Franc Jost says that he has been saving up his best ideas for himself. After 37 years designing tower cranes, he has branched out on his own, set up Jost Cranes GmbH in Germany to design and manufacture tower cranes. Only now is he bringing to life those ideas that he had previously kept to himself, Jost says.

He is not exactly alone, actually. Financial backing has been provided by a significant Malaysian investor that has interests ranging from oil to the motor industry. And he is further supported by the sales and marketing efforts of the former BKT team in Malaysia. But it is Jost who is the front man.

Given the hard time that well established tower crane manufacturers are having with a slow world market, it is a brave move by Jost. If the venture succeeds, it will be down to Jost’s reputation and engineering ability, combined with Malaysian money and contacts.

Franc Jost has designed about 45 different crane models for Peiner, Noell, BKT (these cranes can now be seen in Potain’s fleet) and Comedil. He is best known for his flat top tower crane designs, produced after he left Peiner to start with BKT in January 1986. BKT was working exclusively for Peiner and Noell until 1990 when Jost designed a flat top crane bearing the BKT name. The first model had a 50m hook height, and was rated at 80tm. In the first year four BKT units were built, followed by 12 in 1991 and then 35 in the following year.

Next stop was designing cranes for Italian tower crane manufacturer Comedil, now owned by Terex. There, Jost says, he was not completely free to design from a blank sheet of paper, as he would have liked, because existing Comedil elements had to be accommodated in his designs.

Models designed by Jost and still available from the various manufacturers include: Terex-Peiner CTT and TT Topless series from model CTT 141 to TT 561; Terex-Comedil CTT Topless series from model CTT 71 to TT 561; and Potain (BKT) MDT Topless series from model MDT 50 to MDT 302, and the Potain (BKT) MR luffing series.

The Malaysian connection

Jost Cranes GmbH was three years in planning before its formation in July 2000 with Franc Jost as director. Company capital is put at $40m, overheads are small and there is good control over prices, the company claims.

Other directors are Benjamin Looi, who is managing director, and Peter Foo, the sales director. They are based in Malaysia and both previously sold BKT cranes. They started the BKT agency for the Malaysia region and sold 56 units in the two years from August 1995 to 1997 before the Asian market, and as a result BKT itself, both collapsed. That initial success, they feel, can be recaptured with Jost Cranes.

The first crane was seen in iron at the Bauma exhibition in April, although only just. The first Jost crane, a flat top 300tm model, was completed just one week before the show. Focus of the range is on models rated at 300tm and above, but it starts with an 8t maximum capacity, 25m jib flat top. There are also luffing jib models.

Jost claims the biggest advantage of his new tower crane design is simple and safe erection with easy access for maintenance. He is protective of certain elements of his design, to the point of secrecy, including the jib pin connection and parts for erection. The tower connection is new, there is a new undercarriage chassis design and there is also a new and larger operator cabin. Specifications for the Asian market are for basic models as customers there do not want complicated systems with electronic controls, Jost says, whereas in Europe electronically-controlled frequency converter drives are usually specified. Jost will tailor cranes to suit the market.

The modular approach allows many permutations of tower and jib. To simplify the calculation of component combinations, Jost has produced the Modular Calculator for Topless Cranes. Rather like a wide slide rule in appearance (for those readers old enough to remember slide rules), Jost’s calculator can be used as a guide to determine the parts required, for example to configure the jib, according to customers’ requirements of jib length, maximum load, tip load, etc.

Sales of the new cranes include four floating units, to a shipyard in Singapore docks, to be pontoon-mounted in August. Shipbuilding is a special application, so the cranes are not standard but they are based on the JL 243-16 luffing jib model.

Four 300tm units have been sold to a customer in Malaysia. The JT 300 has a maximum load of 16t and and lifts 2.5t at the end of a 75m jib. Two more JT 300s have been sold to dealer Buildmart in Singapore and all cranes on order as at the middle of June were to be delivered by August.

Marketing and distribution

Most of the sales effort for Jost cranes is being put into Asia. A couple of dealers there, already in the crane business, are being lined up. There are plenty of available crane dealers around at the moment, Benjamin Looi says. BKT and Peiner dealers, for example, were freed up with the acquisitions of those two companies by Potain and Terex respectively. A wide choice of dealers means a selection can be made to choose the best, Jost says.

During the price war that resulted from the Asian downturn in the late 1990s, Chinese cranes were popular but opportunities are now returning for other tower crane manufacturers, Looi says. Demand is for larger tower cranes as the prefabricated concrete elements for apartment blocks are getting larger and heavier. Enquiries are now coming in for units with 75m or 80m jibs in ratings between 400tm and 600tm, Jost says.

There are 5,000 cranes registered with the Malaysian equivalent of OSHA, according to Looi. A further boost to sales could come from a proposed maximum lifetime rule.

At present cranes in Malaysia need certification after 15 years but guidelines are being drafted for a 15 year maximum life. Cranes work much longer hours in Asia than in Europe, according to Jost – up to 12 hours a day compared with four or five hours in Europe – so durability is an important factor. To help with this Jost has chosen the best components, he says, including Flender gearboxes, Casar wire rope, slew rings from Hoesch-Rothe Erde and Telemecanique controls.

Steelwork is fabricated in Slovenia by Metalna, but a factory is being built in Malaysia and is scheduled to begin production next year. Negotiations are in progress with other potential manufacturing partners, in India, Australia and Latin America, Peter Foo says. An incentive to manufacture in Malaysia is that the company has so-called ‘pioneer’ status and so gets a five-year tax holiday. Jost does not actually employ manufacturing workers but it does have quality control engineers, as this is a requirement of TÜV certification. Reduced manufacturing costs are possible as the modular tower crane concept needs fewer jigs to be made and stored for production.

There is a production programme for this year in which 30 units are projected. Deliveries of mechanical components are the biggest obstacle to delivery schedules, Jost says.


The company has plans to enter the US market but it is not exhibiting at Conexpo 2002 in Las Vegas next March.

Next models from the Jost stable are to be self-erecting cranes, both trailer- and truck-mounted, to be launched in the middle of next year. In Malaysia the self-erector is to become an important market, Jost believes, because they are better in confined spaces than mobile cranes. These cranes will have hydraulic erection, be mounted on a 24m tower with 32m jib, and an erection time of only seven minutes is claimed. Luffing the jib to 32° will add 17m to the tip height.

Mid 2002 should also see the launch of the universal topless luffing crane, if the company meets its plans, and a range of port cranes, ranging from 250tm to 2,400tm are at R& D stage.