Crane Hot Line Editors Summarize Key Crane Trends Revealed at ConExpo

As always there was more to see at ConExpo than there was time for in a week. In addition to watching the week-long Crane Rodeo, during which operators competed for top honors, and hosting Maximum Capacity Media’s one-day Crane & Rigging Conference, our editorial team spread out to the corners of the show to bring you these quick takes on trends and interesting tidbits.

Trend No. 1: Chinese cranes for the North American market are a reality. Although Sany, Zoomlion, and XCMG all exhibited in 2008, this year’s show marked a distinct difference in commitment from the Chinese crane makers.

Sany America had the biggest presence of the three. Banners covering the outside of the convention center boldly displayed the Sany name and inside the booth were new crawler and RT cranes designed to meet the needs of North American buyers. Just a few weeks prior to the show the company opened the first phase of its U.S assembly plant in Peachtree City, Ga., and 70 percent of the employees are from the United States. This includes a crawler crane engineering team featuring familiar names in the crane industry—John Lanning, formerly of Manitowoc, and Greg Trainer, formerly of Terex. In addition, the company is well on its way to establishing a dealer network.

Zoomlion showed RT, crawler, and truck cranes. The rough-terrain cranes are sold through Global Crane Sales, and during the show the distributor also announced an agreement to market Zoomlion’s crawler cranes. Both product lines meet ANSI standards for the U.S. market. According to Bob Miller, sales director, the company’s truck cranes are not currently ready for North America but are being sold into South America. Parts and service for the RTs and crawlers will be offered by Zoomlion USA in Yorkville, Wis., and by Global Crane Sales. “Zoomlion is here and we are fully committed to the North American market,” said Miller.

Trend No. 2: Intelligent crane operating systems are branching out beyond the basic load moment indicator system, and crane manufacturers are turning to custom-engineered solutions that make use of telematics. Kobelco’s new K-Cross system, which will launch in the United States later this year, utilizes cell phone connections to offer users and owners machine management capabilities. The system has been undergoing testing in Japan for two years, and according to Jack Fendrick, president of Kobelco Cranes North America, its standout feature is integrated software built to help the crane owner analyze the data. Options include notifications to the owner anytime a crane is overloaded and the ability for the factory to log in for remote diagnostics.

Tadano’s Hello-Net is a web-based monitoring system offering GPS tracking and remote diagnostics. Meanwhile, Link-Belt designed its own new operating system called Link-Belt Pulse. More than a rated capacity indicator, it also includes boom extend mode control, self-diagnostics, and continuous monitoring of crane functions and conditions.

Likewise, both Kobelco and Tadano introduced fuel management systems. In both cases, the operator can choose whether to employ the system. When turned on, the systems will reduce engine rpm if they determine that the crane is idling or in light-work modes. The result is fuel savings and reduced emissions.

Trend No. 3: Crane manufacturers continue to mount bigger and bigger cranes on commercial carriers. In 2007 Manitex was the first to break the 50-ton barrier in such a configuration and others have followed. Yet, Terex’s Crossover 6000 is worth mentioning. Rated at 60 tons and offering a 170-foot maximum boom length, the crane combines the T560 upper with a commercial carrier. At the show it was mounted on a Freightliner. An X-pattern outrigger design is central to achieving chassis longevity and a 360° chart. A hydraulically self-removable counterweight system enables multiple configurations and increases the boom truck’s roadability. According to Jay Barth, product marketing manager for Terex Cranes, a roadable configuration is possible with the crane at its 60-ton rating.

Freightliner also made a noteworthy introduction targeted specifically at the big boom truck market. Included in their new SD line of severe duty crane bodies is the 108SD for cranes rated up to 30 tons and the 114SD for 30- to 50-ton cranes. Freightliner showcased its larger body with a Manitex model 40124S. Rated at 40 tons, the crane has a five-section 124-foot boom. “The installation of the Manitex crane [on the 114SD] went smoothly,” said Randy Robertson, director of sales and marketing for Manitex. “It is evident that Freightliner listened to the needs of the truck-mounted crane market. I look forward to adding the 114SD to Manitex’s offering of crane chassis.”

Trend No. 4: Remanufacturing is not new but Manitowoc’s efforts to legitimize the process will reduce the time and costs involved, making it a truly viable option for buyers who want to add years of life to existing models in their fleet. The manufacturer’s new EnCore Partners program qualifies certain dealers, of which H&E Equipment Services is the first, to do OEM-backed structural repairs and complete remanufacturing of any Manitowoc crane or component. Because the manufacturer has dedicated personnel to work with the EnCore Partners, “We are able to fast track the technical side and it’s less expensive for the customer,” said Bob Hund, executive vice president of Manitowoc Crane Care.

Frank Arthur, branch manager of H&E Equipment Services in Belle Chasse, La. and Birmingham, Ala., said in the past “H&E primarily focused on mechanical and non-structural component repairs and remanufacturing projects. When corrosion or a failed weld compromised the machine structurally, we had to rely on Manitowoc to do the repairs. Now, with help and authorization from Manitowoc, we can complete the repairs ourselves, saving our customers considerable expense and downtime.”

On display at the show was a 1996 Manitowoc 888 owned by Turner Industries. The crane was disassembled to its bare frames, weldments were inspected, new parts and components were installed, and it was painted.