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Purchasing the Right Jib Crane

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 9:29am
Don DeSimone, Wynright
Jib cranes weren’t around during the time of Sisyphus, but if they were, they would have given this Greek mythological king of Ephyra further reason to think through the consequences of his actions.  Because of his hubris and deceitfulness, Sisyphus was compelled to roll a huge boulder up a hill again and again, only to see it tumble down – for all eternity. 
 
While operations executives don’t face a similar fate, they do need to think through their decisions  and potential pitfalls. Take jib cranes, for example.
 
Buying a jib crane seems, at first, like it could be a do-it-yourself project. There are numerous buying guides online that outline the specs, distributors and prices you need to make a decision. The industry is fairly consolidated, with the top 50 crane manufacturers earning 90 percent of the revenue, according to a Hoover’s report, so it’s not too difficult to get a handle on their reputations.
 
But when you’re operating in a highly regulated industry, buying major equipment is about more than just getting the best deal. In addition to regulatory concerns, the sheer expense and effort that goes into installing new jib cranes means that it’s a purchase you want to get right the first time – especially since, depending on the operating conditions, the right jib crane can last 30 years or more.
 
Jib cranes are designed to do repetitive, heavy lifting in places where a forklift can’t maneuver within manufacturing and distribution centers/warehouses. In the distribution/warehouse environment, jib cranes load and unload the contents of small trucks that cannot support the weight of a forklift.
 
Purchasing the right product for your operation requires careful consideration and expert guidance. Several important considerations need to go into your decision—which is why you should look for suppliers that offer not only cranes but engineering support as you navigate the decision-making process. Otherwise you could wind up with a large, expensive monument to impulsiveness on your hands.
 
The following are four considerations before clicking “order”:
 
1. What do you want to move? This is the most obvious question when it comes to selecting the size of the jib crane. The size and weight of the load are important but so are the outer dimensions. Consider whether you’re moving a single object or a stack of objects, and if it’s the latter, how tightly they’re wrapped or packed. A sling can lift most items, but if your objects need special handling, it can impact the size of the jib crane. Finally, don’t just focus on the normal workload. Be sure you size the jib crane for the largest/heaviest jobs it will face—now and in the future.
 
2. Determine the path of travel. After you know what you need to move, define how high you need to lift it and how far you need it to go, as well as whether there are any obstacles in the way. Account for the ceiling if the jib crane will be indoors, keeping in mind the total height of the crane is influenced by the capacity of the unit and the amount of span. As the capacity and span increase, the depth of the support beam as well as the headroom required for the hoist and trolley selected will also grow. What works for a shorter run may not work if you have to transport the load over a longer distance. If there is any doubt, you will definitely want an engineer to help you determine the proper height so the layout will fit into your space.
 
Also check whether there are any electrical lines or devices along the planned line of travel. Since the jib crane is made of steel, any contact with an electrical device could energize the crane in a most unforgiving way.
 
3. Detail the total cost, not just the unit cost. The cost of the jib crane itself is only one part of the equation. The material, transportation cost and sales tax for the jib and hoist are easily figured, but there are also hidden costs. The jib crane needs to be installed, for example, which means hiring a good concrete contractor to install the proper footing. This footing acts as a counterweight so the crane can reach out and pick up a load without toppling over. Given the loads jib cranes work with, this can be a fairly sizable (and expensive) piece of concrete.
 
Once the concrete contractor installs the footing and sets the anchors, the “mast” can be set. It will need to be plumbed, after which the boom assembly can be attached and set level. If you will be using a manual hoist and trolley, they can be set at this time. If you will be using an electric hoist and trolley, however, you will need an electrician to install and connect the power. All of these pieces add up. The right supplier (i.e. one with proven expertise) can walk you through the process and help you get closer to your true cost before you place the order.
 
4. Know your local building codes and requirements. This is another area that can sneak up on you if you’re unfamiliar with what installing a jib crane entails. In some municipalities, work of this sort requires building permits, which can add time and cost. In addition, local building codes may be different than the national standards, such as the electrical codes recommended by NEMA or concrete codes from ACI. The last thing you want to do is rework your installation because assumptions were made based on national standards. Here again, an experienced supplier will know what to ask.
 
Jib cranes may seem like straightforward machines, but buying and installing them can be complex – and getting the process wrong can be painful.
 
Work with suppliers that have solid industry expertise. They’ll do the heavy lifting upfront so you can do it when, where and how you need to.  And Sisyphus will at least have something to be happy about.
 
Don DeSimone is Director, Warehouse Equipment Sales, at WarehouseEquipmentStore.com, the e-commerce site for Wynright.  DeSimone has more than 30 years of experience helping customers choose the right equipment for their applications. He can be reached at 847-238-5303 or DDeSimone@Wynright.com.
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