Industrial crane market persists

03 December 2020

While the market for industrial cranes is facing similar challenges as the rest of the equipment industry, OEMs and end-users are optimistic     

A straightforward definition of an industrial crane is a small crane that performs, you guessed it, industrial lifting. But these modest machines are seeing demand increase across a variety of sectors, despite the current market challenges. With the odds stacked against the construction industry, including a detrimental global pandemic and the short and long-term effects of a divisive presidential election in the United States, small but mighty industrial cranes holding their own in the market.


The M150 15-ton cab down is the most popular rough terrain industrial machine from Manitex International.

ACT surveyed industry leaders from Broderson Manufacturing, Maeda USA, Manitex and Smiley Lifting Solutions for their thoughts on the market and the days to come.

“The market for industrial cranes has remained stable throughout the year even with the challenges and uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, the presidential election and low oil prices,” said George R. Schildhouse, inside sales and marketing manager, Broderson Manufacturing.

Manitex Valla is seeing a growing, strengthening market, despite the global pandemic.

“The market is getting stronger despite the pandemic that’s going on,” said Ali Lawton, product specialist and trainer, Manitex Valla. “Our strength remains to be our all-electric line of cranes, which have zero emissions. We’ve been seeing an increase in interest as the market is demanding a zero-emission option to replace the traditional equipment powered by internal combustion engines.”

On the flip side, Tony Inman, president of Maeda USA, said that while the mini crane and industrial crane market in

2020 has undoubtedly been disrupted by Covid, there is still certainly room for growth and success.

“Schedules and projects being delayed or postponed and budgets limited by reduction in business activity, have been quite common this year,” said Inman. “This is all resulting in an effect on both sales and rentals. That said, the markets are still growing for mini cranes and they find an ever-growing place in the industrial crane sector based on their ability to be the solution when other more conventional industrial cranes like carry decks can’t be.”

But in order to sustain growth, George Schalk, vice president of sales, Smiley Lifting Solutions, said that a good economy is a vital key to success.

“Growth and development is what will drive most markets,” said Schalk. “These are some uncertain times with uncertain predictions for 2021. We can only hope things will get better than they were in 2020.”

Valla Industrial extended

Manitex Valla has seen increased interest in its medium range 9 to 18 ton capacity cranes.

Market momentum

Maeda’s Inman is hopeful that the industry will see a bounce back from Covid delays and other postponements.

“I think we’ll see growing demand for rental units with an anticipated rise in construction and growth of mining industries as well,” said Inman. “It seems the economy is forecasted to be strong, absent any continued effects on it by Covid or politics.”

Echoing this sentiment, Randy Robertson, director, sales and marketing, Manitex International, believes that the recent news regarding the Covid vaccine will help bolster optimism, and business should improve once it’s in use and accepted by the public.


The market for industrial cranes is smaller and more of a niche market, especially for Spydercrane models.

2020 politics have also played a significant role in the revival of the industrial crane market, along with many other industry sectors.

“We are optimistic projects that were delayed will start up and now that the election is past the economy will move forward regardless of the outcome,” added Robertson. To set themselves up for continued success in 2021, within the past few months Manitex Valla has started to focus its efforts on developing an extensive dealer network within the United States.

“This has greatly increased our footprint, especially in the heavy manufacturing, machinery rigging, nuclear power generation as well as our other key target sector applications as our dealers now can offer an additional way to move around heavy loads in tight areas where no traditional crane can work,” said Lawton. “A lot of food processing plants that are undergoing modernization while keeping part of their operation, will not allow any equipment with internal combustion engines that release harmful particulate pollution that may contaminate their products.”

Maeda USA is looking at 2021 to be the catch-up year from 2020 slowdowns.

“With continuing growth in rental cranes versus owned cranes, we see mini cranes growing in availability to end-users, and thus becoming stronger in the industrial crane market sector,” said Inman.

While optimistic, Schildhouse believes that the industrial crane market will face the same broad market opportunities and challenges as the rest of the crane industry in 2021.


Maeda USA is looking at 2021 to be the catch-up year from 2020 slowdowns.

“I believe the overall crane market will be off from recent years in 2021,” said Schildhouse. “There is presently a fair amount of uncertainty over the extent and time period that the Covid pandemic will continue to impact the global business climate.”

Top sellers

Manitex Valla has been seeing a fair amount of increase in what is referred to as the medium range of the company’s cranes, those 9 to 18 tons in capacity.

“The V90R has been especially popular with our customer base with the first two machines in the country currently working in South Carolina on a long-term project,” said Lawton. “V90R represents the next generation crane design from Manitex Valla, with radio remote control for both traction and lifting operations, front wheel drive and the available capacity boost options which can increase capacity by up to 70 percent. This enables the V90R to have a load chart of a much larger crane. However, the Manitex Valla 25 Series, which sets the standard among the walk-behind pick and carry cranes, remains to be our best seller.”

In September, 2020, Manitex International also expanded its industrial crane distribution network to include Virgina-based Link-Belt Mid-Atlantic Construction Equipment.

The M150 15-ton cab down is the most popular rough terrain industrial machine from Manitex International.

Evaluating and integrating

Broderson’s 20-ton model IC-280 will be in production in 2021, and Schildhouse said customers will be able to use a new Broderson model with a significantly longer boom and better capacities than the competition in the 20-ton size class.

“Technology and the need to provide asset information also continue to grow in importance,” concluded Schildhouse. “Broderson is in the process of evaluating and integrating telematics into some models to improve the owner’s ability to have real-time access to machine operational data.”

Smiley Lifting Solutions is seeing the most popularity with its different types of Spydercranes, including the URW547 and URW706 models. These machines serve as a staple in the construction, steel erection and glazing industries. The URW706 lifts 13,330 pounds at a 9.8-foot maximum lifting capacity and an 83-foot (with 10-foot jib) tip height.

Maeda has been seeing the most demand from its smallest model, MC285, due to its ability to work in small spaces and access difficult job locations. “However, the larger MC405 surprises many people with its ability to work inside and on top of buildings even with its larger profile and footprint,” said Inman. “Once the user recognizes the versatility and value, the larger models become more useful.”

Preston Rentals expands into crane sector


PR Fleet

Preston Rentals has launched its SuperCrane fleet now available for rent in the United States. The expansion into the crane sector has been a long term vision of the business and will allow Preston Rentals to provide further services and expertise to a broader group of customers, the company said.

Preston Rentals offers mini-crawler and spyder cranes including telecrawlers with pick and carry capability and footprints as small as 20 square feet.

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