Factory friendly18 September 2023
The pick and carry crane is typically small, electric-powered, Italian-inspired, and used indoors. As Julian Champkin discovers, though, there are exceptions.
The pick and carry crane originated in Italy. It’s typically a small runabout on chunky rubber tyres that works inside a factory or plant (hence it is also known as a factory crane) carrying its load around on the hook. The rubber tyres do not mark the factory floor. It has electric drive so that the factory’s workers do not get a face-full of fumes. And it has a short, strong boom because lifting capacity is more useful here than reach as the crane can usually drive up to wherever it needs to deposit its load. It is also a small machine so that it can manoeuvre between the fixed lathes or machine tools of the factory floor.
Put all that together and you have the pick and carry, which originated from Italy post World War Two. And to this day it is a speciality of manufacturers there, although it is used almost all over the globe.
Manufacturer Ormig lays claim to having invented the crane type in 1949. At that time Italy was largely in ruins and just beginning its post-war reconstruction. American military vehicles were everywhere. An enterprising engineer by the name of Guido Testore saw one such vehicle that had been adapted as a crane and started producing a similar machine, but one that was more agile, for the combined lifting and transport of goods. It was an overwhelming success and Ormig was born and has been producing pick and carry cranes ever since.
Its current offerings include vehicles with capacities from 5.5 to 100 tonnes. Its indoor range is designed to be as compact as possible for the lifting capacity. All cranes are equipped with four points of support on the ground in any steering condition, and they have the ability to rotate on themselves around the front axle, like a compass. The turning radius, therefore, is the minimum possible. The rear axle steering mechanism is an Ormig patent and combines electronic and mechanical control, managing the two sets of rear wheels to always guarantee a perfect relative steering angle between the two. This gives precision and delicacy to the crane, which are important for precise positioning and set-down of the load.
Valla, now Manitex Valla, is another Italian-based manufacturer that also has a history dating back to the end of the Second World War and with sales worldwide. It produced its first electric crane in the late 1960s – which is still fully functional today. Surrey-based mini crane specialist Hird is its UK distributor. Carl Cooper, its sales and aftersales manager, gives a rundown of why the concept is so useful. “One of the things about these cranes is that are pretty easy for anyone to drive,” he says. “The idea is to keep it as simple as possible: my mantra has been that operating them is a secondary skill. The operator is not going to be working that crane full-time: they will be moving their load, setting it down and then working on that load, doing whatever their own speciality might be. So the crane operator might be a fitter, or an engineer, say lifting and repairing a pump. The Valla cranes we sell and hire out are not just lifting equipment: they are like a spanner or a screwdriver: one more tool in an engineer’s armoury.
“That is enhanced even more by the radio control. The engineer can actually be on the ground, with a clear view, guiding the crane into position himself, not having to rely on hand-signals from someone else. That is pretty much standard now. For the last several years all our cranes have had Bluetooth wireless remote control, and that is the case throughout our range, from the 3.6 tonne through to the 25 tonne machines.”
Mini pick and carry cranes have been ahead of the game as far as power source is concerned, too. “We've never had trouble selling electric cranes,” says Cooper. “Even when we were building diesel cranes, something like 90% of the cranes that were sold were electric anyway. But obviously with the green energy imperative it has cascaded right the way through the industry.
“The battery pack has two uses. One is to power the crane. The other is to ballast the crane. Because you actually want the weight you don't have to economise on the battery pack: you can make it big enough to last the whole shift, plus a bit extra. And we have learned over the years that if these batteries are well-looked-after you will get 12 years use out of them and more. And that’s as much as you would get from a diesel.”
In February Manitex International, owners of Valla, announced a new leader of its Electric Crane Division. Paolo Balugani, formerly of Palfinger, has been appointed general manager. He will be based in Italy (where else?!) and his brief includes bringing Valla’s line of electric industrial cranes to the North American market. Balugani has his work cut out as the United States has not yet wholeheartedly adopted the pick and carry crane. Their place in the ‘transporting goods around a factory’ niche is taken more by the carry-deck crane, which performs exactly the same function but with the intermediate step of setting the load down onto a platform on the front of the crane, where it sits while the crane drives to its destination. Balugani’s task, then, is to persuade Americans to love these little machines. At Conexpo in Las Vegas this spring Manitex Valla showed its Valla 25E, V40R, and V90R pick and carry models to that end.
Not, however, that Valla is abandoning its spiritual home. The GIS exhibition is to be held in Piacenza in northern Italy this autumn, from 5-7 October. There the company is launching two new additions to its range. The Valla V46R and the Valla V130RX are claimed as more compact, more powerful, and more sustainable than any before. Both are wireless controlled, for driving and lifting while not having an on-board operator means they can be smaller. The V46R has a maximum safe working load of 4.6 tonnes, which can be achieved at a height of just over four metres just beyond the front bumper.
The three-section boom extends to a length of 7.5 metres, and capacity at full working height is 2.45 tonnes. The crane can also be fitted with a short luffing jib. Maximum reach is 4.5m, at which point it has a SWL of 660kg.
Like most Valla cranes it is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel steer; it sits just 900mm wide, 2.47m long by 1.56 metres high. It weighs 4.33t, with a total counterweight of 900kg. Standard features include a variable tilt head and non-marking tyres. Optional features include ATEX explosion proofing and battery pack, along with a winch, and a fold-away hydraulic luffing fly jib.
The V130RX has an interesting feature: a telescopic chassis (the X stands for extending). This means it is just as compact as its sister crane the 11 tonne Valla V110R when stowed. But the rear element of the chassis can extend by 700mm, taking the crane length to 4.4 metres and extending its SWL to 13 tonnes. The three-section boom extends to ten metres, to which a hydraulic luffing jib can be added. It is fitted with a front stabiliser. The machine is 1.5m wide, has a stowed height of 1.95m, and its dual counterweights can be removed to reduce weight while operating across low load bearing floors.
Italian pick and carry crane manufacturer JMG Cranes, based in Cremona, also dipped its toe into the US waters via Conexpo. It took its first-ever stand there this year, joining forces with its US distributor Crane Tech Solutions and Mexican dealer Americas Machinery.
It showed its 80 tonne MC80.06 and the MC5980, which has a capacity of 58 tonnes (128,000 lbs.) This last is a big machine... for a pick and carry (and everything is bigger in the States!). Its dimensions are 17ft 4in long, by 7 ft 8in wide, by 8 ft 1 in high, (4.3m x 2.3m x 2.5m). It can, however, still manoeuvre around most US indoor factory spaces and it keeps all the desirable features of its smaller brethren in that it has front-wheel drive with 180° rear steering, a telescopic boom – extendable to 22 ft 3in (6.8m) beyond the front bumper which that can tilt from +60 degrees to -3 degrees. It also has non-marking tyres, front outriggers and radio remote control (though it has an onboard cab also). And it can lift 57000 lbs (25t) at 6ft 6 in (2m) in front of the bumper and 17000lb (8t) at 23 ft 3in m).
Pick and carry then is a useful idea that has spread; and it has spread precisely because it is so useful.
tidd and franna: Doing it differently Down under
Down under they do things slightly differently. Australia has its Franna brand, owned by Terex, while New Zealand has its very own home-owned manufacturer in the form of Tidd, part of TRT Australia, which is based in Hamilton and has been in the crane-making business since 1967.
The pick and carry cranes from both manufacturers are diesel, articulated, run on road wheels and tyres, and are intended for outdoor work. Tidd says that one of the advantages of the articulation is better protection from rollover on slopes.
In March this year Tidd launched its latest pick and carry: the upgraded PC28-2. It can road its own 2.3 tonne counterweight, which means it can drive itself to the jobsite. Construction, civil projects, mining and infrastructure are all possible applications.
The upgraded machine has more powerful front suspension cylinders than its predecessor, which Tidd says gives up to 17% more lift capacity when articulated or working on a slope.
The Robway crane operating software has been upgraded: three new steps have been added to it to improve lift control and the load chart – which Tidd says delivers signifi cant gains when the crane is articulating. As the crane articulates it reduces the rate of decrease of the load chart decrease. There is a 75% stationery chart and 66% pick and carry chart.
The cabin has been re-engineered, with a measured reduction in cabin noise levels of 8dBa at 80km/hr when on the road. There is a full power, four-section telescopic boom, with slewing up to 44° for maximum manoeuvrability onsite. The articulation gives a small footprint to move and set up in tight spaces.
Turning to Franna, the Antipodean trucklike concept of pick and carry may well derive from that company. In 1978 Dave Francis built his fi rst pick and carry crane, using truck components and found a ready market – so ready in fact that ‘Franna’ has in Australia become a generic name for any truck-based crane, regardless of manufacturer. (Fun fact: Dave Francis was married to Anna; hence the company name.)
High road speeds characterise these pick and carry cranes – which was one reason that they found favour back in 1978, as Australia has such long distances between many of its jobsites.
In 1999 Franna was acquired by Terex, and today the Franna brand is present in at least 30 countries. It now manufactures in India, as well as in Brisbane, and this summer signed up no fewer than eight new distributors in the subcontinent.
The AT 15-3 is Franna’s most compact pick and carry, with a 15 tonne lifting capacity and a boom that extends to 17.9m.
The AT40 is its largest – lifting up to 40 tonnes. There are 22 and 25 tonne versions in between.
On some Franna machines the boom cylinders are set one on either side of the centrally-placed full-width cab, rather than having the cab off to one side as in Italianderived machines. This increases their resemblance to a truck.
These, too, are outdoor machines that can travel between sites. They specialise, says Terex, in complex jobs that pose site access issues and height restrictions so size and manoeuvrability remain key to their design.
Bottling and packaging plant gets a lift with GGr Group's latest galizia
Oldham, UK-headquartered mini crane and lifting solutions specialist GGR Group has taken delivery of a new Galizia GF180 pick and carry crane. The new crane has already been supplied to help lift and move industrial machinery, as part of redevelopment works, at a bottling and packaging plant in the UK.
Specifically, the new G180 pick and carry crane was hired to help lift, install and assemble components to form a new bottling line. The largest machine component the crane lifted came in at 9 metres in length, 2 metres in width, and 2.4 metres in height.
Selected for its lifting capacity and 12.2 metre lifting height, the 18-tonne capacity machine managed loads weighing up to seven tonnes in confined working areas without the need for outriggers.
Scott Ainsworth, European Technical Support Director at GGR Group, commented, “Battery operated and offering fume-free lifting, GGR Group’s range of Galizia pick and carry mobile industrial cranes are a proven and popular choice amongst customers for handling, carrying, assembling, installing and removing machinery and components in factory environments across the UK.
“We have a fl eet of pick and carry cranes varying from two tonnes up to a huge 25 tonnes capacity. With its maximum load capacity of 18 tonnes, the Galizia GF180 is a welcome addition to our pick and carry range and we look forward to supporting our customers lifting needs with this versatile lifting machine.”
The GF180 has three hydraulic boom extensions, offering an overall maximum lifting height of 12.2m – with an optional 18 tonne capacity rhino hook and two-stage nine tonne capacity or six tonne capacity hydraulic searcher hook also available.
At 1850mm wide, GGR says the machine is perfect for heavy lifting in some of the most confi ned and hard to access areas. This model also includes a radio remote control, for greater control and placement of loads and a convenient on-board battery charger.
GGR says its battery-powered Galizia compact cranes are ideal for lifting in confi ned, sensitive and clean environments as they don’t emit any fumes. As such they have proved popular for working in environments including factories, power plants, busy construction sites, food manufacturing sites, water treatment plants, schools, hospitals, department stores, and museums.