Buying a second hand or refurbished crane is a lot like buying a second hand car. Before purchasing a second hand car, it’s recommended to go and look at it before making a decision. The reason for doing this is to try and minimise the risk of the car breaking down after a few weeks of use resulting in it being taken off the road or needing costly repairs. As a minimum, you would want to look at the mileage, general condition and all documentation providing evidence of a full service history.
To put this into the perspective of purchasing an overhead crane, the mentality should be the same however, there are a few key differences to be aware of.
Sadly, cranes don’t have the luxury of having an odometer like cars do, so you won’t be able to see the exact mileage (operational hours) that the crane has been used for. In the lifting equipment industry, we work on the basis of equipment having a “duty rating” and depending on the number of lifts, load being lifted and usage, the operational lifetime of a piece of equipment can be used up quicker.
It’s fairly safe to say that most people purchasing a second hand car know what to look for and can spot the red flags. Even if they didn’t, there’s a mountain of resources online which assist with this but unfortunately there’s nothing like that for overhead cranes. Hence the reason for us writing this article.
To someone who has never purchased a crane before, it may be difficult to spot but in the lifting equipment industry there are many cranes currently in service that we refer to as “Frankenstein’s monster's”. These are “cut and shut” jobs, whereby a crane manufacturer assembles and cobbles together a crane using components they have laying on the floor of their workshop or yard that have been acquired, purchased or removed from various sites.
In its simplest form, an overhead crane is made up of a few key components, such as but not limited to the following:
What you’ll generally find with these “Frankenstein’s monster” cranes is a combination of different brands used for each component, suspiciously welded plates on the bridge beams almost as if the original span has been increased, drilled holes that serve no purpose, packing plates and all round poor engineering practices.
In most cases the reason for going down the second hand route is to do with this being more cost effective. There’s an old saying, “buy cheap, buy twice” and whilst this doesn’t always apply for everything, the example given below of a customer’s history with their overhead cranes certainly illustrates this point.
A local business reached out through a mutual connection as they wanted some guidance as they felt they were over paying for repair work on their overhead cranes and thought that this was happening to frequently. The overhead cranes in question are 2 x 10t and 3 x 5t double girder cranes, all around the same spans.
The cranes are being used in a busy fabrication environment but very rarely get even close to their SWL. Based on the events over the last 2 years, the owner of these cranes has paid of in excess of £100,000 on general maintenance, parts and breakdown fees for all these cranes! By our estimates, the cranes could have been replaced for this cost.
They frequently have electrical faults, radio control faults, wire rope damage and change cross travel and long travel wheels on a monthly basis which is completely unheard of.
Upon further investigation it seemed on these particular cranes, that the end carriage itself was of one manufacturer, the travel motors were of a different manufacturer and the long travel wheel had been made by a local machinist and was not even the correct material construction, nor the correct dimensions as the wheels used by the end carriage manufacturer! This unfortunately makes it impossible for any other lifting equipment companies, your own company or even the OEM of the individual components to identify the correct parts required which results in you having to go back to the person that you purchased this from in the first place, who may ultimately profit off the back of the failing / poor performing equipment supplied.
We would always recommend that you ask more about the warranty/guarantees provided with the purchase of second hand equipment. It may shock you but if a second hand crane company is putting together a crane from the remnants of 5 or 6 old cranes that have been taken out of service for a multitude of reasons, then they actually assume all responsibility as the manufacturer.