There's more to buying a crane than knowing the capacity

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
Mark Twain


Brief Case Histories

Most buyers only buy one or two cranes in a lifetime. Although cranes are not rocket science, there's more to getting the right crane than just deciding you need a 5 ton crane. If that were all you need, then the CMAA Spec 70 wouldn't be 88 pages long and the AIST/AISE Spec 6 wouldn't be almost twice that length.


I once went to a customer's plant and he told me he need a 5 ton 35 foot span crane. I then started asking a list of questions and before long I could see him getting angry with my questions. He then told me I was making this too complicated. What he didn't know was that I had a choice of 5 tons hoists that varied from $3,500 to well over $35,000. I needed to know if the crane would be hung from the overhead steel, the building columns or floor supported. 


On a project early in my career, I had a steel coil loading project to quote. The customer handed me a data sheet which listed x thousand coils per year and operated the plant on a three shift, 24/7 basis. I went back to my office and calculated the number of coils handled per week then per day and finally per hour and sized the crane accordingly. Armed with the number of coils per hour and the fact that all loads would be at full capacity, I sized the motor horsepower accordingly, estimated the crane and submitted a proposal. 

A week later, the buyer called and told me I must have made a mistake because my price was drastically low. After a quick review of my numbers I called the customer back to review the quote. Almost immediately the buyer caught my mistake. After reviewing my math, he told me that although the facility ran three shifts 24/7, the coil loading was done on a rail siding and the full weeks production was loaded over a three shift time span on Friday. In other words, the weeks production being loaded in three shifts and not equally across 21 shifts. The crane as quoted was inadequate in motor horsepower,  gear box size, bearings, and electrical contactors to name just of few of the potential problems. My crane wouldn't have lasted a month! I didn't ask enough questions.


The Four Essential Factors In Getting the Right Crane

  1. Crane Knowledge
    Every skill set has it's "tricks of the trade," short cuts that help you make the project easier while avoiding the inevitable land mines that the beginner probably won't see.

  2. Knowledge of the Application
    This is where you need the "old crane guy" to ask the right questions, but the buyer has to provide the answers to those questions. Having the right questions can save a ton of time and eliminate mistakes.
  3. An "Air Tight" Spec
    Really good specs are a blessing to both the buyer and seller. The the buyer, really good specs means the buyer will get what they need and to the seller, it means they can safely bid the right crane and not fear that a "low ball" artist will sneak in and get the contract with an undersized crane. Good specs are good for everyone.
  4. A short list of Reliable and Appropriate Crane Vendors
    The bidders list is critical for two reasons. I learned as a young man, that life's too short to work with unreliable vendors. No mater how closely you watch them, you will get distracted. Alway deal with top tier vendors. The second warning is much less obvious. Almost all crane builders are specialist and one category of cranes. Many will not even admit this to themselves but it's none the less true. There are "stick crane" builders (cranes built with wide-flange beams), "box crane" builders (cranes built with fabricated welded plate steel) and "Mill duty" process cranes. If you want three competitive bids, make sure you get three bidders that specialized in the same group.

Services Offered by Overhead Crane Consults, LLC

  1. Application Analysis
    We can help you by asking the right questions to determine if your application requires a CMAA Class A, B, C, D, E, or F class crane. Sometimes the most economical solution will be a hybrid combination. Bottom line is that you don't need a college degree in overhead cranes, but a copy of the Cliff's Notes would be helpful.
  2. Specification Writing
    This is one of the most critical areas to make sure your're getting the right crane. The problem here is in this age of word processing and "cut and paste" all too often, buyers are putting together "FrankenSpecs". These are specs that are cut and pasted from a number of old specs the buyer has on hand. The problem is that this method often results in holes and conflicting overlaps. The worst part of these "FrankenSpecs" is that the buyer let's their guard down feeling protected by the specs while the unscroupulous seller sees holes big enough to drive a semi through. Meanwhile the legit bidders lose another project.
  3. Vendor Quote Review
    Making sure all the vendors are conforming to the spec is easier said than done. It takes an experienced eye to determine who's playing ball and who's not. It's equally important to throughly review bidders alternative. Often money saving and/or performance improving ideas can be garnered here.
  4. Approval Drawing Review
    Possibly even more important than quotation review is the Approval Drawing Review, after all, this is what your buying. Regardless of what your spec required, once you sign the approval drawings, you've made a deal for what the vendor has shown on the drawings and what you've confirmed with your signed approval. You better get it right!