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The mixed blessing of crane kits.


For about 25 years now, crane kits have been available, allowing crane builders to assemble plug-and-play standard cranes. Meanwhile, the idea has developed into a highly refined and flexible system solution. All it takes is a bit of steel work - the main beam - for even small companies to be able to offer standard cranes with superior technical features.

To the big component manufacturers, this has offered a profitable sales channel for their products. From an organisational point of view, installing a crane kit is easy - it is basically a travelling crane without the main beam. It is a means of increasing quantities, logistics are easy and it ensures future spare parts business.


Whether crane kits hold the same benefits for crane builders remains, at least in parts, doubtful. For a start, the crane builder has to compete in the market by offering technical solutions and arguments that several other manufacturers can offer, too - which are exactly the same. Moreover, the supplier of the crane kit is almost invariably one of these competitors. Even if this competitor does not sell its crane, at least it supplies the crane kit, which may, under certain circumstances, even be its preferred solution. It is rare for the crane kit user to generate spare part business from the sale, as it will only take the end user five minutes on Google to find at least five alternative spare part providers for brand X. Moreover, slumps in the market, such as the one experienced during the global crisis in 2008/2009, showed that component manufacturers lowered the prices for complete installations much more than those for crane kits. This put many small crane builders under serious pressure.

One aspect that has so far not garnered much attention is the hollowing out of technical expertise on the side of the crane builders. The plug-and-play culture does not promote building up in-depth technical knowledge, on the contrary, it tends to make it more shallow. Companies make attempts to sharpen their market profile by offering demanding special solutions, but the risks involved are often disproportionate to the success rate. In other words, extensive use of crane kits will reduce a crane builder's competitive edge over the long term rather than reinforcing it.

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