Picking the Perfect Precast Crane

Factors to consider when picking a new crane

Picking a new crane for your business is kind of like trying to select the best streaming service for your television setup. The options can be overwhelming, with many features, price points, and extras. As with any big decision, it helps to know what you want when you’re starting the decision making process.

Consider the search for the ideal crane. Do you need more reach? Do you need higher lifting capacity? How much payload can you take to your jobsite? These questions and many others become glaring issues when beginning your search.

Every industry application has slightly different requirements, be it construction, oil and gas, or underground utilities. Here we will discuss cranes for the precast concrete industry and what should you look for in a truck crane that could pay long term dividends for your business.

Precast concrete is extremely versatile material that continues to grow in popularity for community infrastructure needs. There are certain limitations when it comes to transporting and setting a precast structure on a jobsite, and because the precast structure needs to be moved from the manufacturing facility to the installation site, it will need to be transported on federal highways and subject to size limits. (See example of California regulations.) So truck mounted cranes or trailer cranes are the answer. Let’s go through the key considerations that any precast business owner, operations manager, or equipment buyer should make in selecting a crane.

Which products do you want to be able to ship and set?

Some products never need to be offloaded and set, so a crane doesn’t make sense. Handholes or small boxes can be transported on line trucks or even shipped less than load (LTL). Other products like septic tanks, electrical vaults, clarifiers, or storage tanks typically need to be shipped to and installed at jobsites. These precast concrete products are ideal candidates for a crane that increases your company’s value added service to your customers.

What are the weights and dimensions of your products?

Deciding what products to deliver and set, determining all the possible sizes, and picking the best crane to fit the criteria can be challenging for even the most knowledgeable professional. Are you delivering a 1,500 gallon septic tank or moving a12 foot by 6 foot vault section? The crane needs to be able to carry the weight of that product on the deck or split the weight between the deck and a trailer. For that reason, a lightweight crane is important to ensure your combined weights stay within federal transportation requirements. See our chart for a 49,700 pound capacity trailer with a boom length up to 37 feet.

The dimensions of your products are also a huge factor when it comes to a precast concrete application. Most truck cranes use a horizontal lift cylinder that helps boost the lifting capacity of the crane. While this may benefit the crane’s ability to pick up the product, it renders the deck space almost useless for loading large concrete products. We recognized that limitation at QMC, so we design our cranes with a vertical lift cylinder that maximizes the open space on the deck to accommodate the largest products possible.

When setting, how far do you need to be able to set your heaviest product?

The ability to set products is why we consider a crane in the first place. So bigger is better, right? Not necessarily. There’s a give and take to consider.

The issue with a high capacity crane always comes back to the weight. A bigger, stronger boom weighs more, meaning you lose the ability to put as much weight on the deck. Boom design is the art of balancing the strongest capacity with the lightest possible weight to ensure maximum payload every time. Look at your most common applications. What products are you shipping, and how close are you able to get to the set location? While it would be great to set a 20,000 pound piece 30 feet away, it may not be necessary for your company.

As much as we wish there was a simple formula for the perfect crane design, it’s like choosing your TV service. It’s not a one size fits all decision. Instead, it’s a series of tradeoffs between things like lift capacity and crane payload. That’s where QMC’s team of engineers can assist. We have extensive experience and deep roots in the precast concrete industry. We’re ready to help you design the perfect boom truck or trailer crane to elevate your business.

What Make a World Class Crane?

What Makes a World Class Crane?

What makes a world class crane? At QMC Cranes we’ve been refining the answer to that question since 1977. There’s no silver bullet to making a world class crane, but we’ve built a reputation over the years for knowing what it takes. So let’s break it down.

Materials

You can’t build an exceptional crane with run of the mill materials. We’re talking about the steel mill here. QMC does not use average materials. Our cranes are constructed from Strenx, a premium performance steel that can make the end product stronger, lighter, and safer than typical steel. And that’s key because lighter weight means more room for your payload on our cranes.

Jimmy Allen, Technical Development Manager for SSAB, which manufactures Strenx, says the extra care that goes into removing impurities during the manufacturing process ensures the highest quality steel that is stronger and lighter, and that pays off both in performance and safety.

“When you’re talking about a crane boom, safety is very important,” Allen says. “To decrease the weight of the boom, you have to reduce the thickness of the steel. With Strenx we reduce the thickness and go to a higher steel strength. That way we can create a longer reach boom that will handle the load while also maintaining a good safety factor.”

The result is a crane that can weigh up to 30% less but still match load charts with heavier competitors.

Geometry

In the precast concrete industry, QMC is known for building cranes that allow a lot of weight on deck. The carrying capacity of your rig is maximized with our lighter, stronger cranes. It’s one of the basic differences between QMC and other telescoping boom cranes.

All our efforts in designing world class cranes are devoted to optimizing the weight to provide the most strength with the least amount of materials. While other crane manufacturers may fill the torsion box or main structural beam with steel or concrete ballast, we take a different path.

We use geometry and physics, coupled with our engineering design expertise, to keep our cranes light without sacrificing capacity or stability. Compare our load charts with other, heavier cranes. Here’s a QMC 4033R Load Chart for your precast concrete needs.

Customer Service

QMC Cranes is known for its stellar customer service. We’re not just selling cranes; we’re building relationships. Almost every crane we sell is built to order, so we’re going to ask you how you plan to use the crane. How much weight do you want to carry? How much boom do you really need?

We’ve had customers who will start the conversation wanting a 150 foot long boom. Then we talk. We learn about their work. We tell them about our cranes. They may end up deciding what they really want is a 60 foot long boom that will give them 10 times the strength at the rates they’re picking. It’s not a one size fits all business.

We can make all kinds of customizations to suit your business needs, including undercarriage lighting, wireless load systems, outrigger control valves, and wood decking among many other features. We’ll paint it any way you want with your logo. We’ll also work with you on specifying a truck – line by line – to match the truck with your crane.

Our goal is to make sure you drive away with the exact crane you need for your work. At the end of the day we want you to love your QMC Crane because you’re going to have it for a long, long time.

Crane Hot Line Interviews QMC GM

Crane Hot Line Interviews QMC GM

As the leading source for the crane, rigging, and specialized transport industry, Crane Hot Line provides thought provoking insights on the current state of the market. Editor in Chief Mike Larson recently interviewed boom truck manufacturers across the United States and Canada, including QMC Cranes General Manager Brent Petring, about what’s working and what’s not during the pandemic.

Get the lowdown on what’s up with the boom truck market in the article “Business Not Booming, But Steady” from the October 2020 issue.

Boom VS Knuckle Weigh In

What’s better for precast?

Telescoping boom cranes versus knuckleboom cranes.

For the typical precaster who’s running in multiple directions all day, there’s no time to waste and inefficiency is not an option. One of the things that keeps a precast business moving in the right direction is a solid crane fleet. When it comes to choosing between a telescoping boom crane or a knuckleboom crane, the telescoping boom has clear advantages in the precast world. Let’s take a look.

A big issue for most precast concrete projects is weight. A lighter crane means more axle weight for payload at a time when precast structures are getting bigger, heavier, and more complex. The ability to add more payload to a single vehicle also may reduce the need for additional trucks and drivers having to transport products to the jobsite. That cost savings often makes telescoping boom cranes a better choice over knuckleboom cranes.

Beyond transportation considerations, weight impacts crane maneuverability and surefootedness to, from, and at the jobsite. The lightness of telescoping boom cranes has a lot to do with the geometry of how they’re built.

“A lot goes into building cranes specifically for precast concrete businesses,” says Brent Petring, General Manager for QMC Cranes in Sparks, Nevada. “We use what we call the Modular Design Theory to assist with customizing models for specific use needs. It allows us to create the right configurations for types of demands you will likely encounter.”

Level Set

Tom Anderson breaks down the boom vs knuckle difference as onetime owner of Glacier Precast in Kalispell, Montana. He’s sold on boom trucks and ran a fleet of five QMC rear mounted cranes across mountainous terrain for years. One of his cranes is mounted on a shorter truck that can traverse the steep, winding roads around the high country in northwestern Montana.

“I call it my mountain truck,” Anderson says. “We’re up here in the mountains where you don’t always get ‘level’ and the QMCs will do way more on an uneven surface than a knuckleboom. They’re way more user friendly too. We do a lot of things for our customers with the QMCs that would be a lot harder with a knuckleboom. Like setting a wet well down in a hole. With the QMCs, it’s just effortless.”

That means Glacier Precast can offer outstanding customer service in less time with greater efficiency. Who wouldn’t want that? 

Fundamentally Better

The fundamental design of the two types of cranes makes it easy to spot the advantages of the telescoping boom. The straight boom gives you a much higher capacity to reach for the weight you’re lifting. Think of it in terms of how much weight you can lift and how far away you can set it. Let’s say you need to lift 18,000 pounds at 20 feet. You would need a much bigger – and heavier – knuckleboom to manage that lift.

Another big difference between the telescoping boom crane and the knuckleboom crane is reliability. The simpler design of the telescoping crane makes it possible to protect the components from the elements. The articulating nature of the knuckleboom means that it has multiple exposed cylinders subject to solar, dust, and heat damage – an especially dubious prospect in severe climates. Knucklebooms are feature-laden and part-laden. More moving parts means more maintenance.

And finally, it’s important to know that QMC cranes are made by QMC Cranes, not assembled from a kit at a dealership. We manufacture our cranes with American steel and are proud to say we’re a Made in the USA crane company.

If cranes are a weighty issue in your precast company, check with us for expert advice and support and elevate your business. After decades of working with precast experts and listening to their suggestions, we place a lot of stock in keeping our QMC products as light as possible.