Almost every European and American mobile crane manufacturer of any note had its beginnings building industrial mobile or ‘yard’ cranes of one variety or another. Time was when there were well in excess of 100 producers.

It will surprise some to know that even today there are around 40 manufacturers of hydraulic telescopic boom pick-and-carry cranes but in contrast with former times, its an industry where the manufacturers are largely-concentrated in just two countries – Italy and the U.S.

In Europe the likes of Coles, Jones, Demag, Liebherr and Krupp have long since left the sector; some for good, others for ‘more exciting’ larger cranes with longer booms. For the Italians such ‘distractions’ have come and gone and now the remaining players are being rewarded as new technologies are re-igniting the sector.

As the post-war building boom created a huge demand for cranes to handle big and bulky loads in ports, factories and yards, the response by crane manufacturers differed from company-tocompany and country-to-country. Long-established leading makers of rubber-tyred lattice boom mobile cranes—like Coles and Jones—had a field day, especially in the ports. However, in the US where crawlermounted cranes dominated, the thought of changing to a wheeled chassis, for most proved a step too far.

For relative newcomers to the crane business there were no such mental blocks. In Germany the likes of Liebherr, Krupp, Demag and Miag quickly realized that most applications could be met without the ‘fuss’ of a lattice boom – a fixed box or short tele boom would do the job. Across Europe, it took other ‘upstarts’ like the dozens of Italian manufacturers and the likes of the UK’s Iron Fairy and Taylors to lead the way to hydraulics.

As massive as the materials handling needs were in North America, small rubber-tyred mobile cranes didn’t really make much of an impact. In all probability this was down to the all-pervading forklift truck with the likes of Hyster, Clark, Yale and Towmoter (Cat) developing such as huge business that it squeezed out alternate solutions. This despite the fact that the US pioneered small pick-and-carry cranes. As far back as the 1920s the likes of Hughes-Keenan Company started building its ‘Roustabout’ yard crane and in 1944 Link-Belt Speeder had built its first yard crane, the 10-ton CC.10 selling many hundreds to the US Navy. Then in 1955 the brilliant Ed Drott designed his first ‘Go Devil’ carrydeck crane and John Grove built the 5-ton capacity 5YTC telescopic boom yard crane.

Today there’s a huge gulf between the industrial yard cranes built in Europe and the US. Although the carrydecks of Grove/Shuttlelift and Broderson have grown to as big as 25USt (22t) capacity and can be equipped with booms of around 70ft (21m), in most respects they look little different from Dean Broderson’s IC-70 Yard Runner or John Grove’s Industrial 24 – both built 46-years ago. Certainly the latest Grove and Broderson carrydecks are solid, reliable ‘workhorses’ and no doubt that’s what many traditional buyers are looking for, but technically little has changed.

Still a glimmer of light shone on the sector at ConExpo 2017 courtesy of a young start-up company named ‘Zee Crane’. Fontana, California-based, ‘Zee’ boldly extolled their green credentials presenting brand new 9,000lb and 18,000lb (4 and 8.1t) capacity battery-electric carry deck mobile cranes displayed in dazzling pea green colours. The company did something worthwhile that the big traditional suppliers have avoided – emissionfree battery-electric power. It may be a coincidence but Fontana, California was once the home to another crane industry pioneer – one Gerald L. Greer.


For dazzling engineering innovation as well as the occasional ‘off-thewall’ concept, the only place to visit is an Italian machinery show. Walking around the last GIS show in Piacenza in October 2019, I was approached by a good friend of mine currently involved in the sales of US carrydecks. Like many Americans visiting Italian trade shows for the first time, he was baffled both by the conceptual diversity and high-tech quality of Italy’s industrial mobile cranes.

It took me back to my first Samoter in Verona in 1977 where my dealer, Movimat, was introducing another of John Grove’s innovations – the JLG Lift – and where I was mystified by the articulated quadrilateral mechanism supporting the tele boom of a 12t capacity Ormig model 120i pick-and-carry crane according to the patent of Ormig founder Guido Testore. As unusual as that invention appeared to me, Ormig sold over 1,000 of that model alone.

The US and Italian crane industries share similar timelines, and both are known for innovative engineering leaders, many of whom emerged in the post-war era. Antonio Valla started his business in 1945 while Guido Testore began Ormig in 1949 and Alberto Rigo his (regrettably now defunct) company in 1954. While by far Valla has built many more thousands of battery-electric mobile cranes than any other manufacturer – they built their first V-Kart 18E 50-years ago, Ormig is a relative newcomer having introduced their first in 1997 in the form of the 9t capacity 9tmE. Today virtually all Valla cranes sold are battery electric – as are over 50% of Ormigs.

In 1997, Valla introduced their first battery-powered carrydeck, notably to the Californian market. The 10t capacity 1725-22SE was developed by John E. Valla, son of the founder. Last year, the owners of one of these cranes Tara Bolinder mines in County Meath, Ireland returned their 4x4x4 crane to Valla with an impressive list of requested further developments. Unusually they wanted a shorter boom for the crane to work in tight underground conditions, plus a fire suppression system, three-position outriggers, a three-position tilting boom head, virtual wall, automatic lube system and radio remote control.

By far Italy is Europe’s largest market for pick-and-carry mobile cranes and during the last 10+ years the vast majority have been electric. Considering the relative size of the Italian economy this fact begs the question, why? Well structurally the Italian market is quite unique and different from other European markets. Whereas conventional crane hirers are the dominant new crane buyers in every other major European country this is not the case in Italy. Certainly there are conventional crane hirers such as Vernazza, who have some pick-and-carry cranes in their mixed crane fleets, but the vast majority of these cranes are owned by specialist transport/ logistics companies of which Italy has many hundreds. Their work is primarily in the installation, removal and transport of machine tools and heavy/bulky fabrications including tanks, barrels and vessels.

Italy’s ‘Autotrasporti’ companies are indeed a phenomenon. Amongst the larger of these are MB based in Modena, Carpin Autogru based in Scorze (VE) north of Venice, Autotrasporti Giolo based in Pegolotto ndi Cona (VI) and Santoro Autogru e Trasporti Eccezionale based in Casale Monferrato (AL).

Certainly Italy’s important machinery manufacturing industries, long coast lines and strategic location contribute to a healthy logistics industry but it remains something of a mystery how the country can support such a huge number of transport and handling companies. The fleet of pick-and-carry cranes that support these generally-heavy transport fleets dwarfs those of all other European nations. And, given the growing volume of new cranes being purchased, it’s an industry either in rude health or dangerously over-equipped.

In addition to serving growing domestic demand, leading Italian mobile crane makers are finding a ready appetite amongst many of the Europe’s leading crane hirers. JMG, for example, has taken France by storm with companies like Ets Lavenir recently acquiring eight JMGs up to the novel knuckle-boom based MC 5000 RE. Meanwhile Mediaco, ADEKMA, Cochez, Jean Boutique and Lafont have joined the growing ranks of leading crane rental companies that have rediscovered the industrial mobile crane – Italian electric style.

Another Italian pick and carry crane manufacturer is Galizia, best known for its smaller cranes, particularly the 2t capacity G20. Galizia has steadily developed its range of electric pick-and-carry cranes and most recently succeeded in placing a 55t GF 550 with Autotrasporte Arrighetti based in Buscale (MI). Fleshing-out its GF series of front drive, electric cranes Galizia seems set on going head to head across the board with Valla, Ormig and JMG. Meanwhile in the UK, GGR Group recently succeeded in placing a G20 as well as a 15t G150 with Lifting Projects UK. When Manitex acquired Valla in 2013 the firm was based in an old facility in Calendasco but it didn’t take Manitex long to decide to move production the 28km down the road to its very modern plant in Roveleto, then primarily occupied with building CVS Reach Stackers. Up until the acquisition, the company had returned to the management of the Valla family after general manager Maurizio Manzini and others including technical director Emilio Berti had quit in 2007. Then in February 2017, Manitex sold the CVS business and Valla had to move home once again. Fortunately Manitex soon located a facility just 10km distant at Cortemaggiore, allowing the company to retain its experienced workforce.

When Steve Filipov chose to join his long-term friend Dave Langevin, chairman of Manitex in August 2019 and become CEO, one of his new charges—Manitex- Valla—came with quite a bit of ‘baggage’. Fortunately, after several years of relative inactivity on the new product front, the company had recently launched a well-design battery-electric, remote controlled small crane, which became the 8t capacity Valla V80R. Breaking with tradition, unlike the old V-Kart Vallas this was front wheel drive and rear wheel steer. The new crane also benefitted from a vehicle width of a mere 1.4m, a hydraulically extendable chassis for increased lift capacity, a 10° negative boom angle and the option of a 3t capacity hydraulically offsetable jib. Another capacity-enhancing feature is a hydraulically-actuated front stabilizing plate and if required for road haulage or other benefits. With similar 11t and a 3.6t sister cranes in the pipeline, the company had the basis for the commencement of a new chapter in its long history.

That chapter received the welcome support of Valla’s long-term UK-based distributor Hird as well as Manitex’s Crane & Machinery Inc. distributor in Chicago. Most recently a welcome acknowledgement of these positive developments came in the shape of a large $2.2m order for some 30 of the new series from Colle Rental & Sales, the leading European equipment company headquartered in Rotterdam.

Meanwile Maurizio Manzini created JMG, what has fast become Italy’s leading electric mobile crane manufacturer. In the space of little over 12 years, the company has developed a complete line of some 29 models of up to 70t capacity and established itself as the undisputed market leader with annual sales topping €20m. In 2013 the company opened a 6,000 sqm manufacturing plant in Sarmato (Piacenza) and followed in 2016 with the acquisition of the electric mobile crane technology of the 70-year-old Milanese company Lige, adding four models of 4 to 12t capacity. With a team of approximately 100, last year the company opened a new 16,000 sqm headquarters operation in Cremona. The highly-impressive Cremona facility houses all sales, service, R&D and corporate operations and includes a large exhibition and entertainment facility.

There can be no doubt that the pace and quantity of JMG’s new product development must have shaken a normally conservative and slow-moving industry to its very roots. Indeed the comparisons between what Maurizio Manzini and not-too-distant neighbour Riccardo Magni have achieved are inescapable. Both are archetypal Italian entrepreneurs with a burning passion for their products that makes them irresistible salesmen.

With his long personal experience of Valla, it appears that from the outset Manzini decided to differentiate his products. While practical application benefits were probably the real motivation, by making his cranes front wheel drive in contrast to Valla’s traditional read wheel drive-steer he achieved both ends.

JMG recently replaced its popular 6t capacity MC 60S with the 7t MC 70S and introduced another innovative machine, the 70t capacity MC 700. The MC 700 has twin side-by-side tele booms which, says JMG, by having twin slinging points avoids the low headroom problem with long slings. The nearest similar product with twin booms was Ormig’s M 60 Reach Stacker. Introduced in 1982, its creator, Guido Testore, described his patented design as ‘the first and only one in the world’ equipped with two booms. The M-60 seems to have sold and performed pretty well. JMG is also making increased use of S 900 steel – a factor that wouldn’t be news to makers of all terrain cranes. However traditionally these pick-andcarry makers have erred on the conservative side, often choosing to employ lower grade, moreforgiving steels. There’s also some logic given the fact that the booms of these cranes are relatively short and somewhat-increased machine and boom weight is not always seen as a serious disadvantage.

Heading the list of other mainstream new products from JMG is the 10t capacity MC 100 ‘Hybrid’. This is JMG’s first hybrid crane and features an on-board diesel generator, which charges the batteries while operating. The system allows the crane to operate for a full four-hours without stopping. It has a threesection full-power proportionallytelescoping boom with optional telescopic hydraulically offsetable jib affording up to 10m hook height. At only 1.845m width and 1.97m clearance height, overall length is also compact at just 4.455m. Performance features also include front wheel drive with counter-rotation and rear wheel steer providing an extremely tight turning radius. Naturally non-marking tyres are an option.

JMG has also enhanced the performance capabilities of its 16t capacity MC 160S with the introduction of an optional lightweight jib. This four-section tele jib increases not only working radius but also maximum lift height. As usual it is hydraulically-luffable and the entire machine can be controlled from the in-cab joysticks or remote controller.

Since those container-handling days, Ormig has, of course, returned to its roots in the pickand- carry crane business and during the last twenty-plus years have transitioned from mostlydiesel to mostly battery-electric powered cranes. Very large-sized solid-rubber tyred models have been eye-catching displays at recent Bauma and GIS shows but most interestingly also appeared at ConExpo 2020. There, Ormig 50/55TMs appeared in the colours of Phoenix, Arizona-based Baker Rigging alongside a similar unit purchased by Jim Taylor’s long-established crane and rigging company headquartered in Coffeyville, Kansas and for use at Taylor’s Tulsa Terminal. Unsurprisingly both cranes were of the diesel-powered versions and wearing standard pneumatic tires.

In Europe, however, it’s the electric Ormig 55/60iE that has been winning customers. In Germany Bonen-based Lutter Spedition GmbH recently added the 60-tonner to a fleet that already included a 10t Ormig 10tmE, while further south in Bietigheim-Bissingen, crane rental company Wiesbauer added a 55/60iE to an industry crane fleet that includes two other electric Ormig models – the 30t 30i and 10t 10tmE. In addition to proving popular with many of Italy’s Autotrasporti companies, a 55/60iE was also recently added to the 15 crane hire fleet of Transports Bourgeois based in Velesmes-Essert.


Another highly-specialised element of the Italian market relates to the stone and marble quarrying and processing industries. Located northwest of Florence bordering Italy’s west coast, the Carraro Mountains produce over $1.1bn of marble/year – the most of any location on earth.

While most of Italy’s pick-andcarry crane makers seek to win some of this lucrative business, two manufacturers in particular focus on this: Omar Crane based in the coastal town of Carrara itself and Sard based in Massa. In fact the manufacturing plants of these two direct competitors are located just 2.5km apart. Omar Crane was established in 1968 by Romano Ribolini after some twenty years working in the heavy industry. Today his son Daniele is technical director.

Omar Crane produces a line of seven models spanning from the 10t capacity S10EVO to the 70t capacity S70EVO. These machines are built to a high quality standard and are offered with a choice of FPT, Kohler and Deutz diesels or high capacity battery electric motor. Standard features include Danfoss control valves and options of remote control, central greasing system, Cobo Rated Capacity Limiter. A choice of pneumatic, solid rubber and non-marking ‘Antitrace’ tyres is offered and a 360° camera as well as the Bluepoint LED warning light system are options. A variety of short and long hydraulically-luffing jibs as well as a fork carriage is offered.

While a wire rope winch is available most cranes employ a fixed hook and the negative boom and jib manipulation for load handling. This is particularly useful for loading and unloading the often very valuable marble materials inside the low height restrictions of shipping containers. The bestselling models are in the 12-to-16t classes. To facilitate international shipment of these cranes inside freight containers, these cranes feature with very compact dimensions of approximately 2.7-to-3m clearance height, 2.3m width and under 6m length over the lowered boom. All are front wheel drive and rear wheel steer.

Omar Crane enjoys a particularly strong international market primarily focussed on the Middle East and North African markets. Domestically these cranes are sold to Italy’s large kitchen worktop and vanity producing and retailing sector as well as to ports and harbours for general duties as well as leisure boat handling.

Sard is another family company with a long history. The grandfather of the current manager, Alberto Ori started the business in 1967.

The current Sard product line consists of just four models of 5t to 15t capacity. Of particular interest is the small 5t capacity diesel dieselpowered D50. One of the smallest ride-on pick-and-carry cranes, the D50 measures under 4m length x 1.85m closed height and 1.59m width with a weight of 4.5t.

Sard’s latest model is the battery electric E-Aton of 12t capacity. With a working weight of 12t the machine has a closed length of 5.1m, 2.16m width and 2.2m height. It is offered with either hydraulic or manual boom extension and the option of a 3.5t capacity hydraulic fly jib that is very useful for stuffing containers. As usual forks for pallet or bundle handling are offered.

One of the larger crane and service providers based in Carrara is Manfredi & Bocchi, which was founded more than 30 years ago by Gianmarco Manfredi. Today the Bocchi Autogru division provides a large and diverse equipment fleet including several Ormig pick-and carry cranes up to the models 45tm and 60tm.

These large 45t and 60t capacity cranes are widely used for handling particularly large slabs of marble, sometimes requiring tandem lifts. For inspection and working on the cave walls, Bocchi operates a large Effer model 1750 mounted on an Iveco 8×6 truck. For maximum reach and height Bocchi chose the Effer equipped with the longest eight-section boom + six section jib topped with a heavy duty work platform for maximum high-level access to heights of over 40m.