Wolffkran tower cranes fill the skyline in Rotterda

Wolffkran tower cranes fill the skyline in Rotterda

Following the recession that has rocked the industry in Europe over last few years, there are now stronger signs that the European market is slowly picking itself up again as crane manufacturers and rental companies are now talking about a more stable market.

Crane and transport rental company Sarens, for example, has experienced growth in the rental market. In Europe alone, the company’s consolidated turnover grew from €175 million in 2011 to €188 million (US$240 million to $258million) in 2012.

Wim Sarens, Sarens Group CEO, says, “The group’s substantial increase in growth during the past three years reflects a turnover in 2012 of €560 million, which indicates that despite the continuing economic uncertainty Sarens has managed to increase its customer base and encourage many more customers to provide Sarens with continuity of business. Our clients have shown an expression of loyalty and support towards the future growth and prosperity of the Sarens Group.”

Tower crane manufacturer and rental company Wolffkran has also experienced positive growth. The company says that its rental fleet has been 100 % utilised over the last 12 months. Growth has been partly due to driving demand for tower cranes and a stable situation in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Benelux countries, the manufacturer says.

Although business for crane manufacturers in Europe is starting to pick up again, the demand from customers is changing. As Fuochi Giacomo, from Italian crane manufacturer FMGru, explains, “Customers are quality-conscious and are looking for a product that is more and more according to operational need.”

“To meet this demand in the last year FM Gru has developed low-slewing cranes for easy transport and installation,” adds Roberto Amber from FMGru. “These include slewing topless cranes with 80 metre jibs.”

Mobile crane manufacturer Tadano Faun in Germany has also noticed that customers are looking more seriously into both the cost of investment and the cost of operation. More than ever, buyers are demanding cranes that are reliable, easy to maintain and easy to repair, a company spokesperson explains.

A shift towards increased flexibility has also been noted by crane manufacturers. This is not just for heavy crawlers but also for wheeled mobile cranes. “There is a shift away from the 2- and 3-axle segment towards the 4- and 5-axle segment. With ever increasing pressure on legal conformity while travelling to site, it becomes ever more important that jobs can be done with either none or less additional counterweight that needs transporting,” explains a Tadano spokesperson.

Construction challenges
To meet the demands of the cost-conscious industry, new cranes aimed at the European market are being designed to offer increased flexibility, improved transport features and a better return on investment.

Crane manufacturer Liebherr-Werk Biberach in Germany, for example, has released five new cranes for the European market this year. “We have developed five new cranes for 2013, including the new 357 HC-L luffing jib crane, the new MK 140 mobile construction crane, and the 150 EC flat top crane. We have also launched two new large cranes this year, the 1000 ECH and the 1000 ECB.”

The 357 HC-L luffing jib tower crane is available in 12 to 24 tonne or 18 to 32-tonne versions. The foundation cross base is 6 x 6 m and the hoist unit is designed for heights of up to 1,100 m. The 150 EC flat top is available in 6 tonne and 8 tonne versions in a FR.tronic or Litronic design. The 1000 ECH is available in a 20 to 40 tonne and a 20 to 50 tonne version. “This crane is primarily used for dam construction, power plants, industrial sites, bridge construction sites and in shipbuilding yards,” a company spokesperson says. The 1000 ECB has short radii of 31.5 m and 36.5 m. In its 6-line version capacity is 125 tonnes and the 4-line version lifts 100 tonnes. It is design for hoist heights of up to 180 m.

Finally, the new MK 140 mobile construction crane, which was a prototype at Bauma, has a load capacity of 8 tonnes, a radius of 57 m and a capacity at the tip of 1.8 tonnes. “The jib can be moved to a luffed position of 70 degrees and can provide a hook height of up to 95 m,” a company spokesperson adds.

New tower cranes from Manitowoc include the MDT 248, which completes its flat top tower crane range in the midsize capacity class. Also new from Manitowoc is the Igo M14 self erecting tower crane, which can be transported on the road with towing axles at up to 80 km/h. The Igo M14 is designed for central European and western European markets.

Smaller construction sites present a challenge for crane manufacturers, as a spokesperson from Wolffkran explains, “Space in inner-city construction sites is becoming ever more limited; so space for the assembly of the crane, as well as its operation, is a real issue. Cranes are also required to lift heavier loads as a result of the trend towards the increased use of prefabricated elements on construction jobs.”

The latest development from Wolffkran to meet these demands on urban construction sites is the Wolff 7032clear. “The Wolff 7032clear extends our Clear line range of Wolff flat top cranes. It is a 250 tonne-metre crane with a maximum tip load of 3.2 tonnes at 70 m jib radius. It has slender jib components and a collapsible counter jib. The counter jib fits on a truck in one piece.”

Also new from Wolffkran are the Wolff 166 B and the Wolff 700 B custom, which has been designed for wind turbine erection. “The Wolff 700 B custom works with a freestanding tower height of 100 m,” explains a company spokesperson, “So when it is configured with a 50 m jib, hub heights of 140 m are possible.”

Changing tactics
For the mobile crane sector, ease of transport is one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers. This is mainly due to the varying road regulations in the European region.

In the wheeled crane sector Manitowoc has launched the 3-axle GMK3060 all terrain and the RT 550 rough terrain, both of which are now in production. “The GMK3060 is an upgrade of our previous 3055 model, with increased counterweight and CCS, which will become our standard crane control system on all our products in the future,” Klaus Kroeppel, vice president of sales in central and Eastern Europe at Manitowoc explains.

“The RT550 is for European markets where cranes stay longer on a job site. This is because customers traditionally using a 50 tonne all terrain crane are now using a 50 tonne rough terrain crane because it’s cheaper to keep on site,” Kroeppel adds.

The latest models from Tadano that have ease of transport in mind include the ATF 180G-5 and the ATF 400G-6. “The ATF 180G-5 covers a range from 120 tonne to 200 tonne class. It can carry the 13 m jib on board still within the 12 tonne axle loads with the opportunity to travel with boom attachment of 73 m on board,” a Tadano spokesperson adds.

Another recent model in production from Tadano in Germany is the ATF 400G-6. “The key driver of this development was ease in mobilisation and rigging,” a Tadano spokesperson explains.

“The wide spread of capacity range of the ATF 400G-6 on its plain main boom, without rigging any capacity-enhancing suspension system, saves not only rigging time but also the cost for trucking and the whole lot of logistics. This makes rigging a lot safer.” For countries exceeding 12 tonne axle load limits the counterweight can be carried on the ATF 400G-6.

Finally from Tadano is the HK 65, a 65 tonne truck crane upper that can be mounted on a conventional 4-axle commercial truck chassis.

Hiab, part of Cargotec, has also launched a new series of loader cranes to meet growing demand from the construction industry. Leif Törnblom, Hiab product manager for mid-range cranes, explains, “Our customers work in very different sectors, with different demands on the cranes. However, regardless of the sector, crane operators want speed, precision and lifting capacity. We have therefore focused on improving these factors even more.”

To meet these requirements, Hiab has launched four new models from the new X-Series. They are the X-CLX 178, the X-DUO 178, the X-HIDUO 188 and the X-HIPRO 192. The models have a faster boom extension system, which Hiab said is almost twice as fast as its predecessor, the Hiab XS 166. The models also have more capacity and improved precision handling compared to previous models, Hiab says.

Further new design features on the model include safer and easier to use stabiliser legs with a new sensor system and a new joystick type remote control. Installation of the cranes has also been made easier and faster by having fewer mounting bolts. Also new from Hiab are the Loglift 108S forestry crane, the second generation control system for Hiab Multilift demountables and the Hiab Moffett E-Series forklifts.

To meet the growing trend for smaller, more compact machines, Italian crane manufacturer Marchetti has developed two new 25 tonne telescopic crawler cranes and a 35 tonne capacity truck crane.

Palfinger has also launched several new models in the last 12 months. In particular were the launch of the PK 110002 SH in late 2012 and the launch of the PK 200002 L SH at the Bauma 2013 exhibition in Germany last April, which closed the gap between the knuckle boom crane and the mobile crane.

“At the start, we had the ideas of our customers in mind,” a company spokesperson explains, “They were able to tell us very clearly what their requirements would be for this type of crane. It emerged that the outreach was a key issue. The cranes are designed in particular for assembly work.”

The PK 110002 SH has a lifting moment of 98.5 tonne-metres and has nine hydraulic extensions. It has an hydraulic outreach of 22 m and, when configured with the fly jib, this outreach can be extended to 32.5 m. It is fitted with the high performance stability control system (HPSC) to monitor the vehicle’s stability and stabiliser positioning.

With stability a main focus, the PK 200002 L SH has a new P-profile boom system and a quadruple stabiliser system monitored by sensors (there is an additional front stabiliser cylinder and an extendible rear stabiliser cylinder). “The crane is also fused with the truck to create a single unit and has the Synchronised Rope Control System (SRC), which maintains a constant distance between the pulley head and the hook block during operation of the rope winch,” a company spokesperson adds.

New from Liebherr is the 3-axle LTM 1060-3.1 all terrain crane. The new model has a 48 m telescopic boom and an axle load of 12 tonnes. It also has the Liebherr LICCON2 controller for precision control. Also new to the market is the single engine LTM 1300-6.2 all terrain. “The LTM 1300-6.2 is the successor to the LTM 1250-6.1. It has a 78 m telescopic boom and a 300 tonne capacity,” Wolfgang Beringer Liebherr-Werk Ehingen adds.

For the 1,000 tonne class, Liebherr introduced the LR 11000, the design of which focused on transport dimensions and weights. From Liebherr-Werk Nenzing in Austria is the heavy duty cycle crawler crane HS 8300 HD Hybrid. It has the Liebherr Pactronic hybrid drive and hydraulic free-fall winches offering approximately 50 tonnes of line pull.

“When developing the new duty cycle crawler crane Liebherr paid special attention to an extended service life of its product,” Tobias Froehlich, at Liebherr-Werk Nenzing in strategic marketing and communications, explains, “Therefore, the steel fabrication of the basic machine is extremely solid and critical points were reinforced using extra high-quality materials such as carbon fibre. Furthermore, special production methods including the use of automated welding robots increase the machine's service life even under extreme operational conditions.”

Rental markets
The number and diversity of new models flooding the European market is positive news for rental companies, as they can continue to offer cranes that meet current customer demands.

A spokesperson from Sarens explains, “Roughly 40 per cent of our business comes from Eastern and Western Europe. We have offices throughout Europe and for the European rental market we can offer a range of cranes from 250 tonne to 1,600 tonnes capacity.”

Crane rental and supply company Hovago tells a similar story. About 15 to 20 per cent of our business comes from Europe. We provide after sales service, maintenance and operating instruction to all of our customers worldwide. In general our cranes are used in projects related to energy, such as windmills, power plants, refineries, but also in general construction. We offer large all terrain cranes up to 500 tonnes and large crawler cranes up to 800 tonnes to the market.”

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