Adapt to succeed

23 April 2024


All terrain cranes are typically sold with only minor variations: a counterweight package that fits local regulations, for example. But at other times, customers need a more tailored solution. Will North reports

Occasionally fast-food chains will win themselves a moment of social media excitement with ‘secret’ menu items, available only to customers in-the-know. Manitowoc appears to have its own semisecret menu item on offer but this one is a lot more exciting than a Dorito-crumbed chicken nugget.

The US-owned manufacturer’s Grove all terrain line currently tops out at a nominal capacity of 450t, offered on the seven-axle GMK7550. Below this sits the GMK6400, with a 400t capacity and 60m main boom, and the GMK6300-L1, with only 300t capacity but a giant 80m boom, both on six axles.

What you won’t find on Grove’s all terrain listing page, but will find new in at least four crane fleets, is the GMK 6450-1. The first buyer of this crane was SAE Italia, based in Piacenza, Italy. The company worked with Manitowoc’s specialist engineers in its Lift Solutions business to modify a GMK6400-1. The new crane adds a further 50t nominal capacity to the base model and retains its 60m main boom and 136m maximum tip height.

The crane was supplied with the boom strengthening MegaWingLift attachment and MAXbase variable outrigger positioning system, through local dealer FIMI, and has been at work since October 2022. SAE Italia general manager Michele Albamonte says it was busy right away. “We received many bookings for the new crane as soon as customers heard about it. It has been working on a variety of demanding tasks.” These include maintenance work at the thermoelectric plant run by renewable energy giant A2A; a onemonth maintenance programme at a refinery in Sicily; and a roof installation at a school in Bologna.

Next to announce a purchase of the GMK 6450-1 was Schuch Heavylift, part of the Schuch Group, based in south west Germany. Schuch’s 450-tonner came as part of an eight crane order, announced in April 2023, which also included two GMK3060L-1s, one GMK5150XL, and four GMK5250XL-1s. The engineers at Lift Solutions customised this model further, allowing the boom to be removed to keep the 450t six axle crane within 10t per axle load limits. Manitowoc explains that to optimise driving without a boom a second suspension circuit was installed on the unique MegaDrive system, which adapts the chassis to the different axle loads.

In September 2023 another German company, Hamburg’s Gustav Seeland, received its own unit of the 450-tonner – the first six-axle crane in its fleet. Like Schuch it has chosen to have the crane customised further to allow for the boom to be removed. Managing director Johann Evers said, “We’ve already seen very strong interest in the new crane.”

And, in November, the first sale of a GMK 6450-1 announced outside Europe took place, with Bridgetown, Barbados-based Crane & Equipment taking delivery of the crane. The company will use it on energy and infrastructure jobs on the Caribbean island. “We are very excited to add such an impressive crane to our fleet. We have built a reputation of providing top-of-the-line equipment to our customers in Barbados, and this new Grove will help us reinforce the highest standards of our services,” said James Bradshaw, owner of Crane & Equipment.

DIGITAL UPGRADE

Manitowoc hasn’t announced the GMK 6450-1 as a production model, and emphasises its custom design. Liebherr’s latest upgrade has been well publicised, and is destined to be used across its range. LICCON3 is the third generation of the German manufacturer's crane control system. It was announced at Bauma, in October 2022, where the first two models to be offered with the system — the LTM 1110- 5.2 and LTM 1100-5.3 — made their debut.

The LTM 1110-5.1 had been launched at the previous Bauma, lifting 110t and with a 60m boom and 91m tip height. The crane featured: Hill Start Aid, Liebherr’s technology for driving off smoothly on gradients; VarioBase Plus, which offers improved capacity over the cranes rear; EcoMode, for efficient fuel use during lifting; and EcoDrive, for better fuel use on the road. The new, upgraded LTM 1110-5.2 has the same key features, but adds LICCON3 control, and a new cab (first shown in prototype in 2019). The first LTM 1110-5.2 was sold to Riga Mainz, and Emerson Crane Hire in the UK took delivery of its unit just before Christmas 2022.

Liebherr has focussed on easy roading for this 100t crane, allowing it to operate as a taxi crane with ballast on board both in those EU countries with lower axle limits, and in the US, where states’ and municipalities’ patchwork road regulations have traditionally made truck cranes dominant over all terrains in many fleets.

At the same time, Liebherr says, even owners in markets without the strictest axle load limits have requested more flexibility on loading, to ease obtaining licences and permits, particularly when these involve driving over bridges and in inner cities.

With 1,760 lb (0.8t) of ballast, the crane reaches a total weight of 94,800 lb (44t) with axle loads of 19,840 lb (9t). With 9,700 lb (4.4t) of ballast, it can travel with 22,050lb (10t) of axle load and a total weight of 105,800 lb (48t). With an axle load of 26,450 lb (12t), the new can carry up to 37,250lb (16.9t) of counterweights. At 75 percent of the maximum ballast of 49,600lb (22.5t), this is, Liebherr says, a new record for mobile cranes worldwide. This allows the new LTM 1100-5.3 to perform most of its jobs as a taxi crane without additional ballast transport.

Even with maximum ballast, the axle loads of 29,760 lb (13.5 t) are low and evenly distributed across all axles. The new LTM 1100-5.3 has a narrow width of 2.55m. It is the first five-axle mobile crane worldwide based on this narrow design.

The new LTM 1100-5.3 offers operators in California a particularly big advantage: it is the first and, so far, the only five-axle all-terrain crane to receive Caltrans approval. This means that it is road-legal in the normal driving condition, with the telescopic boom over the front. Operation with a dolly is not necessary. This, Liebherr says, will allow the crane to compete with truck cranes, which remain popular in the US.

As well as the roadability of this model, the other key new feature of both cranes is the LICCON3 control system. Liebherr’s use of programmable control systems dates back to the 1980s. The first models to use electronic rated capacity indicators used third party systems. Liebherr introduced its first in-house system, LICCON, shortly after. This system came out at the same time that the first PCs were reaching the homes of tinkerers and early adopters. It was programmable, in a way that previous systems hadn’t been. These had relied on punch cards, with each configuration of each crane requiring its own cards. Some big crawlers came with 24 cards, and this presented logistical challenges. The first LICCON system, launched at Bauma in 1989, trimmed down the total number of cards used across Liebherr’s range to 20, from over 100, and set the groundwork for electronically programmable systems.

LICCON2 came out in 2007. This built on developments in the industry that saw much more use of standard components across crane ranges.

The big selling point for operators was a bluetooth remote control, which could be used during setup, giving the operator a clear, safe, view of the work. The system also enabled the development of systems like VarioBase, which allow the crane to make the most of its lifting capacity, as determined by outrigger position and slewing angle.

LICCON3 takes advantage of newly available processing power and data connectivity. This introduces new benefits for fleet owners. We might simplify the history of the LICCON systems by saying that the first made routine operation easier for operators. LICCON2 added new features for setup, a much clearer colour display, and enabled optimal working on non-routine jobs: those where a crane could not easily be set up with all outriggers fully extended.

LICCON3 will make possible detailed tracking of crane utilisation and fuel use. This will provide more evidence to owners to guide their crane sales and purchases, and allow them to report accurately on carbon emissions. For many project owners on big sites this will be key to keeping their Net Zero commitments. Its increased power will allow further optimisation of systems like VarioBase. This might not be a key concern for 100t taxi cranes, but will be vital for the largest and most highly configurable all terrains and crawlers, where any hypothetical paper load chart already runs to novel length, if not that of a multivolume encyclopaedia.

And it prepares the sector for tele-operation. In certain sectors, such as offshore construction and forestry, this is already a standard way of working. Liebherr — and other manufacturers — have already developed remote operation for cranes working on hazardous sites, most famously at Chernobyl. But as a skills shortage impacts the industry, systems like this could be used to allow routine jobs to be controlled on site, with experienced operators taking on the toughest lifts across multiple cranes, from the office.

THE DAISY AGE

One of the key long-term benefits of a system like LICCON3, is that it will allow fleet owners to track fuel use and carbon emissions in granular detail. This may not be something that every fleet needs today. But for some of the biggest fleets in the world, taking on the toughest and most complex jobs, it’s vital. Increasingly, lead contractors and project owners want to track their emissions under Scope 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocols. Scope 1 of the protocols covers a company or projects direct emissions; Scope 2 covers indirect emissions, from energy use, for example; and Scope 3 covers those from the supply chain. That includes fuel use by equipment used during construction.

Mammoet has developed its own system to meet these requirements, which it has given the codename DAISY. This plugs into the embedded systems on its SPMTs and cranes, allowing for real time, location based, monitoring of CO2, NOx, and NH3, or ammonia, which contribute to both global warming and local pollution. Data is shared over mobile networks, and presented in a web interface, allowing regulators and project owners to check on emissions as needed. Insights from the system can then be used to identify measures to cutting emissions, whether that is by changing operator instructions to reduce idling, or by employing non-emitting equipment such as Mammoet’s electric SPMTs.

Mammoet has deployed the system first on a fleet of cranes operating in the Netherlands, and intends to roll it out across its fleet through 2023. Jacques Stoof, head of innovation at Mammoet, commented: “DAISY will be the most advanced system to accurately report CO2, NOx and NH3 emissions at the equipment level at the operating location, improving on the generic approach the industry is currently using.

“Based on the actual reported emissions, clients will be given the option to choose a more sustainable, less emitting fuel type in order to minimise their emissions footprint during construction”.

Mathias Hoogstra, head of sustainability at Mammoet, added: “With this significant step, we are able to assist clients and empower our own reduction ambitions. DAISY’s factual emissions data allows us to take smarter decisions, reducing our footprint in a more efficient manner.”

A 250T TAXI

Taxi operation is key for most buyers of all terrain cranes. The big three manufacturers each make use of sophisticated control systems, like LICCON3 and Manitowoc’s CCS, to optimise performance in constricted positions or with limited counterweight on board.

Tadano’s system is IC-1 Plus, and this, along with a highly customisable counterweight configuration, enabled it to pitch its latest all terrain, the fixe-axle 250t AC 5.250-2, as a taxi crane.

The new crane was designed by the new team at Tadano’s Lauf (formerly Faun) and Zweibrucken (Demag) production facilities. It achieves, Tadano says, lifting capacities ten or more percent higher across the load chart, and up to 30 percent higher in some configurations, compared to previous best values in this class.

The crane features a 70m main boom, with a maximum system length, including extensions, of 112m. With the main boom fully extended, it can lift as much 14.5t to radii up to 24m: enough to lift the main structure of many tower cranes, or to place heavy rooftop machinery.

The crane can carry a threesheave hook block for lifting loads of up to 67.3t or a 5.8m heavy-lift runner on board while remaining within a 12-tonne axle load configuration. In the UK, and other markets where cranes can run with axle loads of 16.5t, the crane can bring 20t of counterweight on the road to site.

The crane’s full counterweight comes to 80t. Making use of this will always require a support vehicle, but once this arrives on site, placing the counterweight has been made as easy as possible. The crane can pick up its total counterweight of 80t in three lifts: 49.6t with a full 360° radius of up to 6.2m followed by two lifts of 15.2t, with each split into 10t and 5.2t for mounting on the right and left of the base package. And, if necessary, the counterweight can be split into smaller pieces as well making it possible, for example, to pick up the 5.5-tonne base plate from a distance of up to 20.1m across the full radius.

Modern crane designs and control systems allow for a range of safety and efficiency features. Surround View uses six crane cameras to show a computerassisted diagram of maximum possible outrigger extensions. Peter Kleinhans, project manager for the new crane, says, “crane operators can take a look at a display in the cab to know exactly how they need to position the crane at their work site in order to extend all outriggers sufficiently and ensure that they are using the required counterweight tailswing radius. This eliminates tedious and time-consuming measurements and testing when looking for a location from which to operate the crane, making the latter ready for use faster.” The camera system also increases safety for other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, by giving operators a clear view around the vehicle.

Since Bauma, the Tadano designers have added more features to the crane. One is the TailGuard active backup assist system. This uses two ultrasonic sensors to monitor the area behind the crane when backing up and works regardless of ambient light conditions. It shows the distance from stationary and moving objects in the monitoring area on the cab’s monitor, plays an acoustic warning before reaching obstacles, and will stop the crane itself in the event that there is a risk of collision. The backup assist system is automatically activated the moment the crane’s reverse gear is engaged, making backing up significantly safer.

Another feature will be added to the new models of the crane called Lift Adjuster. This can be switched on when needed, and monitors the deflection of the boom. The lift cylinder is then automatically adjusted, to compensate for changes in the hook radius.

It seems the lifting industry is witnessing an interesting evolution, characterised by manufacturers' continuous efforts to meet the diverse needs of their customers. The emergence of tailored solutions exemplifies this trend, offering enhanced capabilities and flexibility to tackle challenging lifting tasks. The collaboration between manufacturers, customers, and specialist engineers underscores the industry's commitment to innovation and customisation.

Advancements in control systems are enabling greater efficiency, safety, and environmental sustainability. These systems not only optimise crane performance but also provide valuable data for tracking fuel use and emissions, aligning with the industry's growing focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility.

As the lifting industry continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements and customer demand for tailored solutions, we can expect further innovations that enhance efficiency, safety, and sustainability across the sector.


TADANO AC 5.160-1 WITH SPECIAL COUNTERWEIGHT CONFIGURATION FOR WEILAND

“It’s as though the Tadano AC 5.160-1 had been designed for us specifically,” say Volker and Sebastian Degenhardt, managing directors at Lampertheim, Germany-based crane service provider Weiland. And it literally was…

“We looked at our customer’s requirements and equipped the crane with a special counterweight configuration that allows Weiland to use the five-axle unit as a taxi crane with a counterweight of 8.5 tonnes, all while staying under a 12-tonne axle load limit,” explains Frank Brachtendorf, the Tadano head of sales for the region of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

With this specific counterweight configuration the crane will be able to wide range of jobs without the need for expensive additional transportation vehicles and it will also make it easier to get permits, says Tadano.

Tadano’s IC 1 Plus crane control system was also a key selling point as well: “It makes it extremely easy and intuitive to operate the crane, meaning that we can get any trained operator on the AC 5.160-1 and they’ll be ready to get to work right away,” says Sebastian Degenhardt. “That’s also part of why this crane is so cost-effective.”

Weiland plans to use the crane for a wide range of jobs throughout the entire Rhine-Neckar region.

SAE Italia’s Grove GMK 6450-1
The first LTM 1110-5.2 was sold to Riga Mainz
From left to right: Thomas Eisenberg (crane operator, Weiland), Oliver Noé (product specialist AT, Tadano), Peter Schuster (crane operator, Weiland), Wolfgang Brauch (crane operator, Weiland), Sebastian Degenhardt (managing director, Weiland), Volker Degenhardt (managing director, Weiland), Frank Brachtendorf (head of sales DACH, Tadano)
IC-1 Plus and a customisable counterweight configuration enable Tadano’s AC 5.250-2 to work as a taxi crane
Schuch bought a Grove GMK 6450-1 as part of an eight crane order
LICCON3 is the third generation of Liebherr’s crane control system