Energy and the rough terrain market

By Laura Hatton10 December 2012

A Link-Belt RTC-80110 carries out steel erection work for MAS Building and Bridge working in Arlingt

A Link-Belt RTC-80110 carries out steel erection work for MAS Building and Bridge working in Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

When it comes to developments in rough terrains, increased capacity is one of the trends but issues including productivity, maintenance, longer life and operator comfort, are firmly on the agenda too.

According to Ingo Schiller, Manitowoc senior vice president of worldwide marketing, its subsidiary Grove has built more rough terrain cranes over 100 tonnes capacity than all other manufacturers combined. The latest cranes are the 120 tonne (150 US ton) RT9150E, and in for the core market, the 60 tonne capacity RT765E-2.

“We have an operator-friendly Vision cab for all cranes in the RT range, giving operators unparalleled visibility and comfort from the driver’s seat. In addition, the RT880E, RT890E, RT9130E-2 and RT9150E have a tilt cab for a better view of the load when the boom is at steeper angles,” explains Schiller.

Other developments at Grove include inverted outrigger jack cylinders, which protect the cylinder rod from dirt and sand, says Schiller, thereby extending working life and reducing maintenance. “The cranes also have four steering modes for optimum maneuverability, and they are easy to transport. Operators are assisted in lifting duties with the built-in load moment indicator (LMI) system and Work Area Definition, for limiting zones of movement.”

Grove will launch a new rough terrain at the 2013 Bauma exhibition in Germany. Speaking of future products in general, Schiller adds, “In terms of features, we will not overcomplicate matters, because the rough terrain market is well established and customer needs are clearly defined. We will continue to offer better lifting ability and include features that enhance productivity.”

Higher capacity
Expanding on the issue of capacity, Schiller adds, “We’ve done more than anyone to advance the higher capacity end of the RT market and we’ve been able to do that by combining our expertise in RT and all terrain technologies. Our feeling is that there is a limit in terms of the size of RT cranes, mostly governed by the economics of transporting and moving the cranes. We can build bigger RT cranes but, if they are uneconomic for customers to transport, assemble and move, then there is no point.”

Rüdiger Zollondz, Terex Cranes director of product marketing, has a similar view, “The purpose of rough terrains is versatility and being able to move them quickly within the jobsite to handle a wide variety of lifts. Much higher capacity than the top of our range will mean that the concept will change a bit. So we do not see rough terrains much larger than our 130 US ton model.”

Mining can be an exception to the rule, however, says Schiller, “We are finding that large capacity RT cranes are replacing equivalent size AT cranes on some mine sites, particularly if the mine owner does not want to move the crane between sites by road but, instead, plans to leave the crane on the project for the duration of its life.”

In another reference to higher capacity models, Tadano claims that in the eight months from January to August 2012, its GR-1000XL model had 50% market share in North America, in the 80 tonne and over capacity range.

Most commonly RTs lie in the 50 to 60, or 70 tonne capacity range. For example, Terex introduced the 75 tonne RT 75, produced in Crespellano, Italy, in September and, in June, produced the first Brazilian version of its 50 tonne (55 US ton) capacity RT 555-1, named Progress 55, at the manufacturer’s new Brazil-based facility. Although at the time of writing, in late October, the manufacturer said a new 110 tonne model was ready to be launched at its Waverly, USA plant. “What goes without saying is safety and operator comfort. The new Waverly RT will incorporate a new cab implementing design cues and ergonomic studies like other recently launched Terex cranes. Additionally ease of transportation is very important,” says Zollondz.

Popular range
At USA-based Link-Belt the 65 to 90 US ton (59 to 82 tonne) capacity models are the most popular. All Erection in Ohio, USA, purchased 12 of its new 8080s at the company’s CraneFest event in September 2012. “I believe that gives a pretty strong indication of the necessity for this machine,” says Rick Curnutte, Link-Belt product manager of telescopic cranes. The over-100 tonne range is not to be underestimated, however; there are more than 300 such Link-Belt machines working worldwide, says the company.

Curnutte adds, “When we feel that the market demands a new crane, we spend the time and research in building something worthy of the Link-Belt name. For the Australian market we tailored our HTC-86110 to comply with the transport regulation and [Link-Belt distributor] Baden Davis Crane Connection of New South Wales, has proven success with multiple orders.”

Takuji Murakami, Tadano marketing director, summarises; “In North America, the most popular capacity would be the 70 tonne class; in Japan, it is 25 tonnes; and in other markets, 50 tonnes. Apart from in the Japanese market, we are considering developing bigger machines.”

Oil and gas is certainly a big sector for the rough terrain, for example, Manitowoc’s single biggest population of RTs in Russia is working on the huge oil and gas developments around Sakhalin Island.

“Apart from being widely utilised in oil sand, shale gas, shale oil fields, plant construction, plant maintenance and energy related projects, the cranes are also having a high market share in mining machinery maintenance,” says Murakami, at Tadano.

Murakami adds that while its main market for rough terrains is North America and Japan, strong emerging markets can be found in the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, which are all growing stronger. “Currently, South America, Asia and Africa are still mainly for used cranes. However, due to the expansion of customers, and regulations becoming stricter, the distribution of used cranes could be affected. We will try to develop machines that apply to a wider market.

We would like to change those markets into new crane market gradually.”

Market challenges
India also has its challenges, adds Murakami, because, up until 2000, it was closed off to new crane business, he says. “Meanwhile, the projects in India were growing bigger, and the locally manufactured RTs were unable to meet the demands. So we set up Tadano India PVT Ltd, and speeded up the development of the Indian market.”

Turning to Russia, Murakami thinks it will continue to grow. Last year, Tadano developed a rough terrain for -40 degree centigrade environments, specifically in Russia.

In late May, Link-Belt announced its distributorship with construction specialist BMC in Brazil. It provides service, parts and equipment across the country and offers training and customer technical support. “We see a lot of growth coming out of Brazil in the next three to five years,” says Curnutte, “Aside from Brazil, we have a strong distributor, Baden Davis Crane Connection, in Australia, and we have multiple distributors in South America and the Caribbean that include Paramount Gruas in Chile and Argentina as well as Paramount Transport and Trading Company in Trinidad.”

Uri Toudjarov, vice president at worldwide Zoomlion distributor, Global Crane Sales, points to the traditionally good markets of the USA and Middle East but agrees that Africa, South East Asia and South America have recently been showing sales growth. Toudjarov adds, “Brazil and Russia are extremely busy markets for us along with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. We have signed several good dealers in the emerging markets and intend to put a lot of support behind them.”

Emerging target
Terex Cranes also has an aggressive approach to emerging markets and, in May, produced its first rough terrain from its new assembly plant in Brazil. The 50 tonne capacity RT555 Progress was a product of the first phase of the Cachoeirinha-based plant, which sees RTs brought in as complete knock-down (CKD) kits from the established Waverly, USA facility for assembly. In the second phase, Terex aims to receive accreditation for local companies to supply components.

Despite this Zollondz adds, “Sales in the emerging markets are still strong although they have slightly decelerated,” continuing, “Traditionally busy markets include Japan, USA and the Middle East. It’s picking up in the USA and has been picking up in Latin America.”

Turning to recent innovations, you may ask, what now makes a technologically-advanced rough terrain? Long reach and transportability would make up part of the answer. Cabs and accessibility are also taking great steps. “Link-Belt’s cab and carrier access gives buyers more with a total of six points of access to the flat deck carrier deck,” says Curnutte, “The front and rear lower steps can be folded to avoid damage during transport. Once you’re on the deck, routine checks on power train components and fluid levels are a snap with large swing-out doors that reveal the entire engine compartment. There is also an access ladder incorporated into upper sheet metal allowing access to an upper work platform with a folding guardrail.”

Link-Belt’s small and mid-range rough terrains have four-link rear axle suspension with Hydro-gas Ride available as an option, offering axle control that greatly reduces the bounce that plagues designs with conventional rough terrain crane suspension, says Curnutte.

Concerning future products, emissions legislation continues to be a challenge, Murakami at Tadano says, “Last year, we had a full model change for four of our rough terrain cranes. In 2014 we will start developing machines that can adapt to Stage 4/Euromot4 regulations,” Murakami adds, “Also, we will start develop machines with bigger capacities.”

Toudjarov sums up the rough terrain market with Global Crane Sales’ future model, “We are coming up with the RT 55 with 42 metre boom, and it will be available for sale December 2012. At this point we will focus on the 100 tonne and below machines as this is the largest market segment. Internationally we sell a lot of RT 40, but the RT 55 remains the most popular size machine.”

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