Tower crane manufacturers, in view of latest high-rise constructions, are customising their products accordingly so that they can scale greater heights, lift heavier loads and yet offer better operating cost advantages. A new feature among cranes is their ability to selfdismantle the jib and they can do this without having to bring it down to the ground level. This reduces the cost for the contractor since a separate crane will now not be required to dismantle the jib. Superior quality steel used in cranes prevent damage to the mast and jib during erection, while it is functioning and also when it is being dismantled. Cranes these days also need lesser number of trailers to transport them, which brings down the cost even further. All the costs reduced while assembling, transporting and dismantling them increases the profitability for all the concerned parties, making their business more viable On the growth potential of tower cranes where price considerations may prove to be an obstacle and suggesting what could be done to lend impetus to the segment, Ragnar A Brigg, marketing director, Raimondi Cranes, said, “Unlike goods and services, where the cost-benefit equation is very complex, and even moldable, through branding, marketing and trendsetting, equipment, such as cranes, are mere capital assets in a production process. The construction industry is one of the oldest though, perhaps for that same reason, not necessarily all that well understood. The construc tion production process in which cranes are involved is often closer to handcrafting than to a set production-chain as the end-product is not standardised. To better determine and project the cost benefit equation for cranes one needs to understand the input-output equation in terms of the process and all the factors of production, and the time element, the latter being a major opportunity-cost factor as well as an under-evaluated risk. Construction companies often fail to see the full picture and cost accounting fails to do accomplish what is set to do. On the input side, costs often vary throughout the production process and the end product is subjected to the same market forces that govern pricing. Hence, a big challenge for constructors is meeting budget requirement, often leading itself to unplanned changes on the input side. Such deviations have also a quality cost, sometimes hidden, though not always permanently so. Cranes not only compensate manpower costs, they reduce production time, thereby greatly stabilising input costs and reducing financial and opportunity costs. The element of safety and quality also come into play. These considerations are not always taken fully into account when considering the cost of cranes as capital assets. Crane manufacturers and dealers must transmit the real cost benefit from the mechanisation process in the construction industry. Proper service and preventive maintenance are also inducement factors in this transmission of the real utility value. A scenario where costs/ benefits are in a perfect balance is impossible, hence at the core of any targeted market research is understanding where the balance is tilting, why, and in which direction it’s moving. Early market entry enables cranes manufacturers to detect opportunities and help potential clients and understand and measure the value of greater mechanisation.”
About challenges involved from planning up to installing a tower crane, he said, “Proper choice of crane and its emplacement must be considered in advance, as well as the type of foundation.
The foundation may require a pre-delivery, depending on distance to construction site and the experience/skills to undertake this initial task. Knowledge about the type of access to the building site and the peripheral area is essential. Such are regulations and permits. Transportation is an important cost factor in crane installment, as is the access to adequate mobile cranes. The latter may also require self-erecting capabilities, which can be an added cost when final crane height wouldn’t require it otherwise. Experienced technicians and knowledge about on-site support is also needed. General climate and weather/wind conditions on chosen erection date must also be evaluated.
General logistic and safety issues must also be planned in advance. On erection day/days all the required machinery, the trained erectors and other support, as well as safety elements must be in place.”
About the maximum unsupported height, maximum reach and maximum lifting power of their tower cranes, he said, “Of maximum possible unsupported height, standard free-standing will be 65 metres and with special configuration free standing height will be 100 metres. The maximum possible reach is 80 metres and maximum possible lifting capacity of 28 tonnes. But all values will depend on the model, hoist and jib configuration.” About the monthly rental fee and for installation and disassembly, he said, “Rental and service rates vary for different models, different heights, different reach and different lift capacity for different markets.”
On measures taken to ensure tower crane safety, he said, “Tower crane safety has two dimensions, passive and active. Tower design, materials and production process influence both. The active safety dimension also includes operational related factors. Safety must also be seen in terms of the standing stability and maneuverability of the crane on site and also in terms of how the crane improves the working environment and the safety of the crane operator. Emplacement, proper erection, preventive and regular maintenance, as well as adequate training, of both crane and ground operation manpower, must all be in place to provide maximum over all safety. To ensure safety in all the mentioned dimensions, Raimondi has progressively increased the safety standards by considering both dimensions already in the design, the choice of materials and in its production.
Our known ergonomic cabin design, comfort and vision, with easy and safe access from the ground, our touch screen with programmable capabilities with the black box for both active and preventive maintenance are also one of our trademarks.
The design has been adapted to meet the increasing demands created by changing weather conditions. Crane longevity is also another safety factor, and our A4 FEM 1.001 standard provides it.
Another aspect is easier, and hence safer, erection. Our MRT range does that when assembling the counter jib, with trolley, hook block and hoisting rope already arranged and fitted to the trolley’s pulleys.
Our hydraulic climbing cage, with two hydraulic pistons, increases safety and operational capability. The careful design of the walking platforms incorporate improved anti-slippery platforms and other safety elements. There are many other carefully designed safety aspects, many of which are easily observed visually. Last, but not least, planning and execution of the erection of the crane, when executed by our technicians, have taken our cranes across frontier and oceans, providing us with a renowned global presence.”
Queried about their growth potential in accelerating project completion while price considerations prove to be an obstacle and what should be done to lend impetus to the segment, Ashwani Mattoo, Sales Director, Manitowoc Cranes (India and the sub-continent) said, “In the real estate business, supply depends on the demand of the customer for residential apartments and commercial complexes.
As per the current scenario we should target Tier 2 -3 cities and small developers and spread awareness about the usage and benefits of using tower cranes which will help them to increase profitability and help speed up work.”
In terms of cranes his company employs (self-erecting, luffing jib cranes or flattop tower cranes) and their pros and cons, he said, “Self-erecting cranes are used for low rise housing, scattered developments, small builders, cement plants and government housing. Self-erecting are adapted for small to medium size construction and when the job site duration is for some months since erection and dismantling procedures are fast and cost-efficient. Luffing jib cranes are used at narrow or congested sites and on high-rise constructions.
The short radius out of service and luffing jib characteristics allow a high concentration of hook in reduced spaces.
It is also the solution when air-right is a constraint and when overflying neighbouring properties is not allowed or not possible. Flat-top cranes provide some advantages at congested sites. When several cranes are installed at the same job site it may reduce the overall height of the highest crane and then may avoid to tie cranes on the building. These cranes are also often used near airport areas where there’s a restriction on increasing the height of cranes.”
About internal climbing units and how many have been mounted internally, he said, “All Potain Hammerhead and topless and Luffing jib cranes can be erected on internal climbing. Sixty per cent are internal climbing cranes in India.”
Asked to comment on challenges from planning up to installing a tower crane, he said, “The first challenge is at the planning phase to establish the lift planning – As it is sometimes difficult to get the actual drawing of the site, we sometimes have to work on assumptions.
It is indeed key for us to have the latest and final drawings of the planned construction with the load spectrum to be lifted by the cranes. Accurate information will allow us to make the proper choice of crane sizes and location to properly cover the job site’s needs. On the installation phase we will have to get more technical information such as job site accessibility, ground-bearing capacity to define the proper foundation, power availability and also to plan for an assist crane of the right size to lift the heaviest component of the crane during the erection process. Also at the earliest possible stage we have to plan for dismantling of the crane as the job site will be less accessible and more busy due to the construction being completed.”
About the maximum unsupported height, maximum reach and maximum lifting power of their tower cranes, he said, “Tower cranes load chart and free standing height are always to be considered with jib counterweight and base ballast. Depending the model/size of the crane the standard free-standing height of the crane can reach up to 100 metres.
Standard jib length can be up to 80 metres and the standard maximum load can reach 80 tonnes. But any specific requirement in term of free standing height, jib length and maximum load capacity can be studied to customise the crane to the job site’s requirements.”
About the monthly rental fee and for installation and disassembly, he said, “Most of the hirer demand is for 2-3% of the actual value of the crane. Transportation, installation or erection and dismantling is valued on a case-by-case basis as the transport and installation or dismantling costs may change from one job site to the other.”
Of measures taken to ensure tower crane safety, he said, “At Manitowoc, safety is not a feature, it is a culture. From the design of the crane, its manufacturing, its documentation and user’s manual, up to the installation and finally its usage and maintenance, all our processes and methodologies are driven with a “safety first” concern. During the design phase our cranes in view of newer avenues and mechanisms are tested on our test yards. Our suppliers’ processes are audited and raw material and components are tested in order to ensure the quality of the supply which needs to be up to our specifications. All our welders are trained and their skills are regularly tested to ensure the quality of their work. Our service people are also regularly trained to ensure they have the right knowledge and that they are up to speed with our latest technologies. We also provide training for customer maintenance engineers and crane drivers to teach them how to use our equipment to maximise their efficiency but also to use them in a safe way.
These are a few examples of what we do to ensure the quality of our cranes and to make a safe usage of it.”
Ravin Wadhawan, director, Terex Cranes India, said, “Tower cranes in general can accelerate and make any construction project more efficient and even profitable. There are several obstacles that may prevent construction companies from using them. Knowledge: Some markets are relatively immature. This means utilisation and benefits of tower cranes are not widely known. Potential users are unaware of all the potential benefits a tower crane (or self-erecting) might bring to their project. In these markets we typically see users using only tower cranes when absolutely necessary, for example, high rise, pre-cast concrete pieces, etc.
Lifting alternatives: In markets where tower cranes are not as pre-eminent, other lifting methods might be used for example forklifts, material handlers, hoists, etc. Labour costs: In markets where labour cost is lower than traditional tower crane markets (ie Europe) the incentives to invest in a high-cost capital good are not as high because potential cost savings are not as high.”
About projects (national and international) handled by their company, he said, “A special department in the tower crane division called Application Engineering works with customers to provide them with lifting solutions for special jobs, sometimes this involves creating custom applications for existing tower cranes. We had Terex CTT 181-8 and CTT 231-10 tower cranes building the new multi-storey parking structure and air traffic control tower at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai and the Shard building in London.
Our cranes through our customers are involved in all kinds of projects, ranging from a small residential project (with selferecting cranes for example) to high profile and complex projects like the Shard in London, Panama Canal expansion and the MOSE barrier that will protect Venice from high tides.”
Of challenges involved right from planning up to installing a tower crane, he said, “With more pressure on construction companies, profitability, timing, and projects getting increasingly complex, jobsite logistics are getting more and more important. The planning phase is important to understand what type of material will be lifted, timing, number of lifts, height, crane overlapping, potential hazards or jobsite constraints, building architecture and shape, materials used, etc. There are multiple variables that are vital for planning. Based on this an analysis is made (our company offers this to assist in the purchase) and then solutions are offered. Examples of solutions or crane variables include: Type of base (bolted, casted, rails, etc) , freestanding or anchored (and which types of anchors are used), climbing or no climbing frame, type of tower sections and off course the type of crane and length of jib. When installing a tower crane, all emphasis is put on timing and coordination within the jobsite planning. A tower crane requires space to be set up and requires multiple truckloads of components. In order for an installation to be carried out successfully, there has to be enough space for the all-terrain crane to mount the tower, the truckloads with components have to arrive in coordinated and planned timing and there should be qualified installers on site.”
About the maximum unsupported height, maximum reach and maximum lifting power, he said, “The configurations are so variable that it depends on many factors. Just as an example by using large tower sections at the bottom and then a transfer mast (a special collar/adaptor that allows different types of tower sections to be used together) with lighter/ smaller tower sections at the top, one can reach impressive freestanding heights.”
On measures for tower crane safety, he said, “In the words of Terex CEO Ron DeFeo, “If a team member or customer cannot go back nothing else matters”.
Safety is a top concern for the company and we always strive to push barriers higher and develop new and improved safety measures. Safety is deep in the company culture and we constantly work to bring the barrier higher. In case of tower cranes those safety systems include multiple anchor and clipping points, foolproof erecting sequences (for self erecting) high visibility cabins, platform and railings, etc.”
Of their growth potential, Anil Mudgil, Associate Vice President, CED, Action Construction Equipment Ltd said, “The segment has great potential for the Indian market. Their usage saves manpower and accelerates projects to a big extent. It is because of them and other mechanisations that some contractors can finish one floor in 8-10 days and projects can be completed in 15-20 months. The benefits and savings by their use easily surpass cost parameters. By using them we get faster construction, savings due to manpower reduction and reduced concrete wastage and the advantage of timely completion of projects. Companies that do not want to invest in them due to capital expenditure constraints have an option to offer them on a rental basis, which helps a contractor use them without getting into fixed cost issues. Customers need not bother about operations and maintenance (O&M), availability or uptime issues. We provide a complete package which enables customers to work without owning tower cranes.”
On cranes employed, he said, “We offer self-erecting and fixed tower cranes. Selferecting cranes are generally of smaller capacities and can work for buildings up to 10-12 floors beyond which fixed tower cranes are used. Flat-top cranes generally do not give any benefit over CAT-head cranes. Luffing cranes are required only to work in close proximity of existing buildings or if a number of cranes are working closely. Luffing cranes are application-specific and because of their price, used only when other options are not possible.”
Of how many are internal climbing units or mounted internally he said, “Approximately 20% of our cranes sold are used as internal climbing cranes.
Generally people have a preference for external cranes up to 100-120 metres beyond which internal climbing cranes are preferred. External cranes although costly for heights beyond 120-140 metres have an advantage of ‘clear line of sight’ which generally results in faster and safer operations.”
Of challenges from planning up to installation he said, “While planning one should be clear on loads to be lifted, coverage required, speed of operations, safety, if it is possible to approach the location with a mobile crane for installation or at the time of dismantling. The dismantling procedure too needs to be clear right at the time of choosing the location for their installation to avoid problems after completion of civil works.
If trained personnel are available then there are generally no issues in installing a tower crane.”
About maximum unsupported height, reach and lifting power, he claimed, “We are the largest tower crane manufacturing company in the country,” and added, “Our cranes are supported by Pan-India sales and service network at over 100 locations in the country. The maximum capacity produced by us in India is of 16 tonnes capacity with 70 metres jib length. Beyond 16 tonnes, we provide cranes from our foreign counterparts.” Regarding monthly rental fee and for installation and disassembly, he said, “Monthly rentals including O&M are approximately 4-6% of the crane cost.
Installation and dismantling charges are generally taken on an actual basis and dependent on different models as per tonnage and working heights. For e.g: Cost of installation of a 6 tonnes crane up to a height of 40 metres would be about Rs90,000 to Rs100,000 including mobile cranes required at the site.”
In view of safety measures, he said, “Safety is of prime importance with respect to installation, operation, height increase or decrease. We provide all possible safety features like limit switches for trolley, hoisting, slew functions, overload and movement limiters with alarm and cutoff in case of unsafe or overload operations. We also offer safe load indicators (SLI) along with automatic cut-off optionally as and when required. The most important factor is a good, trained operator and so we have started a well-equipped training centre at Faridabad to provide O&M training to our customer’s personnel.”
So these tower cranes in view of their manifold advantages are now increasingly finding newer business avenues. Apart from high-rise buildings or skyscrapers in view of this trend in realty, they are also being used in cement plants, shipbuilding yards and for thermal power project construction where they may be used for erection of boilers and turbines.