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Overhead Cranes or Lift Trucks: Which Is Right for You?

Pat Schmit
Industrial Crane Sales

Overhead cranes and lift trucks each have their unique roles in material handling. For this reason, answering the question, “Which is right for you?” is not so simple.

The layout of your facility plays a major role in determining whether lift trucks or overhead cranes are the better solution for a specific application. In some cases — maybe in many cases — overhead cranes and lift trucks share the workload. Each has advantages for certain applications, in certain environments.

The Case for Overhead Cranes

If your facility has limited floor space, with material and product stacked close together, it likely means two things: no or little room to drive lift trucks and lots of blind spots for drivers to be wary of.

From a safety and productivity standpoint, this situation calls for overhead cranes. With overhead cranes, you will have the ability to move loads above the activity of a crowded facility, greatly lowering the risk of accidents on the floor. 

Further, new overhead crane technology enables you to program a crane to stay out of certain zones of your facility, thereby ensuring that the hoist will stay away from areas where employees work or sensitive equipment is housed. 

Overhead cranes also are an ideal, efficient solution for repetitive, short-cycle lifting operations for a wide range of industries.

The Case for Lift Trucks

In areas where open floor space is available, lift trucks can be more efficient than an overhead crane. In such environments, lift trucks can move loads quickly across expansive buildings, from one bay to another or to trucks at the loading dock.

In large buildings, long overhead crane runways typically serve more than one crane. In cases such as these, cranes may have to be moved out of the way to move material from one end of the building to the other, further slowing the progress of a load-carrying crane.

Still, new technology has improved the efficiency of overhead cranes. For example, new anti-sway technology prevents loads from swinging, thus decreasing the time it takes for an overhead crane to move a load. Additionally, overhead cranes can be pre-programed to deliver loads to specific locations.

At the same time, you’ll find lift trucks that are made for very specific jobs that may be just what your operations need. For instance, some container yard lift trucks are specifically designed to move and stack empty containers, while other kinds of lift trucks have been designed to move full containers.

As you evaluate your options, you may find that the best course of action is not to take an “either/or” approach, but rather an “and” approach instead. To help you find the most effective material handling solution for your applications, contact a Konecranes sales representative today.

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