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Mini crane report: Emissions, durability, capacity key for contractors

Looking at the latest trends and technologies in mini cranes


September 17, 2021
By Andrew Snook

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Low-emission fuel sources, improved durability and enhanced lifting capacity top the most-wanted list for contractors. Photo: Jekko

When it comes to what contractors are looking for in mini cranes, OEMs and dealers seem to have a solid handle on what their customers want.

An increased focus on low-emission fuel sources, improved durability and enhanced lifting capacity top the most-wanted list for contractors continuously using these machines for an increased number of applications.

“The big trend right now in a lot of major cities is the buildings going up, whether they’re condos or skyscrapers, which reduces the space you’re able to work in. I think we’re all seeing that,” says Jose Perez, international sales manager for Broderson Manufacturing Corp.

“We’re having to keep our packages small, whether that’s width or length. Reach is another thing customers are wanting, to reach higher but keep the same footprint.”

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Photo: Jekko

Electric power

Cristina Da Frè, marketing manager for Jekko, says that her company sees the current and future trends for mini cranes continue to shift towards electric power.

“In the area of electric power, Jekko has always been ahead of the game, offering battery-powered models and now switching to lithium-ion batteries to ensure constant power and precision while working,” she says. “We have always offered the possibility of having bi-energy mini cranes, fitting an additional electric motor to the diesel engine versions as well.”

Pacific Northwest–based Leavitt Cranes general manager Erick Zampini says the trend towards use of lithium-ion batteries as opposed to LP/gas or diesel systems and telemetry systems to diagnose the cranes remotely are the main technological advancements in the mini crane market in recent history.

“Keeping up with the trends in green technology, that would be the main one,” Zampini says.

Operator usability

Jekko is also focused on continuously improving the ease of use and durability of its mini cranes.

“Our attention is also focusing on making it easier for the operator to use the machine and on the reliability, two factors that for us are fundamental in the development of all the machines we design,” Da Frè says.

There is also an increasing demand for telematics from contractors and rental houses, Perez says.

“You can access it from your phone and tell where a crane is. You can see diagnostics, how long it’s been ran, and get all those service intervals. You can know how hard and long your asset is running. This helps make financial decisions on whether you want to invest more in that product,” he says.

The primary application for mini cranes is still within the glazing industry. Photo: Leavitt Cranes

More applications

Zampini says that mini cranes are being used for a larger number of applications on construction sites than in the past. “The primary application for this unit is in the glazing industry. But we’re seeing more of the larger units being utilized as a Swiss Army knife for various construction sites,” he says. “We’ve seen it in concrete applications, stripping forms and steel placement.”

Jimmy Latta, sales representative for Up and Down Lifting Solutions in Ayr, Ont., says that glazing is still the most common application for mini crane rentals at his company, but he is also seeing them used for tacking less traditional projects.

“Glass is always the busiest for us, but were definitely seeing more in other areas,” he says. “Structural steel; landscaping for moving large stones in backyards; we’re also working with arborists to remove some trees with the larger cranes.”

For the most part, mini cranes are being used to reduce manual labour and improve efficiencies, especially in glazing applications where glass panels continue to get heavier and heavier.

“Where they have six, seven, eight, nine or 10 guys lifting the glass, now they have a crane and a few guys lifting the glass,” Latta says. “They’re improving the efficiencies on sites. Lots of companies are using these mini cranes because it’s much safer, more efficient, quicker and easier. It’s a time saver.”

Photo: Jekko

Coming out of COVID

Zampini says that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic did have some impact on the mini crane rental business, particularly, earlier on, but he already sees the market bouncing back.

“For the most part, it’s been fairly consistent. Utilization year-to-date has been roughly 60 per cent on the smaller stuff and 70 per cent on the larger stuff. It’s impacted us a little bit,” he says.

“There is increased activity in all aspects of the crane business, not just the mini cranes, so we forecasted that utilization will be up in the next six months and have forecasted a positive 2022.”

“The initial lockdown when they limited construction, we slowed down a bit. But after that it’s been steady,” Latta adds. “We’re seeing it growing from different industries.”


Andrew Snook is a freelance writer and the owner of Snookbooks Publishing.

This article appears in the September/October 2021 issue of Crane & Hoist Canada. Read the digital edition.