When purchasing a new crane for your manufacturing facility/operation, it’s important to consider not just the price of the crane, but also the quality. There are plenty of overhead cranes available in a fair price range, but the cost alone cannot dictate your decision when choosing the right crane for your application. So how do you ensure you’re buying the right crane for the right price?
To start, it’s always important to make your expectations clear from the beginning. Whether you are purchasing a crane from a dealer, vendor, or manufacturer, these expectations must be clearly outlined to ensure you end up with the best product for your needs. Here’s why:
If your overhead crane is down for repair or maintenance, you are indefinitely losing money; the longer you have to wait to get it up and moving, the worse the situation. When you are using a crane that can’t handle its workload or has been improperly allocated to you, there are several concerns that can cost you time and money—and a lot of it.
- Production suffers greatly when an overhead crane is out-of-use due to necessary repairs and maintenance issues.
- Your application can come to a stand still and work is completely halted; other jobs suffer if they’re waiting to use the space under the non-working crane.
- Repairs can be very costly if not covered under warranty. Check with your dealer or manufacturer to find out how long your new crane is warranted and what that warranty includes.
- Can the dealer or manufacturer claim misuse or abuse? Ensure that you are taking care of your new system once it's been installed. Repairs, inspections, and maintenance can prevent your warranty from being voided.
- Cranes that are down can impact shipping; customers are stuck waiting for their shipment, which can greatly hurt your business and diminish customer loyalty.
- Truck drivers can be held up waiting for their shipment to be loaded and unloaded.
- If your crane’s repairs are not covered under warranty, repairing them out of pocket can be costly.
The idea here is that if you had purchased the right crane for your application in the first place, you might not find yourself in this type of situation. All overhead cranes need to be inspected and maintained regularly, and most need repairs from time-to-time.
Even so, there are ways to ensure that your crane is running when you need it:
- Be sure to outline your application, operation, and facility requirements from the beginning, and be clear about what type of work your crane will have to endure.
- Communicate the dimensional specifications needed and any other features that will ensure the efficiency of your new overhead crane. Some dimensional specifications and features to consider are as follows:
- Crane capacity
- Span of the bridge or beam
- Overall height—dependent on your facility and any overhead obstructions—and lift height
- Runway lengths and number of bridges
- Steel or aluminum systems—including track and beams, which can be designed using aluminum while other parts are made with steel.
- Any dimensional limitations that might impact the crane’s ability to function properly for your specific operation.
- Motorization or manual system
- Festooning, rotation stops, taglines, casters, and any other additional features that will enhance your application—depending on which type of overhead crane you are buying.
- Motion speeds, voltage, controls, and other various electronic features needed
- A very important part of choosing the right crane for your total operation—and one that is often overlooked by buyers—is the CMAA Service Class that best fits your application. Operating your overhead crane outside its recommended service class is not only dangerous but very destructive to the crane itself. According to the CMAA, there are six service classes to consider:
- Class A: Standby or Infrequent Service—used for installation and maintenance, these cranes are operated at slow speeds for precise handling. They have long idle periods between lifts.
- Class B: Light Service—often used in repair shops and light assembly operations, the service requirement is light and speeds are low. Loads vary from none to occasional full capacity. Lifts per hour generally range from two to five hours, with an average of 10 feet per lift.
- Class C: Moderate Service—moderate service cranes are extremely popular, as most cranes are built to meet Class C service requirements. Moderate service cranes will handle loads that average 50 percent of the rated capacity, with five to 10 lifts per hour and an average of 15 feet per lift.
- Class D: Heavy Service—used in heavy machine shops, foundries, steel warehouses, lumber mills, and any other operation where heavy duty production is required. Heavy service cranes will handle loads approaching 50 percent of the rated capacity constantly during the work period. This type of service can handle high speeds, with 10 to 20 lifts per hour averaging 15 feet per lift.
- Class E: Severe Service—used in scrap yards, cement mills, lumber mills, container handling, and fertilizer plants. This type of service requires a crane capable of handling loads approaching rated capacity throughout its lift, with 20 or more lift per hour at or near the rated capacity.
- Class F: Continuous Severe Service—this type of service is reserved for top running bridge cranes and electric overhead traveling cranes. It requires a crane capable of handling loads approaching rated capacity throughout its lifetime. These cranes must provide the highest reliability, with special attention to ease of maintenance features.
- Although your dealer will help you to choose the right manufacturer for your new overhead crane, it doesn’t hurt to check out manufacturers and gauge their reliability and manufacturing standards. Here are some things to look for:
- Is the manufacturer ISO 9001 certified?
- Are all systems designed and stamped by a licensed engineer?
- Does the company offer on-site evaluation of material handling needs, and are they willing to make expert recommendations when needed?
- Do they manufacture pre-engineered and custom-engineered cranes?
- Are they eager to custom engineer system to fit your specific application demands?
- Do they meet all applicable industry standards?
- Do they conduct finite element analysis and destructive testing on custom designed systems?
- Do they utilize laser precision manufacturing and AWS-certified welding fabrication?
- Do they provide exceptional packaging and on-time delivery?
- Do they provide on-going, on-site customer technical support?
- Do they offer a great warranty?
- It’s imperative that you buy the system that meets all of your needs—operationally, and in regard to your application and facility. Purchasing the right crane for your needs may cost a little more upfront, but the payoff is huge. The right crane will save you lots of money in damages and repairs, unnecessary maintenance, and potential injuries and fatalities.
- Once you have purchased and installed the right crane for your total operation, it’s also important to implement a periodic inspection and preventative maintenance plan, which should be performed by a qualified person from a crane service company. It’s smart to plan the work around your production schedule to avoid as much downtime as possible.
In the end, downtime occurrences cannot be eliminated completely but can be held to a manageable level when you buy the right equipment for the job and properly maintain it.