanted not just a cut-and-paste solution but something that would differentiate us from the competition. So as well as manoeuvrability and ease of access in small spaces, we designed in modularity and flexibility of the system as a unique selling point. Many factories need a jack-of-all trades crane, for whatever tasks may arise around the plant; and that was primarily in our minds.

“The special thing about our design is that the knuckleboom and the crawler can be detached from each other and used separately.”

Thus the end user can attach a power pack to the crane module and temporarily mount it onto a truck if he wants to, to use as an unloading crane or even on an inner-city construction site among narrow alleys.

In the factory setting, for access to really tight spaces and low head-rooms, the crane module can be taken off the crawler unit and, by moving each outrigger in turn, can move into the factory space on its own. In effect it ‘walks’ on its outriggers. Palfinger calls the process ‘shifting.’ The crane can still be hydraulically connected to the crawler to power it, and in this way can pass through entrances less than 2.15m high. It can also be powered by a separate cable e-power pack taking 15kw at 32A at 400V.

The crawlers give it also an allterrain mobility outdoors; but indoors the crane can rotate on the crawler unit for sensitive movements in tight spaces.

Palfinger’s first crawler-mounted knuckleboom, the PCC 115.002, was introduced at IAA at Hanover in 2018; the PCC 57.002 followed at Bauma this year. The PCC 71.002 was developed meanwhile. The 22t capacity PCC 71.002 model and the 30t PCC 115.002 share a chassis; the more compact PCC 57.002, at 18.2t capacity, has a smaller chassis for more restricted spaces. All three, says Schlader, are in equal demand, the PCC 57.002 more for indoor applications.

“The knuckleboom geometry gives huge flexibility, for reaching over machinery and obstacles,” he says. “The outer boom can be angled at 15° above horizontal, and the optional fly-jib at 25°, so that can give negative angles if you need them.”

All models are remote controlled: the Palfinger Palcom P7 System allows the whole machine to be controlled remotely, but also has a separate smaller remote for the crawler module alone.

Another electric knuckleboom for industrial use is from Hüffermann, who claim to be the first company in Germany to have presented this type. Intended for specialist technical installations, it was their response to the market need for electrical mobility, being emissions-free and with low noise levels.

They have just introduced their new Type III crane, described as particularly powerful, with 34 meter tonne capacity and traversing drive torque of 2000Nm. Since it has up to ten traversing modes (including diagonal, turning on the spot, and four-wheel steering) they also point to its ability to move in confined spaces. Aviation and the automotive industry, says Hüffermann, are particularly requesting the crane. The first Type III has been sent to a BMW facility in Greer, South Carolina.

An all-American solution is the carry-deck crane; a usually telescopic boom on a wheeled chassis, with the driver on board and, as the defining characteristic, a flat deck at the front of the chassis on which the crane deposits the load for transporting it before lifting it off at its destination. Ormig also make them, for the European market, but their spiritual home is trans-Atlantic. Ed Hisrich is vice president of sales at Broderson Industrial Cranes, who have been making carry-decks since 1973. Again, access is one key criterion.

“The design is based on manoeuvrability in tight spaces” he says. “So you have four-wheel steering options, and a small formfactor for moving in tight aisles and under overhead electric runs. And the crane slews on the chassis, rather than the whole chassis turning as in many designs used in Europe.” The operator is in a fixed cab on board, rather than accompanying on foot as in mini-cranes.

Flexibility is the other key in the design. “You can think of the carrydeck as a cross-over machine,” he says. “A contractor with a repair or replacement job in the factory can load up his tools on the deck with everything else he needs for the job like valves or other spare parts, drive the machine into the plant, use the crane on the lifting part of the task, then load the old equipment onto it and drive back out. It is a logistical machine rather than simply a straight lift-and-carry one.

“Carry-decks are fairly widely used in the US industrial market. Refineries, petroleum, auto, aluminium refineries, steel mills – these applications are typical. Capacities range from 2.5USt to 25USt; most popular are those in the middle, the 9-15USt capacities.”

They tend to be diesel powered; Broderson offers a dual-fuel option with propane for enclosed spaces, and with outdoor capabilities as well. “The nice thing is that from our 4USt capacity upwards there is four-wheeldrive availability for off-road use. They can come on pneumatic tyres for outdoors or solid for inside; that is another reason why you see the wide crossover of applications.”

They are, he says, an economical option. “The cabs are static. They don’t rotate, and that gives a lower price than swing-cab alternatives.”

Manitowoc are also in the market with their Shuttlelift Carrydeck line. Briette Baxter is their product manager for the sector.

“Demand varies with the economy, but overall, it is a mature market that is well understood” she says. “Carry-decks are easy to operate—no exceptional training is required—and popular; they are well-used and well understood. The front platform is definitely a benefit. They are compact machines, great for confined spaces, and transporting components; a small machine that can go to work in so many ways.”

“We offer 9, 15, 20 and 25USt machines. All four have been repowered with new engines, and the Shuttlelift SCDO9 and SCD15 have been redesigned as well. We released these last year. The market is asking for the 15t models more than the others.” As with Broderson, dual-fuel, with LPG (propane) is offered as an option for indoor use.

“Steel and manufacturing facilities are customers. As a matter of fact we use one in our own manufacturing plant. They are great for car plants, shipyards, a lot of milling applications: the list is endless.”

It is refreshing to see a sector where no one design dominates. A thousand flowers blooming leaves room for engineering imagination. It may also mean that there is yet another potential solution out there, just waiting to be thought of, that will be so perfect when it appears that it will blow all the others away.

A Hüfferman factory knuckleboom, based on a Palfinger PK 53 crane, provided an emissions-free and low noise way to replace turbines at this aviation facility. The crane can lift 10t at 4.2m and 2.5t at 16m. At its maximum reach of 29m, with jib, it can still lift 600kg.
A Maeda CC4235, distributed in Europe by Kranlyft
A Galizia GF250 was one of two electrically powered cranes used by Dufour for a typical industrial task, to move a cylindrical container at a factory complex near Dunkirk. The job was in the open air; but several banks of overhead piping gave limited clearance and the tank had to be tilted from its original vertical to a near-horizontal position to pass beneath them. A 130t mobile crane did the preliminary lift and tilt; two 25t capacity Galizia electric cranes performed the carry, with the tank slung between them. “Without the two electric cranes it would not have been possible to drive with the load and to pass under the racks of pipes,” says Florent Mercier, head of heavy crane projects for the Dufour group.
At the other end of the capacity scale, a compact tracked Galizia GK20 from GGR at work. The crane can lift 2t at 0.45m, and has a maximum working radius of 3.45m.
The sleek design and low headroom of a remotecontrolled JMG MC 180S.
A Jekko SPX424 from JT Cranes, equally at home on construction sites as it is in factories.
A Jekko SPX424 from JT Cranes, equally at home on construction sites as it is in factories.
One of Palfinger's new line of PCC crawler-mounted knuckleboom cranes at work.
Manitowoc Grove's Shuttlelift line of carrydeck cranes are designed for ease of operation and flexibility, with capacities ranging from 9USt to 25USt.
Harrington Hoists' new HTBP fits on a fork truck to lift and carry loads via a telescopic pivot boom, equipped with a locking pin which allows the user to select multiple hook positions. Available in a variety of configurations, the system lifts up to 8,000lb when minimally extended to 6ft, or up to 3,100lb at a maximum boom length of 12ft.
An Ormig electric pick-and-carry crane at work.