Changes are afoot in the crane repair industry. Over the past few years end users and crane rental companies are increasingly repairing or refurbishing cranes and their major components. Cost and availability are the two main factors. As rental margins are squeezed and components prices increase, any saving becomes more important.
“The importance of refurbishment has increased in recent years since many clients do have a well-functioning crane but it is difficult to get new components. Some of the cranes are 30 years old and the components, such as electronic components, are not produced any more,” says a spokesperson from Liebherr-Werk Nenzing in Austria.
Another reason behind this increase is cost, as a spokesperson from crane repair company Avezaat explains, “When a client decides to choose a repair instead of renewing there can be a difference in price which can be up to 80 %.”
Although repairing a crane can be a cheaper alternative to replacing the crane entirely, it isn’t necessarily the easier option. A spokesperson from Terex explains, “Equipment is getting increasingly complex and materials are becoming more and more advanced. This means the level of workmanship has to be very high, especially with repairing critical structures and doing critical welds.”
When repairs are carried out without the level of skill and expertise necessary, problems can occur. As stated in the Terex Cranes Guideline on Crane repair, “Repairs done by companies not authorized by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) may lead to issues related to product safety and compliance. Companies other than the OEM (and its recognised partners) often do not have the appropriate or complete knowledge of the product and the manufacturing processes which are necessary to evaluate and carry out repairs, particularly when load bearing parts and/or safety related components are involved.”
To be compliant and to keep in line with safety requirements, many companies that carry out repair work have certain protocols in place and follow strict guidelines. Any repair and refurbishment work carried out at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen, for example, complies with the same regulations as the manufacture of new cranes. Manitowoc follows OSHA regulations and FEM standards. At independent crane repair centre Rush Crane Repair, all repairs and overhaul of cranes and crane components are carried out according to the procedures in the ISO9001-2008 handbook.
Work carried out at Köhler Kran Service, such as welding, is also completed by qualified personnel. “Our welders have to pass regular improvement and examination of their qualification,” a spokesperson from Köhler Kran Service explains. “In addition, we have the welding qualification Grosser Eignungsnachweis form the welding institute SLV. This is the same qualification level as for the crane manufacturers.” Independent company Avezaat says its keeps its employees certified and well trained to carry out repair and refurbishment work.
Repairing parts and components instead of replacing them can also save time. This is especially important in the offshore industry. As a spokesperson from Liebherr-Werk Nenzing explains, time can be saved when refurbishing a crane because alterations to platforms, such as mechanical changes due to crane size or weight, do not have to be undertaken. For the offshore industry saving time is crucial, as cranes are usually the only way to get material and supplies onto an offshore installation.
An example of how short the time frame of an offshore refurbishment project can be was experienced by the team at Liebherr-Werk Nenzing, which was required to carry out a repair and refurbishment project in a time frame of five weeks. The aim was to provide the crane with a newly designed control system and electrical system, new drive cabin with foundation, new hydraulic system and power pack (reusing the existing diesel engine), and to spot-paint corroded steel components. All the work had to be completed in the five week time frame. Other challenges were limited deck space, no assist crane, weather conditions such as high wind speeds, and a varying elevation of sea level.
Avezaat has also carried out repair work for an offshore client. Workers had to refurbish two National cranes. “For the project the pedestals were cut off and the cranes were transported to our workshop over water. We repaired several boom sections and A-frames and we built several new boom sections, to replace ones that were beyond repair. Approximately 60 % of the crane houses were renewed and the cabins refurbished. All the winches were checked and the bearings were renewed. The hydraulic motors were disassembled, checked, overhauled and tested. The engines were overhauled as well. After assembling, testing and painting, the cranes were loaded on pontoons and transported back to our client.”
Back onshore, a team from Liebherr-Werk Ehingen recently carried out the repair of a telescopic boom off a LTM 1500-8.1. “We had to replace one telescopic section,” Wolfgang Beringer, sales promotion Liebherr-Werk Ehingen explains, “In addition the telescopic ram had to be refurbished by the cylinder manufacturer as there was a leak. The guide rail was also damaged. On the Y-guying system a tube had to be replaced and also the frames of the guying winches had to be replaced. The winches were refurbished. Also the cover panels had to be repaired.”
Another factor that can influence a person’s decision to repair a crane instead of replacing it is personal preference. As Gilberto Ferreira, global GM Encore remanufacturing at Manitowoc Cranes explains, “Many companies like the crane they have and are familiar with its operation and maintenance; refurbishment allows them to keep the crane.”
An example of this was seen recently at Manitowoc’s manufacturing facility in Passo Fundo, Brazil, which has an Encore branch for repair and refurbishment. The crane due for repair was a 38 year old Manitowoc 4000W lattice boom crawler crane. It was owned by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and had worked at the Estaleiro Paraguaçu shipyard in Salvador for several decades.
“Odebrecht wished to keep the model in service because of its freefall system, which is used for pile-driving operations. The company also valued the crane’s easy maintenance and familiar mechanisms,” a company spokesperson explains.
For the project, the Encore team remanufactured the boom hoist, refurbished the travel lock, rebuilt the main drive shaft (including new clutches and bearings), redesigned and fitted a new roof with new plates and reinforcements, and gave the crane a new paint job. In addition, the chassis was inspected and the engine was exchanged for a new Cummins model. The refurbishment took six months to complete and cost 75 percent less than purchasing a new crane, a spokesperson from Manitowoc says.
Another example is from Rush Crane Repair, which recently finished an overhaul of a 1986 Liebherr LTM 1045 all terrain with 23,000 hours on the clock. There was a complete renovation of the telescopic boom, replacement of hinges, change out of extension cables, and the sliding blocks were replaced. In addition, there was an overhaul of the gear box, drop box, outrigger and main winch. The hydraulic hoses were also changed and the counterweight was refurbished, including a complete overhaul of the remote control electronic system counterweight. The crane cabin and driver cabin interior were renovated, as was the outside of the crane. The slewing motor was replaced and the LMI system was renovated. After renovation the crane was inspected by TÜV and certified.
Repairing older cranes has other advantages, as a spokesperson from Terex points out, “When we repair cranes it’s almost like upgrading and updating it. As manufacturers, we can update electronics and programming etc.”
Facilities and equipment
To accommodate this level of repair work, crane repair companies tend to have a number of facilities for carrying out specific jobs. Terex has workshops in almost all of its manufacturing facilities. “We use the same equipment to repair cranes as we do to manufacture them,” a company spokesperson says. “In the Zweibrücken facility, we have the capabilities to repair and refurbish everything that has been produced at the Zweibrücken facility. From large CC cranes (latest one was a 1250 tonne CC 6800) to all types of all terrains. Typical repairs include parts that are subject to high wear and deformations from accidents. Booms, outriggers, slew rings, anything. We do not, however, repair third party electronics or components here. We focus on what we are experts at, and that is with our cranes. For example, the people that repair these cranes were involved in their manufacture, so they know the cranes inside out.”
Avezaat has four locations in the area of the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands and near the Port of Antwerp, Belgium. The main office and crane repair and refurbishment workshop, where building new boom and jib sections, both lattice and telescopic, takes place, is in Schiedam, Netherlands. “The steel cutting company is located in Vlaardingen,” a company spokesperson adds, “We keep a stock of approximately 2,100 to 2,800 tonnes of plate and tube materials from S 235 to S 1100 steel here.” Avezaat also has a specialised shot blasting and painting facility in Rotterdam.
Liebherr-Werk Ehingen has three repair halls in Ehingen, Oberhausen and Alt-Bork, Germany, plus others around the world. “Presently we trade in mostly three to six year old cranes,” Wolfgang Beringer says, “We offer a wide range of services for used cranes, including inspections of the superstructure and undercarriage; approval by TÜV (technical supervisory authority) and UVV (accident prevention regulations); CE-certification if possible; overhaul or replacement of all modules; testing and acceptance procedures. We also offer new tyres, new paintwork and guarantee for a Liebherr used crane.”
Rush Crane Repair, based in the Netherlands, has a conditioned welding area for welding high tensile steel and special equipment for turning, milling and broaching. “For renovation and straightening of crane booms we have specialist tables and equipment,” a company spokesperson added.
Manitowoc offers a choice of 32 Encore facilities and is currently expanding operations in EMEA and Asia. Gilberto Ferreira says, “We make sure that our remanufactured parts or cranes carry the same warranty as new ones, and since we follow the OEM regulations, we can assure the customers that they are buying as good as new.”
For assembling and testing, Köhler Kran Service, based in Germany, has its own workshops and for welding the company uses x-ray equipment for inspecting. To carry out repair work new cylinders are fabricated and chromium plating is repaired or replaced. Once repairs are completed inspections on all cylinder components are carried out by dismantling and inspecting the valves, and assembling with new seal kits. High pressure testing and the overhauling of the locking system on Liebherr Telematik boom cylinders are also carried out. The cylinders are delivered with a guarantee, the company says.
“For slewing rings we dismantle and check all slewing ring components, grind and polish the bearing surfaces, and, if required, harden the surface. We repair worn teeth, and reassemble with new bearings and seals. We also carry out overhauling on winches, partial or full replacement of boom tubes, and can fabricate new sections of a damaged boom. All steel and welding materials are of manufacturer quality,” Köhler explains.
For the offshore industry, Liebherr-Werk Nenzing has specially designed tool containers (onshore and offshore versions) complete with hand tools, such as welding and lancing equipment, and hose crimping tools. There are, however, additional complications to address. A spokesperson from Liebherr-Werk Nenzing explains, “On some jobsites it is not permitted to take photographs of damages to the machines, which complicates the repair work. In addition, most offshore cranes that are refurbished are at an offshore location, so the impact of weather is very high, especially in Canada and the North Sea.”
The repair and refurbishment industry is only expected to get bigger as the years go on. As a spokesperson from Avezaat explains, part of this increase is because customers are using their equipment for a longer period of time and, as the equipment gets older, it will need more maintenance and refurbishment. Gilberto Ferreira adds, “The crane industry is still waking up to it. Depending on the market and the area of the globe, we see different types of cranes being refurbished. After this, the components and structural repairs are areas where we foresee growth in the next years.”