Towering Ahead!

The tower crane market is highly competitive due to the presence of major construction and industrial equipment manufacturers across the globe. The industry is witnessing the requirement for more models with heavy lifting capacities and the ability to work in confined work sites. This is creating pressure for new product development strategies for manufacturers. The machinery providers are working on enhancing the crane specifications and ensuring integration of more safety features to provide worker and public safety. Moreover, the industry is also witnessing a huge demand for rental models owing to the high equipment cost and the unavailability of several machines with a single contractor.

In India, the demand for tower cranes is majorly generated by real estate, infrastructural projects, power plants, industrial projects for lifting and carrying of heavy materials to a certain height, and for maintenance of heavy equipment used in several industries.

A major portion of the demand for tower cranes is being generated by the projects in the real estate sector in India. Therefore, with the slowdown in progress in real estate sector projects this year, the tower crane market is also facing a slowdown. However, apart from the real estate projects, several other sectors such as power plants, industrial, railway projects, construction of bridges and dam projects, and marine construction projects are continuously generating demand for tower cranes in India.

In power plants, a tower crane is used for lifting and handling heavy electric cables and is also used for the construction of extremely tall chimneys. In the industrial sector, a tower crane is often used for maintenance of heavyweight machinery, material handling purposes where heavy materials need to be lifted from one location to another within the plant. In the projects of railway, construction of bridges, and marine towers, cranes are used for loading and unloading heavy materials and for the lifting of heavy materials into a considerable height.

The demand drivers
Said Karan Chechi, Director, TechSci Research, “The market size of tower cranes in India was around $44 million in FY2021. Tower cranes are mostly used in the construction industry. At construction sites, tower cranes are used for lifting heavy materials such as steel and concrete. Large equipment such as acetylene burners, motors, and generators are also transported using tower cranes. They are also used in building dams, bridges, and other infrastructure where height is involved.”

“Almost 200 cranes working only in South India overall. We can say more than 500 cranes in the last couple of years in South India. There is a good growth rate we have seen amidst this pandemic,” said G Boopathi, Director, Uniqcore Constructions India, Chennai.

The growth of the tower crane market in India is expected to be driven by several factors in the near future. Government initiative towards the development of 100 smart cities, development of urban infrastructure including metro rail projects, ports, industrial corridors, and freight corridors are some of the leading growth drivers for the tower crane market in India. An increase in public-private partnerships within the country is encouraging significant private sector investments in infrastructural development, which in turn boosts the demand for tower cranes in India. Also, the increase in construction activities and growth of the construction industry due to the easy availability of financing schemes are fuelling the growth of the tower crane market. Moreover, the increase in rental equipment business in the country is also driving the growth of the tower crane market as several rental tower cranes are being used for completion of small projects of short duration, as purchasing of tower cranes for such small projects need huge investments.

Many companies are beginning to use direct-drive motors, which drive each wheel individually, for long crane movements, instead of the traditional central drive motor, where the drive shaft is connected to the wheels. This arrangement is an excellent alternative to long shafts and couplings, which lead to system misalignment and inefficiencies in natural power transmission.

Liebherr Group built the first tower crane with a newly developed display. The 12-inch multi-touch display ensures excellent visibility even in difficult lighting conditions, and the ECB and ECH series tower crane cabs come standard with intuitive operation. The introduction of the new display improves operator comfort when it comes to setting up the crane cab. Anti-reflective, dirt-repellent touch screens ensure optimal visibility even in difficult lighting conditions commonly found in crane cabins.

A new line of high-performance lifting (HPL) winches for Potain tower cranes is available from The Manitowoc Company, Inc. The winch brings a new level of speed, control, and efficiency to the industry. The winch provides optimized energy consumption, and the HPL can dramatically increase productivity. These features, combined with a new architecture that facilitates new engine braking management and maintenance operations, reduce build times for HPL winches and provide overall ride comfort, build quality, and accurate load placement. This performance improvement reduces power consumption, simplifies maintenance, and optimizes running costs. In addition, the power control function can limit the maximum power required to operate the crane without affecting the operating speed under low or no load.

Said Boopathi, “Our company is into civil construction contracts. From the market, I could say all leading tower crane manufacturers are producing tower cranes, self-erecting cranes, mobile cranes, lattice boom crawler cranes, and its accessories.”

Importance of safety
Said Chechi, “Safety plays a significant role for tower cranes as negligence will not only impact the cost and duration of the project but human lives might also be lost in the accident. Any malfunctioning in the equipment can have a severe impact.”

Tower cranes have now been equipped with an Anti-Collision device combined with SLI (Safe Load Indication and Control) in India. This includes microprocessor-based technology that combines wireless communications with terrestrial surveillance and upload stations. Designed to accommodate all tower crane brands and models, including top kit type, flat top type, and roughing type, the maximum height of tower cranes that can be used is 1 km or more. It continuously detects other tower cranes and stops entering areas where power is off/anti-collision is off. Tower cranes can rotate in the wind during a power outage.

The tower cranes include a wind speed meter that is known as an anemometer that checks the wind speed when working in a skyscraper and a dynamic braking system that prevents the load from dropping freely if the hoist brake fails.

The rise in construction, high buildings, and increasing urbanisation has led to an increase in the tower crane market but installing and dismantling tower cranes increases the chances of accidents resulting in injury or death of workers, which increases the duration of the project.

Rental companies face problems regarding the maintenance, wear and tear of equipment which increases the cost for the company. The construction site remains operational for the whole week, so the company providing cranes must send their engineer or other professional to check whether the cranes are working fine or require any maintenance.

During COVID-19 in 2020, the tower crane market faced losses because construction was halted for months which affected the entire construction industry.

This also led to the tower cranes not being dismantled from the construction site leading them to get rusted in the open environment and not getting proper maintenance. There was a fear among the tower crane companies that the client may cancel the order they placed before the lockdown.

Though the lifespan of a tower crane may be 20-30 years or even more than that, regular assembly and dismantling, transportation, and not getting proper maintenance may impact the lifespan, which might not get the company the return they expected on the investment. The operator who operates the crane and the technician who takes care of the servicing of the crane both have major responsibilities as they are the persons who know about the fault and how to deal with it. If they are not able to carry out their work properly, it can lead to an increase in accidents on the construction site and will affect the lifespan of a crane.

Several government initiatives to promote the growth of the construction and infrastructure industry are also generating demand for the tower crane segment. With the government’s focus on infrastructure, the crane business is demonstrating gradual signs of improvement.