J&R Engineering builds a better mousetrap

14 April 2020

A powerful metaphor, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s adage “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” applies beautifully to the lifting, rigging and specialized transportation industry. In the case of J&R Engineering, the world has beaten a path to its doors in Mukwonago, WI. The company produces the Lift-N-Lock gantry line, which has gained legendary status over the last 30 years.

Nakagumi Press Crown Lift  (1)

An 1800 series Lift-N-Lock Boom Gantry completing the assembly of a stamping press in Japan.

The brainchild of Roger Johnston, the J&R Engineering Lift-N-Lock gantry was the first commercially available gantry system ever produced. The fact of the matter is, J&R Engineering pretty much invented the hydraulic gantry market.

Johnston, a licensed PE, had been making his mark in the lifting industry for several years, serving as a chief engineer for Warner & Swasey, P&H Harnischefeger and Simon Krause. He was also a co-founder of Riggers Manufacturing.

True innovator

In 1978 he started his own professional engineering consulting company that primarily served crane manufacturers. J&R Engineering was involved in the design of the first swing cab, two-axle crane and several truck-mounted cranes.

While the company earned a stellar reputation for its work in the design of cranes, Johnston was working on a gantry design that would place the company in a new arena. He had been involved in the engineering of gantries at Riggers Manufacturing, and he was inspired to create a gantry that would offer greater lifting power and rigging solutions for a wider variety of projects.


Roger Johnston, PE, had an idea for a gantry that would create a new specialized lifting market.

In 1989, J&R Engineering produced its first Lift-N-Lock hydraulic boom gantry. Today, the J&R Engineering Lift-N-Lock gantry has become a mainstay in the fleets of companies that provide specialized lifting services around the globe. The J&R Engineering gantry has been a part of countless SC&RA Job of the Year entries and winners. These machines have moved some of the world’s heaviest and most important machines and equipment as well as priceless artifacts and historic statues, including America’s Liberty Bell.

Each Lift-N-Lock gantry is designed to meet a customers’ specific needs, according to Kevin Johnston, president of the company that he and his father founded. Advanced engineering and an evolving research and development process have led the company to produce Lift-N-Lock gantries with capacities from 75 to 1,800 tons with four lift housings and lift heights from 18 to 100 feet.

Latest technologies

Standard features on Lift-N-Lock gantries include double acting cylinders, oscillating/rotating header plates, steel hydraulic lines, integral self-propel with customized wheels, integral lock valves, pressure compensated controls and two-speed load sensing. From the beginning, the Lift-N-Lock gantry featured the revered cam locking technology, which provides continual load holding protection through the duration of the lift. The latest gantries are available with a variety of options including the Equalizer System that synchronizes gantry movement, radio remote controls with height indication, side shifting Powerlinks and powered rotator lift beam frames.

“The beauty of this product is the ability to use it in so many combinations,” said Johnston. “Hydraulic gantries have become standard equipment in the lifting business because they are cost effective, versatile and they can be customized specifically for what needs to be lifted.”


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