Link-Belt’s product development process is comprehensive, thoughtful and highly vetted. Through the years of editing ACT, I’ve come to realize that when I’m invited to visit Link-Belt’s headquarters and manufacturing facility in Lexington, KY, they always have something really important to discuss. And when this is the case, it’s usually something I have to keep quiet about for several months.
So in late July when I accepted their invitation for a plant visit, I was ever so surprised when they revealed information about a new crane that I wouldn’t have to keep secret for very long.
Link-Belt is rolling out the new 250-ton 298 Series 2 lattice crawler crane. The crane is built on the company’s market leading 298 HSL, which was introduced back in 2007. The highlight of this new series is a new boom design that I think will garner huge attention when it is shown at ConExpo next spring.
The boom design of the 298 Series 2 allows the working combination boom tip section to remain in place when transitioning from conventional mode to luffer with a maximum combination of 180 feet of luffing boom and 195 feet of luffing jib. To provide quick conversion from conventional-style lifting to a luffing configuration, assembly has been simplified with semi-bore weldments for pin locations, point-of-use storage provisions for all components and stop bolts for quick pin alignment.
A new luffing jib transport package with lifting lugs simplifies and expedites luffer assembly, according to Scott Knight, product manager of lattice and telescopic crawler cranes. The rear post will scissor into place by means of alignment links. The transport package also comes assembled with nylon rope reeving to assist with initial luffing jib wire rope hoist reeving. Once the rear post is in working position, all luffing jib pendant connections are made and the luffer is ready to be raised for work. All assembly is done from the ground with no work at height exposure, Knight explained.
“We believe the new combination boom tip and transport package absolutely completes our customers’ wish list for a crawler in this class,” Knight said.
Quick boom assembly
The 298 Series 2 will also feature a new base section and a 12-inch wide boom walkway. Bar pendants with storage brackets replace dual wire rope pendants.
“Ease of assembly and fast assembly were the key goals,” Knight said.
A newly designed retractable auxiliary lifting sheave has a capacity of 25 tons and offers two parts of line. Conventional boom length will remain the same as the 298 HSL at 60 to 290 feet. The maximum tip height of boom and jib (250 plus 90 feet) is 342 feet.
The 298 Series 2 is powered by a Cummins QSL 9 Tier 4 engine. Greater fuel efficiency is one of the benefits
offered with the ECO winch system, resulting in lowered operating cost, less engine RPM under load and fewer emissions, Knight said.
When activated by the operator, the ECO hoist provides maximum line speed
with lighter loads, all with the engine under 1,000 RPM. Also standard equipped is the operator-selectable “auto-engine shutdown,” allowing the engine to shut down after extended periods of inactivity, so long as critical operating criteria are met.
The crane operator is assisted by an on-board high-resolution rear view camera that helps monitor jobsite conditions. An audio/visual travel alarm system informs crew members on the ground. The RCL monitoring system provides the operator all lift information, is extremely intuitive and allows the operator to set swing and other control parameters creating virtual walls with audio, visual alarms and function kick out.
We also learned about other exclusive product development projects that we will report on in future issues of ACT. Suffice it to say, Link-Belt has a lot in store for the market to see at ConExpo.
Another big deal
Another highlight of my visit to Link-Belt was to see the new training facility that was opened at the first of the year. While we saw the building going up last fall and reported on its opening in January, I didn’t realize what a big deal the new training facility is for Link-Belt employees, distributor personnel and crane owners. The facility is a veritable trade school of sorts, and Training Manager Dave Tripp is the chancellor.
Tripp said the new facility has allowed the company to substantially increase its distributor technician and customer training course enrollments. Year-to-date they’ve increased training courses 22 percent in 2016 over 2015.
Additionally, the company will offer 58 on site courses in 2016 – a 20 percent increase from 2015. Each class accommodates a maximum of 8 to 12 students to ensure quality hands-on-training in everything from boom inspection to Level 4 crane programming courses.
Link-Belt now has the opportunity to take their training offerings to a new level, Tripp said.
“Our goal in the Link-Belt Training Department is to provide technicians with the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently,” Tripp said. “To accomplish this goal, we are going more in-depth with extensive hands-on training and troubleshooting scenarios.”
The new classrooms are comfortable and have all the necessary technology requirements including huge high resolution television screens and laptops for each student.
But Link-Belt doesn’t want to just bring people in to sit in a classroom all day. Tripp said technicians are able to learn better with interactive training, which is why the dedicated high bay is such an asset to the training facility.
Training focuses on two separate groups: Master Technician Training for technicians employed by a Link-Belt crane distributor and Preferred Technician Training for technicians employed by a company that owns at least one Link-Belt crane.
Carl Anderson, a mechanic for Hamilton Construction based in Springfield, OR, has taken classes at the new facility.
“The classes are well organized and you can tell a lot of thought has gone into the course schedule,” Anderson said. “The instructors are another point of contact to bounce ideas off of in the future and are extremely knowledgeable on the subject and application to real world challenges in the field.”