One of the key challenges for any factory is ensuring the efficient movement of goods and materials through the production process. The entire factory floor needs to work in harmony, as a single bottleneck can have knock-on effects that compromise the entire production line. Factory cranes are often one of the most critical pieces of equipment that facilitate this movement. When chosen well, a factory crane can move exactly what you need, exactly where you need it, and as efficiently as possible.
But which factory crane type is the best choice for your situation? A factory gantry crane or factory overhead crane? A jib crane or davit crane?
There’s no single, simple answer, so in this guide we’ll look at the key considerations you should make when choosing your next factory crane.
Types of factory crane
The term ‘factory crane’ can be applied to any crane that operates within a factory. That said, some crane types are more common in factory settings than others, so your choice is likely to come down to one of the following:
- Single girder cranes: A light and cost-effective fixed gantry crane for locations that require dedicated lifting capability.
- Double girder cranes: A heavier duty gantry system that is the industry standard for factories, warehouses, workshops, railways, ports, mining sites and more.
- Low headroom cranes: Low slung girder gantry crane systems are ideal for personal workstations.
- Monorail crane systems: This hoist track system is ideal for factories as it can move loads of up to 1500kg along predefined paths.
- Column-mounted jib cranes: The classic asymmetrical jib arm design in a freestanding, beam-supported format.
- Wall-mounted jib cranes: If lifts need to be completed near a wall or supporting column, a wall-mounted jib arm can ensure floor space is maximised.
- Davit cranes: Lightweight, simple to use and easy to customise, davit cranes are a highly versatile type of factory crane.
- Portable gantry cranes: Often foldable, fitted with castors and made of lightweight materials such as aluminium, portable gantry cranes can complete lifts across the factory floor.
- Counterbalanced cranes: These trolley-mounted cranes feature a counterbalance that allows them to lift light and move loads.
- Forklift attachments: An array of attachments can be added to forklift tines to expand the functionality of your forklift.
- Tube lifters: Capable of lifting items of up to 200kg, the one-handed operation of vacuum lifters make them a practical, simple and safe option in factories.
- Battery powered vacuum lifters: A portable version of a vacuum lifter can be an ideal piece of equipment for mobile factory workers.
- Mains powered vacuum lifters: A fixed version of the vacuum lifter where the operation of the lift is more or less in the same area.
8 key factory crane considerations
How do you work out the ideal type of factory crane for your situation? The following eight considerations can help guide your choice.
1. Load requirements
What items will you be lifting with the crane? You’ll need to identify an appropriate working load limit (WLL) for the crane – the maximum weight it will be expected to lift and shift. You’ll also need to consider the size and shape of your potential loads, how far they’ll need to be moved, and how fragile or otherwise awkward they might be to pick up, including if they’re wet, oily or otherwise slippery.
If you expect to be moving a very specific type of item, these questions won’t be hard to answer. But if you will look to move a diverse array of loads, the right factory crane may be harder to identify, and you may need more than one type.
2. Duty cycle
How hard will your crane have to work? By combining your working load limit with how frequently you expect to use the crane, you get its ‘duty cycle’. Cranes are split into the following service classes according to this duty cycle:
- Infrequent service: Infrequent, slow and light lifts.
- Light service: Fewer than five small, light and slow lifts per hour.
- Moderate service: Fewer than ten short lifts per hour at less than 50% of the WLL.
- Heavy service: 10-20 short lifts per hour at 50-65% of the WLL.
- Severe service: Near continuous operation at or near 100% WLL, often in harsh conditions.
- Continuous severe service: Continuous use at or near 100% WLL, in severe environmental conditions.
To ensure operational efficiency within your factory, and avoid crippling bottlenecks, you need a crane that keeps up with you. Speed can refer to how easy a crane is to operate, how quickly the hoist lifts, the jib arm rotates or the trolley moves, or how quickly a portable crane can get from A to B.
Remember that while important, speed should never be prioritised over safety. You should aim for efficiency, sure, but always while strictly following established safety procedures.
4. Space considerations
Ideally, your crane will organically work within your factory and you won’t have to move or change anything in order to accommodate it. Before shopping for your crane, establish exactly how much space you have to work with in all three dimensions.
Key considerations include:
- How much headroom/vertical space there is to work with.
- The reach of a fully loaded crane arm as it rotates, factoring in the size of the largest load.
- Obstacles along the path that a monorail system might take through your workspace.
5. Environmental conditions
The environmental conditions that your crane will face within your factory can determine the materials from which it is made. If the conditions inside your factory are particularly hot, dirty, dusty, oily, humid or otherwise moist, or if workers are welding or grinding near your crane — you need to ensure that it is robust enough to handle whatever is thrown at it. This is particularly the case if a portable factory crane is sometimes used outside.
6. Quality and longevity
Further to the above, you want to have confidence that your crane will last the distance, no matter what conditions it might face. The material and build quality of your crane is critical, as it ensures that this investment will provide a return by continuing to do its job in the long run.
It’s important to choose a crane supplier with a proven track record – if cranes are still performing for other customers long after they were bought, you can be confident that yours will have a long service life too.
7. Safety features and regulatory compliance
Unsurprisingly, there are a number of rules and regulations that govern the installation, operation, and upkeep of factory cranes in New Zealand. The specific rules vary from factory crane type to factory crane type, and you need to ensure your chosen investment will be fully compliant before you make the purchase.
This is another reason why it is so important to go with a proven, trusted and ideally local crane supplier. At Stratalign we ensure that every crane we sell is fully compliant with New Zealand law, and offers all the features and functionality you need to keep your workers safe.
Last, but by no means least, you need the price to be right. But be aware that for cranes, the right price isn’t often the lowest price.
If you buy a crane that isn’t fit for purpose, or that doesn’t last as long as it should, the lower upfront cost can soon be vacuumed up by inefficiencies, lower productivity, repairs, or replacement. A high quality and fit-for-purpose factory crane, meanwhile, can pay itself back far quicker and for far longer through greater safety, efficiency and productivity.
When developing your crane budget, don’t forget to account for associated and ongoing costs like design, installation, servicing, maintenance and spare parts.
Enabling New Zealand businesses to work smarter, quicker and safer
All in all, there’s a lot to consider when shopping for a factory crane, but choosing wisely is critical in order for your factory to avoid unnecessary bottlenecks and work safely, efficiently and productively.
At Stratalign we’ve spent years helping Kiwi businesses identify and secure the lifting equipment that will get them working smarter, faster and safer. If you’re looking to enhance your operations with a factory crane that does exactly what you need it to do, get in touch with our expert team today for a no-obligation consultation and quote.