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What Type of Crane Do I Need?

Speak to an Engineer about what type of overhead crane would meet your needs.
Call 781-897-4117, fax 781-729-3343, or email

Often customers are unsure as to what type of overhead lifting system will best serve their needs, or even taking a step back, perhaps you're interested in learning about overhead lifting in general and the benefits with respect to other material handling options (to learn more about this topic, visit our Overhead Lifting page). To learn more about choosing a particular type of overhead crane, read further on this page.

It is very important to understand the types of lifting systems available and how they differ from each other. Spending a few minutes now discussing the needs of your application could save you thousands of dollars (not to mention the value of improved safety) in the future.

Questions to Consider

When someone is considering the purchase of an overhead lifting system, the obvious concerns about lifting capacity, length of lift, and the area of hook coverage usually take top priority. However, customers should also give some thought to the following questions:

  • What am I actually doing with the system? For example, will it be used to move expensive tools into/out of a molding machine or to load/unload steel from trucks?
  • How can a crane increase the safety of the loads being lifted?
  • How can a crane improve my workers' safety in handling the loads?
  • How frequently will it be used each shift?
  • How will the load need to be moved and located?
  • How easy is it to move the system to a new location in my factory?
  • Do I really need three axes of hook movement (e.g., up/down, left/right, and forward/back) or will only two be sufficient?
  • How heavy are the loads to be lifted?
  • How much money should I invest in a system?

Think Long-Term

When you consider these questions, things can be a bit overwhelming, but it could make the difference between simply spending some money on an overhead lifting system and investing in a system to improve your operations, increase worker safety and efficiency, and improve product quality.

Every project has a budget. In an attempt to control project costs, some customers consider inappropriate crane types that can be risky, often greatly reducing the effectiveness of the crane and, in the long run, wasting money. Starting with an honest evaluation of your lifting needs is of paramount importance in selecting a crane for your factory.

How We Can Help You Choose

Below we provide some basic information about each type of crane, but the NAI sales team and engineers will be more than happy to assist you through the process of choosing the right lifting system. Visit our engineering pages to learn how our expertise can assist you in finding the best material handling solution for your individual needs.

Four Types

There are four main types of overhead lifting systems available. Click on each heading below for further product details. You can also contact us to request a set of brochures or speak with an engineer.

Overhead Traveling Bridge Crane
This type of crane runs on an elevated runway system along the length of a factory and provides three axes of hook motion. Both single and double girder bridge designs are provided with great flexibility in allowing the hook to be positioned very precisely and for loads to be placed very gently. See our technical reports under the resources button to learn more about single girder versus double girder cranes.

Gantry Crane
This type of crane is quite similar to the bridge crane except that it runs on a track at the floor level. The bridge (which carries the hoist and trolley) is supported by a pair of rigid steel legs which, in turn, are carried by a pair of end trucks along the floor-level runway. The gantry crane provides the same performance characteristics that an overhead bridge crane offers.

Jib Crane
This type of crane consists of a pivoting head and boom assembly, which carries a hoist and trolley unit. The pivoting head is supported either by a floor-mounted mast providing 360°-boom rotation or by an existing building column, which provides 180° of boom rotation. The jib crane can also be motorized to provide precise spotting of loads, however, the hook location is along a radial path rather than a simple X-Y arrangement.

This type of overhead lifting system is quite specialized and very effective when properly designed into the factory layout. Only two directions of hook travel are afforded by the monorail: up/down and along the axis of the monorail beam. It is not recommended (and quite dangerous) to push the load out from under the centerline of the monorail beam. The key phrase here is "when properly designed into the factory layout" since monorail systems, by their nature, are most often integrated into continuous production systems for material transport; e.g., hot metal operations in a foundry, paint booths, etc.

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