Improve your fleet’s leverage

20 May 2010

The growth of crawler cranes to deal with increasingly larger jobs hasn’t been restricted to bigger superstructures, with attachments also on the rise. David Pittman reports

As wind turbines have reached new heights, and new weights, to meet with growing international demand for sustainable energy, so the equipment used to install them has grown.

Cranes Today has written extensively on the range of crawler cranes on the market to handle such jobs, and the difficulties that have to be overcome lifting such large loads on often challenging jobsites. Terex’s CC 2800-1, Liebherr’s LR 1600/2 and Manitowoc’s Model 16000 are just three examples of the machines now available.

Alongside these cranes have come a number of attachments and lift enhancements designed to allow end users to maximise the potential of their cranes and lift bigger loads.

Manitowoc’s new attachment for its Model 16000 crawler crane is one example, designed to give the machine enhanced lift ability when working at short radii.

The Manitowoc Model 16000 wind attachment is a combination of existing and new boom components, Manitowoc says. It fits to any 400t-rated standard Manitowoc Model 16000, and lifting duties at shorter radii are the most improved, according to Manitowoc, where the crane has a capacity advantage of 49% compared with a standard Model 16000. In addition, the wind attachment configuration outlifts the standard boom and Manitowoc’s extended upper boom point combination throughout the chart. This allows it to install wind turbines on towers between 80-85m in height.

Kobelco presented a new variant of its 550t capacity SL6000 at Bauma in April, which featured a new 18m heavy-duty fixed fly jib for lifting wind turbine nacelles on to wind tower turbines 80-120m tall.

Kobelco says the SL6000 heavy-duty fixed fly jib is able to carry out small and precise movements, making it suitable for operation among wind turbines. Plus, the company says, ‘if a customer already has SL6000 luffing jib attachments, only a few additional components are what they need for the heavy fixed jib’.

Guntram Jakobs, Terex’s product marketing manager for crawler cranes, highlights his company’s S7 boom kit for its CC 2800-1 crawler as one example of the attachments it offers customers. This attachment reinforces the strength of the main boom and allows additional lifting capacity in steep boom positions. Jakobs adds Terex’s Superlift mast with suspension increases the stability of a crane and allows customers to achieve extra reach and capacity.

The special boom kits have been developed in response to demand from the wind sector, Jakobs says.

However, demand hasn’t solely come from the wind power sector, with other energy projects having their own extra reach and capacity requirements. Jakobs says the Superlift mast attachment has been developed for “all applications where extra reach is required”.

Kobelco has announced a range of custom build attachments for its CKE2500-2 crawler crane as a result of demand from its customers for special adaptations in various applications, such as marine environments and petrochemical plants. These include a special fixed jib, capable of lifting 42t at

86.4m hook height and at 15m radius, using 61m of boom, a 27.4m special fixed jib and a 70t capacity hook block; a 24t capacity auxiliary sheave mounted on top of the special fixed jib; and a self- assembly system, with a mast-mounted hydraulic lift cylinder for assembly of crawlers, the car body and rear counterweights.

Jos Verhulst, sales and marketing manager of Kobelco Cranes Europe, says: “By consulting Kobelco customers around the world and working through their special requests, Kobelco Engineering has come up with this highly flexible programme of options which enable cranes to be tailor-made for special applications, all from a standard basic list of special options, and without incurring the penalty costs and delays of unique ‘one-off specials’.”

Mantis Cranes offers a number of performance enhancing attachments for its telescopic boom crawler cranes.

These include boom extensions and a boom jib with 15° and 30° offsets. It also offers a range of additional attachments for a host of applications for its machines.

“One thing that Tadano Mantis Corporation has always done is special options to suit market or customer need,” says Ed Hisrich, vice president, North American Sales, Tadano Mantis. “We have done clamshell and grapple systems, high flow tool circuits to power continuous flight auger systems and vibratory hammers, lugs and hydraulics for a spotter system, and many other customer- and market-driven options.”

Versatility is the name of the game for both manufacturers and suppliers of attachments.

“We develop attachments to add versatility to the machine and enhance what end users get from their products,” says Mike Wood, global product manager for Manitowoc crawler cranes.

“Increased versatility allows customers to get more work done. It enables a rental company to put in a base unit, such as a 888, and add to it.”

“We aim to maximise lifting capacities while offering best-in-class transportability so that our customers can benefit from a maximum return on investment,” says Jakobs.

“Attachments increase the business opportunities for our customers and help them get the job done. Financial costs vary depending on crane size and the equipment needed for a job. For our customers, these attachments are a tool to run their business and to achieve the best return on investment.”

“For customers, attachments are good because it means they can get more done,” says William O’Rourke, vice president, sales and account management, Essex Crane Rental Corp. “For owners, they do increase the availability of crawler cranes. It helps us leverage our fleet.

“Before luffing jibs, the only real option was to get a bigger crane.”

Versatility has also taken the form of modularity. This has enabled attachments to be used across a range of models, offering increased operational flexibility for rental firms and end users.

“Manufacturers are putting a lot more design into their components,” says O’Rourke. “With Liebherr, for example, we can invest in luffing jibs and use them around the US on our LR 1200s as needed. But our sales team can also go out and offer them to customers on LR 1300s.”

Wood underlines the financial benefit of being able to use a single attachment across a range of products.

“For end users that means there is less material sat in the yard and more opportunity to generate revenue. Manitowoc calls it asset management.”

Wood adds that manufacturers not offering customers cranes that allow attachments are missing out on sales. “I would quantify attachments by saying that not offering them gives you less ability to sell equipment. There is a demand for equipment that allows you to offer additional benefits.

“It’s a must for manufacturers and if you don’t have it, you need to get it.”

Sany says the cost of a crane equipped with Superlift is 20% lower than a model without it, decreasing the cost to the user and increasing the crane’s utilisation potential.

Liebherr’s Wolfgang Beringer says customers can make crane investments work for them by utilising attachments properly. “Customers who buy crawler cranes for universal applications just have to add a few costs for some special boom sections, but they have a really good return on investment,” he says. “Other customers buy exactly the crane configuration for their special project, which reduces the initial costs. After finishing the project, the crane configuration can be extended to universal systems for a broader range of applications.”

However, O’Rourke says it is important to recognise the asset value of attachments. “We quite literally treat attachments as a serial numbered product. If a customer wants a luffing jib attachment on a Manitowoc 2250 we treat it is a separate order.

“That way we can track the utilisation rate of our attachments.”

This, O’Rourke says, is an issue he sees for smaller, regional rental firms, who do not fully recognise the asset value of their attachments.

He says companies often over specify cranes when purchasing them, taking all the optional attachments available with one eye on possible work that they could be used for. However, when customers say they need to add extra reach capacity, the attachment is often provided without increasing the rental rate.

“From my experience as a salesman, cranes aren’t cheap. As pieces of construction machinery they are at the top end of the scale. Smaller, regional players can lose sight of the capital investment of attachments.

“For us, looking at it on a national basis, we treat them as separate entities. We take the basic crane rental rate and then add the attachment. We and the manufacturers know that they are valuable products and have a value and their own rental rate.”

Close encounters
As the market opportunities for attachments grow, so manufacturers will continue to develop the supplementary tools on offer to make getting the job done easier and faster.

The Model 16000 wind attachment was developed in order to take advantage of that model’s acceptance into the wind industry marketplace, and increase the utilisation potential of the crane, according to Wood. “Once a tool is in the marketplace, you can start to develop it to maximise its potential.”

More importantly, Wood says, a close relationship with customers is central to the development of attachments, as they have to be factored in from the early design stage of the base unit. By talking to customers, Manitowoc, and other manufacturers, can make sure that they know what their customers’ future expectations for their cranes are.

“The design challenge of attachments is that you have to make sure you know where you want to go when building the base machine,” says Wood.

“That’s why we talk to so many customers. It is an essential part of the development of any new product. Everything Manitowoc develops is driven by the voice of the customer.”

Liebherr is also working closely with its customers to make sure its new products are tailored to their needs. “We are in close contact to our customers and listen to their needs,” says Beringer.

Sany says it will continue to research and develop its Superlift set in order to meet its clients various demands, while Kobelco will ‘improve the variety of attachments for future trends such as wind power generation, and create innovative super-large-sized crawler cranes well-matched to customers’ requirements’, it says.

“We will develop new and innovative booms, jibs and systems in the future,” says Terex’s Jakobs. “Terex Cranes is continuously developing new products and attachments for the benefits of its customers.”

Rental firms are reciprocating these attachment advances. Essex, for instance, is looking to grow its portfolio of attachments.

“We like to let the market lead and tell us what it needs,” says O’Rourke. “We also work with OEMs to take ideas to them, as we are in the marketplace and know what the market is looking for. We can work both ways.”

How a Manitowoc Model 16000 works with the wind attachment How a Manitowoc Model 16000 works with the wind attachment
Manitowoc's Model 16000 wind attachment Manitowoc's Model 16000 wind attachment
A computer-generated image of a Kobelco SL6000 crawler crane A computer-generated image of a Kobelco SL6000 crawler crane