Generally speaking, last year started brightly for the crane market, although by the end of the year, much of the optimism had evaporated, leaving a mixed year for crane manufacturers.
Some big losses in share prices started from the middle of the year as manufacturers like Manitowoc and Terex reported declining demand in many key emerging markets. The strongest performers were major Chinese groups – for example, Liugong, Sany and XCMG.
Terex showed results for the third quarter of last year that illustrated some of the problems. It said challenges in the crane sector and unfavourable exchange rates had pushed Terex’s profits lower in the quarter, despite an increase in revenue.
And Terex Cranes was the only Terex division to be down in the third quarter.
Ron DeFeo, Terex chairman and CEO, said that despite continued market environment challenges, it was expecting improvement from cranes in the fourth quarter.
Although Terex said that its overall order backlog was 22.5% higher than a year ago the company was cautious about its outlook.
“Predicting market improvements has
been challenging, and in the near term we will be assuming flat markets and only performance improvements that we can control,” said DeFeo.
Increase of 11%
On the other hand, at the end of last year, Palfinger was able to report an 11% increase in sales for the first three quarters of 2014 over the same period a year earlier.
The Austrian-based crane, aerial work platform and materials handling equipment manufacturer reported sales of €795 million for the nine-month period. It said most of the third quarter growth came from Europe, unlike in previous recent quarters.
However, the company said the current order volume “suggests a slowdown in growth over the course of the rest of the financial year – particularly in the loader cranes business unit”.
The various markets within Europe have, as always, been behaving in different ways – it is as true for cranes as any other segment of the construction market. There have been some signs of improvement in Spain, but nothing of note in Italy or France. Germany started strongly but has fallen back slightly of late.
The UK seems to have gone crazy for tower cranes over the past 12 months – in London, especially – and if tower cranes are busy, then so are mobile cranes, as they have a role in helping to erect tower cranes.
For most crane manufacturers, the European market still plays an important role, with many manufacturers reporting a turnover of around 40% in the region. Crane rental companies are also finding business stable.
A similar picture is forecast for the next 12 months, with the main applications including wind energy plants, infrastructure, and industrial and high rise buildings.
The diverse range of applications, however, means that customer requests are constantly changing. According to crane rental company BKL, customer needs differ a great deal, so it has to offer a wide range of crane types from different manufacturers. The latest regulations and regional variations concerning the permissions that are needed, also influence the decision making process.
Steve Barnett, Manitowoc Cranes’ commercial director for UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, said, “The need to offer Tier 4 engines is being addressed and customers have to adapt to this for inner city regulations and rental work.”
Modifying fleets to meet current regulations, however, is not proving easy. Marcel Riemslag, Hovago Cranes’ sales manager, said, “The speed with which the emissions requirements for Europe and North America are changing does not keep up with the speed of development with engine manufacturers. This will, and already does, create big problems for manufacturers since they can’t get enough engines for their 2015 cranes.”
He added, “It is also complicating international trade because of the variations in requirements worldwide.”
Andreas Cremer, global product director for Grove’s all-terrain and truck-mounted cranes at Manitowoc, said the change to Stage IV was a big challenge for all crane manufacturers.
“Engines and exhaust aftertreatment systems take up more space and add weight, without improving the capabilities of the crane itself,” he said. “This makes it increasingly difficult to stay within the 12 tonne per axle weight limit, while giving customers the capacity and boom lengths they expect.
“This has led us to create new concepts for our all-terrain cranes. The 400 tonne capacity GMK6400, for example, features our single engine concept, which drives both the carrier and superstructure. This reduces the crane’s overall weight and improves fuel economy.”
The single engine concept is proving popular with most manufacturers. Liebherr, for example, introduced a single-engine LTM 1160-5.2 all-terrain crane last year.
The LTM 1160-5.2 has a 62m boom and vehicle width of 2.75m, which Liebherr said made it easier to drive on public roads and constricted sites.
With emissions regulations in mind, Palfinger launched the Palfinger Hybrid, which is fitted with an electrically-operated engine pump for use in sensitive areas.
The company said that while conventional loading cranes always had to rely on the built-in combustion engine to provide the pressure required in the hydraulics for work purposes, the new pump group could, on request, manage entirely without any exhaust gases or noise.
The system can be connected to standard three-phase mains electrical power and start powering the crane hydraulics immediately with up to 365 bar operating pressure, said Palfinger.
When working in urban areas throughout Europe, obstacles such as site congestion and small working zones are factors to be considered. To help reduce working footprints, Potain offers a large range of tower crane bases, with chassis dimensions from 3.8m x 3.8m to 10m x 10m.
Eleven Potain tower cranes have been used in building a huge shopping mall, the Avia Park in Moscow, Russia, which covers 46.3ha.
New tower cranes from Potain include the 10 tonne capacity MDT 248 and the 12 tonne MDT 248. The 25 tonne MD 610 and the 40 tonne MD 610 have also been added.
Alexandre Chanteclair, EMEA product manager for Potain top slewing cranes, said, “Luffing jib crane usage is the perfect solution when a construction project needs several hooks in a confined area. Each crane can work without disturbing others, while productivity remains at a high level.”
There has been a trend towards luffing jibs, and one of the most recent to be introduced was Liebherr’s 710 HC-L. It is in the 700 tonne-metre class and boasts a hook speed of up to 238m per minute from its 220kW hoist.
The 2.42m by 2.42m tower system is designed to allow the crane to be climbed inside elevator shafts or up the side of buildings. It can be dismantled using the Liebherr Derrik 200 DR 5/10 Litronic derrick crane.
Telescopic crawler cranes are another area of growing interest in Europe. They are commonly found on sites where tasks such as foundation work, power transmission, wind power installations and other utility work is being carried out. They work alongside, or in place of, lattice boom crawler cranes and rough terrain cranes, especially in the oil and gas, and energy industries.
Easy transport, ease of use and versatility means telescopic crawlers are starting to find their way into everyday crane rental fleets.
Scott Knight, Link-Belt product manager for lattice and telescopic crawler cranes, said, “There are a variety of applications for telescopic crawler cranes, especially as they begin filtering into everyday crane rental service. Some of the applications consistent with oil and gas include using the telecrawler as a general lifting machine, and assisting with build-up and breakdown of smaller sized rigs.”
Link-Belt launched the 45 tonne TCC-500 last year. With a standard counterweight packaged of 11.3 tonnes, it travels at a height of 3.01m and a width of 3.49m.
An advantage of telescopic crawler cranes is that high loads can be lifted and telescoped, which is impossible with a lattice boom crane. Liebherr said, “Telescopic crawlers can drive with full load and, because they need not be supported on outriggers, they can be ready for work very quickly at another place on the construction site. These cranes are more flexible than a lattice boom crawler crane and the boom length can be adjusted very quickly.”
To keep up to date with customer demands and regulations, such as emission laws, several new models have been launched over recent months. One, from Tadano Mantis, is the 126 tonne capacity GTC‐1200. It is the largest in the company’s range.
The GTC-1200 has a full power, five‐section 12.8m to 47.2m rounded section boom. A 3.8m heavy lift jib with a capacity of 39.9 tonnes is part of the standard bi‐fold jib that has lengths of 10.3m or 18m. There are optional 7m lattice inserts – a maximum of two. Maximum tip height is 82m.
Towards the end of last year, German crane manufacturer Sennebogen has launched a new 120 tonne capacity telescopic boom crawler crane, the Sennebogen 6113.
The 6113 is the largest telescopic crawler crane manufactured by the company. It has a 40m, four section full power telescopic boom, which can be extended to 70m when combined with a fly jib and lattice boom extension.
The company said, “Thanks to multi-cylinder technology, this maintenance-free system enables continuous telescoping and is always friction-locked. With the 6113, the boom can work variably and quickly at any length.”
The 6113 is capable of moving with a load and can work on inclines up to 4°, the manufacturer said. It has 8m heavy duty track frames and 900mm wide tracks. In addition, the undercarriage can be telescoped out to a track width of 5.4m, the manufacturer added. Power comes from a Tier 4 Final 168kW Deutz engine. It also has an eco mode function.
Among tower cranes, the Liebherr-Werk Biberach 53 K was launched recently. It has a 4.2 tonne capacity, a maximum radius of 40m and a lifting capacity at the jib end of 1.1 tonnes. Capacity can be increased to 2 tonnes by reducing the length of the jib to 28m. The 53 K has a hook height of 31m, which can be increased to 43.1m with the 20° luffed jib. With a horizontal jib, the 53 K can be configured with seven different hook heights between 15.8m and 31m.
The company said the new design of the 50 tonne-metre class crane was based on the K series concept and closed the gap between the 42 K.1 and the 65 K.
Hiab has launched the 17 tonne-metre X-Duo 178, which is available in a B or E-boom configuration. The company said it was suitable for the European market. The B-boom has a capacity of 1,020kg at 12.5m. The E-boom has a capacity of 540kg at 17.4m. Also from Hiab is the X-HiDuo 188, an 18 tonne-metre remote controlled crane and the 19 tonne-metre X-HiPro 192.
Hiab also has the XS 310L CLX brick and block crane which it said had “superb capacity, stability and load-cycle speed”. The crane has a 1.2 tonne capacity at a working radius of 17.5m.
Wind turbines are providing a great deal of work for the crane sector, and are now reaching a height of 150m with 3MW hubs. The trend for larger wind turbines is being seen in a number of markets across Europe, including Germany, Scandinavia and the UK.
The latest model from Terex Cranes for this sector is the Superlift 3800. The crawler can erect turbines with a hub height up to 150m and its boom can be erected without an assist crane.
Guntram Jakobs, Terex product marketing manager for crawler cranes, said, “All crawler models, from the 400 tonne CC 2400-1 to the 3,200 tonne CC 8800-1 Twin use the same counterweight slabs. This allows better inventory management and, for companies with several depots, saves transportation costs.”
Terex also has the CC 8800-1 with the Boom Booster kit that was being tested last year. The Boom Booster vastly increases the capability of the CC 8800-1 lattice boom crawler crane. According to CE sister publication International Cranes and Specialized Transport, in certain long boom combinations, the capacity increase with the new Boom Booster option is 90% or more.
Jakobs said the CC 8800-1 could be disassembled into multiple sections and transported in 40ft open-top containers, making it fast and cost-effective to ship.
Repair and maintenance
Manitowoc has launched the MLC650 lattice boom crawler aimed at carrying out repair and maintenance work on the latest generation of wind turbines.
The design incorporates the Variable Position Counterweight (VPC) system.
Another option for turbine installation is a tower crane. Liebherr’s tower crane division, Liebherr-Werk Biberach, offers the 630 EC-H 70 Litronic and 1000 EC-B 125 Litronic models.
Designed for the installation of wind turbines, the 1000 EC-B lifts 125 tonnes and can work in high wind speeds. One of these models was used to erect a wind turbine with a hub height of 135m at Wardenburg in Oldenburg, Germany.
The company said, “Only when the wind reaches speeds in excess of 120km/h does the jib of the 630 EC-H have to be released to turn freely.” The models are also fitted with the Liebherr Micromove system for positioning the tower elements.
Liebherr-Werk Biberach added, “Wind turbines in low wind areas are, as a rule, not erected in large wind farm arrangements but in wooded areas or locations difficult to access. This is where the major advantages of tower cranes can be put to best possible use. Often roads will not need any special strengthening and vehicles will not need any special approvals. In addition, a comparatively small surface area is needed for the assembly of the tower crane.”
Another concern for turbine installation is moving between turbines once on site.
Klaus Kroeppel, Manitowoc vice president of sales for Central and Eastern Europe, said, “Cranes are often required to move around the job site to work on several turbines and, therefore, they must be easily transported in terms of weight, dimensions and number of loads.
“The space and speed needed to assemble and disassemble the crane on the jobsite is a major consideration that can save a great deal of time and money on a project.”
The 300 tonne capacity Manitowoc MLC 300 crawler crane was launched last year. It has the Variable Position Counterweight (VPC) system first seen on the Model 31000 several years ago.
In the VPC system, the counterweight is centred between the fully retracted and fully extended positions to balance the crane’s centre of gravity. It moves on a rail system according to the boom extension.