Crawler crane market update
05 July 2019
By most accounts, the conventional crawler crane market is gaining momentum. D.Ann Shiffler reports.
For the past few years, the conventional lattice boom crawler crane market in North America has been flat, although the makers of these cranes have continued to introduce new products and refine the features and benefits of these machines. Demag, Liebherr, Link-Belt, Manitowoc and Kobelco are the major players in the North American market, although Sany America and Zoomlion are said to gearing up to re-enter the market in the next year or so.
American Cranes & Transport recently checked in with the major crawler OEMs to discuss their product ranges and the overall market.
The North American crawler market is up in 2019, approximately 10 percent over 2018 year to date, according to Jack Fendrick, chief operating officer and vice president, Kobelco Construction Machinery, USA.
With a product range of lattice boom crawlers from 80 to 330 tons, Kobelco America’s sole product is crawler cranes.
“Our product range represents approximately 95 percent of the crawler crane market in North America,” Fendrick said. He considers the largest class of crawlers by unit to be the 110-ton class.
“The 110-class has the most competitors,” he said. “But the most competitive class in terms of battles per deal is the 330-ton class.”
Fendrick said Kobelco’s customer base “truly covers all segments – our smaller crawler customers, in the 80 and 110-ton class, do a lot of pile driving. Our mid-size class customers, 160 tons, do a lot of commercial work. Our larger size class, 275 and 330 tons, do mostly lift work with the majority on road, bridge and petrochemical jobsites.”
Fendrick said customers are looking for reliability, chart, transportability, cost and most of all product support.
Kobelco produces 450-ton, 600-ton and 1,200-ton crawlers for the domestic Japanese market, but Fendrick said Kobelco America will continue to focus on the 330-ton and down class.
The 80 to 100-ton crawler class used to be the most popular model in North America. But this is changing, Fendrick said and most of his competitors agree.
On the flip side, Ingo Noeske, director of product management for Demag crawler cranes, views the crawler crane market as “stable, neither increasing nor decreasing.”
This may be because Demag produces cranes in the higher capacities, ranging from 440 tons to 3,525 tons.
Noeske considers the 650 to 700-ton capacity class to be the most competitive. From his perspective, customers are looking for safety first.
“Safety is a top concern, and we always strive to push the barriers higher and develop new and improved safety measures,” Noeske said. “For example, in crawlers, our Demag ESTA award-winning fall protection system, railings all around the machine, components access points, redundant systems and the like.”
As well, ease of transport and quick set up are also high on a customer’s list.
“Reduced transport costs and rigging times are important for our customers,” he said. “For example, the new CC 2800-2 was consistently designed for simple and efficient transport. The A-frame and auxiliary hoist can be removed for transport and the SL mast, like that of the CC 3800-1, now consists of three (previously four) separate parts. The base crane, with a height of 3.195 meters, weighs 77.1 metric tons.”
With the A-frame removed, the weight of the base crane is reduced to 62.6 metric tons. The two frames used for the counterweight plates, instead of the conventional and significantly heavier base plates, also contribute to weight optimization at 10 metric tons each. The weight of the tracks was likewise optimized compared to the CC 2800-1. With the standard drive and 1.5-meter track shoes, the total transport weight is 37.8 metric tons, Noeske explained.
He said that the Demag corporate counterweight system also helps to reduce transport costs.
“All crawler models, from the 400-metric ton CC 2400-1 to the 3,200 metric ton CC 8800-1 TWIN use the same counterweight slabs,” he said. “This allows better inventory management, and for companies with several depots, saves transportation costs.”
Another important point is versatility and reliability, Noeske said.
On the test pad in Germany is the new 800 metric ton class LR 1800-1.0. The crane will be launched in the U.S. next spring at ConExpo.
“The CC 2800-2 is extremely versatile,” he explained. “It can be used for infrastructure projects in road and bridge construction as well as erecting wind turbines, and puts in a fine performance in refineries too.”
Noeske said the 660 to 1,375-ton cranes, namely the CC 2800-2, CC 3800-1 and CC 6800-1, are most in demand, although he said they have put a few of the CC 8800-1 units in the market.
“We see an increased interest in the CC 6800-1 as this crane can lift heavy loads without attachments while it still is very compact for its class and easy to rig.
Liebherr’s LR crawler crane range includes the “easy lifting” category of 100 to 249 metric tons, the “comfort class” category of 250 to 799 metric tons and the “strong specialists” category of 800 to 3,000 metric tons.
Liebherr USA’s Bret Jacobson said that the North American market is currently one of the strongest markets in the world for Liebherr crawler cranes.
“As the approach to the wind industry is different in North America than in Europe, we have focused on crawler crane variations specific for North America such as market-tailored boom setup configurations and lifting solutions without use of derrick,” he said. “Liebherr will continue to invest in our product support for the North American market, including lift solutions and technical sales support pre-sale; additional service personnel, increased spare parts inventory and leveraging additional Liebherr USA locations for after sales support.”
The company offers a full product range for the North American market in the 500 to 1,350 metric ton classes, according to Jacobson.
“We are especially strong in the 500 and 1,000 metric ton classes,” Jacobson said. “The new LR 1800-1.0 (800 metric ton class) will be a perfect fit for the petrochemical, power plants, industry applications and civil construction projects.”
This crane will make its North American debut at ConExpo 2020. As far as the most competitive lattice boom crawler class, Jacobson points to LR1500 and LR 1600/2 class, (500 to 699 metric tons) because there are a greater number of cranes available. For Liebherr, the LR 11000 and LR 1600/2 are working heavily in the wind markets and the LR 1500 and LR 1750/2 are popular for industrial and civil work, he said. Liebherr designs its cranes to be easy to assemble and disassemble.
“You know the old saying, time is money,” he said. “Also minimized transport cost, flexible boom systems and crane configurations, and a high level of technical sales support, service support and parts support.”
He agrees that there is strong competition in the 650 metric ton class of cranes. In terms of the over 700 metric ton market, he said that demand for these large cranes is steady in fields like offshore wind turbine handling, taller wind turbines with larger nacelles, general port handling, refinery/nuclear power work and large civil projects.
Link-Belt competes in the smaller end of the crawler market, producing cranes from 80 to 300 tons. Product Marketing Director Pat Collins described the market for Link-Belt’s crawler range as “reasonably, pretty active.”
“I think there are segments that are slow but overall the market seems to be gradually picking up the pace.”
Collins explained that the trend is to “bump up” capacities in all crane classes.
“Why buy an 80-ton crawler when you can spend a little more and get a 110 or 130 capacity crane,” he said. “You can cover the same rig by renting down and offering a little more capacity than the job requires. So yes, there’s a tendency to size up. No one wants to be on the borderline or edge of capacity.”
Other crane classes have infringed on the lower end of the crawler market, including telescopic crawlers, truck cranes and all terrain cranes. The bottom line is that components are getting heavier and subassemblies are now performed on the ground and hoisted into place, he said. So, in this case, bigger is better, even for the companies that work in the smaller capacity markets.
Collins said the 110 to 200-ton class is the most competitive.
Link-Belt produces crawlers from 80 to 300 tons. Dozier Crane’s Link-Belt 218HSL is working on River Street in Savannah, GA.
“There are lots of choices a customer can make in this market,” he said.
Capacity and transportability are the most important factors. “Mob and demob are a big deal,” he said. “But features do come into play at the end of the day.”
The most prevalent markets for the Link-Belt 110 to 130-ton class include oil exploration and production, Collins said.
“These cranes have to move a lot, so transport becomes an important factor,” he said. “Oil and gas is big, and right after that it would be bridge and infrastructure jobs. From there it’s steel erection and general construction for our most active models.”
Other important features Link-Belt customers are looking for include ease of assembly and minimizing work at height, Collins said.
“Minimizing assembly, disassembly and maintenance at height and trying to mitigate risks for people working on or operating our cranes is a focus,” he said. “Once our customers become aware of our safety and operational features, they appreciate our crawler lineup even more.”
Today, Link-Belt’s largest capacity crawler is 300 tons, but Collins said he could envision the company producing cranes in heavier capacities in the future.
Special applications like pile driving are also an important part of the market.
“We’ve built a pretty big toolbox for special applications,” Collins said. “We have a good arsenal of aides that customers call and ask for and need special support with. We feel that’s a great way to address that market.”
Link-Belt’s crawlers also have luffers, which set them apart from the competition, Collins said.
“You put a luffer on and you are up and over with a much longer reach,” he said. “The luffer offers much more flexibility on the job. I would bet 80 percent or better of luffers on the Link-Belt 218s are up running right now.”
Free fall is another important feature of a Link-Belt crawler, Collins said.
“Free fall is very big for the current owner and then the secondary owner,” he said. “I’d hate to not be able to offer free fall. This will be needed at some point in the crane’s life. And from a rental standpoint, you will want to have free fall.”
Over at Manitowoc Cranes, Brennan Seeliger, product manager, described the crawler market as “overall strong.”
“We offer two different capacity crawler cranes, the MLC300 and the MLC650,” he said. “Rather than base the market off their capacities, we try to match the work that will be done with what capacity works best because the cranes compete with machines in different capacity classes.”
He doesn’t consider one class of crane as more competitive than another.
“Each class has its own challenges, and some classes have more product offerings than others,” he said.
The latest crawler from Manitowoc is the 100-ton MLC 100-1, featuring self-assembly and button style wire rope terminations.
While he couldn’t say which Manitowoc crawler is the best seller, he said that the company’s most recently launched machines “have had significant excitement around their successful launches.”
As for the leading crawler markets, he pointed to wind and bridge and highway work. As far as what Manitowoc customers are looking for in a crane, it’s all about uptime and versatility.
Manitowoc’s latest models are the 100-ton MLC100-1, the 300-ton MLC300 and the 600-ton MLC650.