March 2008 International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine editor's comment

04 March 2009

Alex Dahm

Alex Dahm

After much anticipation ConExpo suddenly arrives in a flurry of activity. It is an exciting time. My forecast last year to expect something big from Manitowoc in 2008 has not merely materialised but, rather, arrived with a big bang in this issue of IC. See page 16 of the March 2008 issue where we unveil the spectacular 2,000 tonne capacity Manitowoc Model 31000 lattice boom crawler crane.

The rising tide in the crane sector continues to float all boats. Despite this, the industry is working on many ways to reduce exposure to the negative effects of a major downturn, whenever one may materialise. Most concern the principle of not having all your eggs in one basket. Last month I mentioned developing sales channels in emerging markets.

Another way is to broaden the product range, for example, Manitowoc's new heavy lift (more than double the capacity of the Model 21000) crawler crane mentioned above. Another example is Chinese tower crane manufacturer Yongmao's diversification into heavy duty foundation crawler cranes.

Despite what we are led to believe from many quarters, not just in this industry, and the efforts of, for example, the International Organization for Standardization, a single world market, in terms of universal product, is still some way off. Individuals, industries and countries continue to have sufficient influence to mean that true "world cranes" are actually few and far between. Local customer demands and legislative requirements mean that cranes sold in one market are almost invariably different, even in small ways, from those sold in another.

Technological innovation is widely touted as the way to meet many of these increasingly specialised demands. Like in mobile phones and cars, computers with menu-driven software will become even more dominant as a way of customising cranes, via "personal settings". However, while a new big crawler like the one above would work in all markets with, at most, a few software tweaks, some rather different, physical, changes would be needed if you wanted to alter the product by, for example, significantly increasing its capacity. To do that maybe you could double the boom.

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