Careful consideration required for crane restoration
02 November 2017
WHECO has been repairing and restoring cranes and lifting equipment for more than 35 years. Based in Richland, WA, the company started when it secured a contract to service and repair equipment for a national powerline company, according to Dave Wood, president.
“The company had rough terrain cranes and large aerial lifts used to construct the power line tower structures,” Wood said. “When these pieces would finish a project they were shipped to WHECO for service and repairs so they would be ready for the next project. The areas this equipment worked was often very rough. The work was very hard on the equipment.”
WHECO has also performed extensive crane and equipment repair and service work in the public sector, including the Army, Navy, Marines and even NASA.
“Here again the military had money to restore and repair, but many times not replace,” Wood said.
Wood said the most important question to ask when deciding to restore an old or damaged crane is this: It worth it?
“It really comes down to the value of the pieces and what the owner is looking for in a return on investment,” said Wood. “Some older cranes are just not worth the investment to bring them up to a safe and reliable long-term condition. There are exceptions of course, such as a crane with a special duty or use that is not easily or economically replaced.”
An example of this was a Navy-owned crash crane produced in the 1960s and 1970s. They had served the Navy well but needed replacing or rebuilding.
“WHECO won a contract to rebuild 15 of these cranes,” said Wood. “But only five were finished because funding dried up. These cranes had a special use that at the time would have cost many times more than the remanufacture.”
WHECO also restored a 300-ton conventional truck crane.
“To replace it with a more modern all terrain crane would have cost millions of dollars and would require a large support staff of people and equipment,” said Wood. “This customer was willing to invest $2 million in this crane to give it 15-plus more years [of service life.]”
When securing a repair or restoration company, Wood said the most important thing is to find “a good partner.”
“When you remanufacture of a piece of equipment it takes both sides working together to make a project successful,” he said. “We need to know the complete history of the machine as well as the budget and expectations of the owner. There cannot be any secrets or the outcome is destined to fail.”
Other questions to ask are:
- What type of jobs has the company completed?
- What is their history?
- Can they provide examples and references from past projects?
- Can they perform the work in a timely manner?
“Time can be a killer for any project as the deeper you get into the work the more surprises you can uncover which can drive delays,” Wood said. “Have discussions about the worst-case scenarios up front so both parties understand what can, could and will happen. Set up a rate structure that both sides agree to.”
Wood suggested the crane owner work with the crane manufacturer to assure that there will not be warranty issues when the repair or restoration is complete.
Certified Boom Repair started repairing crane booms in 1982 and was incorporated in 1987.
“We expanded the facility in 2004 and again in 2006 by 10 bays with two overhead cranes and we also hired more technicians, which gave us the ability to offer refurbishment services,” said Tyler Smith, vice president of business development.
Smith uses a formula for determining whether it’s economically feasible to repair or restore a crane.
“When a repair quote is less than 60 to 70 percent of the actual cash value of the machine, that’s the cut off,” he said. “The other determination is when it comes time to trade-in for a new crane an owner will want to evaluate the cost of restoring versus the cost of purchasing new.”
Smith agreed with Wood that the crane owner should assure the repair company they are working with is experienced and qualified and also provides all thedocumentation necessary to ensure the crane, when the repair or restoration is complete, will be inspected, load tested and certified to the proper OSHA guidelines.
H & E Equipment Services has a 35-plus year track record of restoring and remanufacturing cranes, most of which were manufactured by Manitowoc and Grove, according to Frank Arthur, branch manager, H & E Equipment Services, Belle Chasse, LA.
“In 2011, Manitowoc Cranes introduced the EnCORE partners program which allowed us to take crane restoration to an even higher level,” Arthur said. “As part of this partnership, Manitowoc Cranes provides EnCORE partners with proprietary materials, drawings and processes as needed to ensure we are meeting the stringent factory quality guidelines and OEM standards. In turn, we meet certain system/facility/tooling requirements and send our technicians and welders to Manitowoc for their highest levels of factory training and qualification.”
Cost effective restoration is always a viable option for a crane owner, Arthur explained.
“Used cranes that are structurally sound can normally be economically remanufactured,” he said. “The remanufacturer should have experienced certified technicians, welders, machinists, blasters/painters and the like required to complete any crane remanufacturing project.”
The remanufacturer, upon completion of the repair, should provide a third-party OSHA inspection coupled with load test documentation to independently verify the work ready status of the remanufactured crane, Arthur said.
With the recent destruction caused by hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, one would think there are alot of damaged cranes in those areas.
“Interesting enough, talking to insurance executives about the two mainland storms, the crane industry somehow escaped the major problems we had seen in prior storms,” Wood said. “I think companies were more prepared this time and took extra precautions. That is not saying there won’t be claims coming in due to water damage but hopefully not like we saw during Katrina or Rita.”
Beyond the three tower cranes that were damaged by winds in Miami, things could have been much worse.
“Wind and water can be tough on cranes but both, depending on the severity, can be typically repaired,” said Wood. “Excessive exposure to salt water can be a killer if not addressed quickly. Corrosion spreads fast when the equipment starts to dry out.”
Smith actually visited the jobsite of one of the tower cranes that was damaged in Miami due to Hurricane Irma.
“Thankfully nobody was injured,” he said. “We’re confident the boom can be repaired [on one of those cranes] with a full documentation package, but we can certainly understand if they go the new boom route. Just the visual of a crane boom ‘slouched’ over a high-rise building in a big downtown city is enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”
But generally, Smith said cranes damaged in hurricanes can successfully be repaired.
“Flooded or wind-damaged cranes can certainly be candidates for restoration but can depend on many factors such as electrical issues with water damage, age and condition of crane prior to the accident, confidence in a repair facility and a good adjuster,” Smith said.
Arthur said the H&E team had become aware of a few machines in Texas that sustained water damage as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
“But at this point we do not see any widespread crane damage as experienced in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the past,” he said.