Cranes: Technology at the Top

Cranes are perhaps one of the most recognizable types of construction equipment. That may partly be due to the fact they can be seen hoisting materials up high, or sitting atop of a new structure being built. Crane models are available to perform a variety of different tasks on the jobsite.

Today, the market for cranes is rapidly changing, as different factors are impacting how they are used. But perhaps one of the biggest trends is the technological advancements that are reshaping the crane landscape.

Market Trends and Drivers

One report that focuses on mobile cranes states that countries such as China, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, India and Vietnam are expected to push the market ahead. The demand from the residential and commercial construction industry and the increase in civil engineering projects are driving this market..

The political stability in this region, the fast-paced economy, and a surge in the construction industry will all push revenue growth in the mobile cranes market. Countries like India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam are wooing foreign investors who are investing heavily in the development of roadways, new smart cities and urban infrastructure. As the region is passing through a massive industrialization, the need for better equipment for high-capacity lifting is in demand. 

Cranes Get Tech Upgrade

One aspect that will assist in the growth of the mobile crane market is the technological advancements that will make working with cranes easier and safer for all.

Jay Strum, president, Strum Corp., and consultant to JT Strum Corp., says the key to innovative technology is the people, “The biggest challenge is finding people in the industry. We need to make cranes more useable with less human interaction and training. Crane manufacturers are looking to create a product that will allow anyone to operate it safely.”

When speaking about the type of technology that is being sought out, Strum says, “The newer cranes come with more specific measurements for wind speed, boom angle and crane level. This helps make operation safer; the more accurate the information the operator has in realtime, the safer their job is.”

He adds, “A good crane operator is very aware of the conditions.”

Sensors can provide a good advantage on any type of construction equipment, including cranes, offering the operator access to realtime data about how machinery is operating.

For Tony Nicoletti, director of sales and business development for DPL Telematics,, Los Altos, California, adopting sensory systems in construction and fleet management has been a steady progression. “First it was GPS tracking, then it became fleet management, then telematics, and then M2M, and now it’s IoT (Internet of Things),” says Nicoletti, “It’s all the same idea of taking physical objects and connecting them to the Internet or to each other somehow so someone remotely can pull data off them, monitor sensor readings, or control on/off information.”

He went on to reiterate that simple installation is an important factor in construction companies integrating sensors. Within hours, a whole fleet can be connected, allowing a manager in St. Louis to run diagnostics tests on assets in California, and quickly make the right upgrades or fixes needed from anywhere.

Safety, Training Trumps All

With safety being the main priority when operating a crane high up, training on all this technology becomes essential. “A lot of failures are very specifically tied to the training of the operator. That trumps the technology. The element of training is what is missing,” Strum says.

Even with a good number of training options available including VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and others, nothing beats hands-on experience.

“There is a place for virtual training, but it must be hands-on mostly. A good operator becomes part of the machine,” Strum says. “You can’t describe it unless you’ve been there, in that seat.”

The gap between hands-on experience and virtual experience when it comes to working with cranes is slowly closing. Having a conversation between the experienced trainers, operators, and the tech inventors is what will bring the experiences together and keep the practice of crane operating as safe as possible.

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