Heavylift / Breakbulk
Witnessing a wedding
Cranes are as sure as death and taxes when it comes to transporting heavylift goods. In ports in particular, where there is limited space, it is essential to be equipped with mobile cranes for transhipment. We took a look around Liebherr’s facility in Rostock.
In the beginning there was steel. There is no way a round cranes as the foundation for the transhipment of virtually any load. Heavylift operations are unimaginable without them. The range of equipment and potential uses is thus considerable. We got an insight into Liebherr’s Rostock production site in Germany recently.
A broad range is mandatory
Within the framework of a strategy of the Liebherr group, which posts revenues of nearly EUR 9.3 billion a year in all of its business units, mobile port cranes form an essential element. “The cranes in maritime use represent 10.5% of our sales across the whole company,” explained Wolfgang Pfister, head of global marketing, and Leopold Berthold, a member of the executive board, during our visit to the production site in Rostock. Even if the business unit was forced to accept a minor contraction of 2.4% compared to the previous year in 2015, EUR 964 million in sales nevertheless remains an impressive figure.
Reinhard Krappinger, managing director of technology, explains the range that the cranes need to be able to handle. For instance, in Dudinka in western Siberia, the 17 cranes in action there need to withstand icy temperatures of up to –50°C. For deliveries for the Paris–Dakar rally, local temperatures can rise to +40°C. The material thus needs to have very versatile properties to withstand both of these extremes. Liebherr sells around 80 to 100 cranes annually. They are not only deployed for bulk goods, but increasingly also for containers.
36 axles and 144 tyres
The two crown jewels that would please any engineer are the LHM 800 and the LRS 545. The former is currently Liebherr’s state-of-the-art mobile solution for box handling. It achieves lifting power of 308 t at a height of 36 m and a range of 64 m. Operating together, 616 t can thus be lifted. The deadweight of an LHM 800, 820 t on 36 axles and 144 tyres, is a challenge in and of itself. It was passed when transporting a unit to Montevideo (Uruguay) in summer 2016 (see ITJ 37-38 / 2016, page 16).
The LRS 545, in turn, is a reachstacker that has been on sale from Liebherr since May. Approximately 30 units have already been sold in 2016. The target is to cover about 10% of the global market, selling 150 units a year.
Project manager Keno Dirks is visibly proud of the work in the long production workshop in Rostock. “Our production depth is remarkable, with most equipment manufactured in-house. We have hardly any third-party suppliers,” he emphasises. The 2,600 t of steel that reaches the plant annually by train is hand-picked by manufacturer and material.
Just the first stage
The cleaning and removing of the top layer is merely the first stage of the procedure, because after processing the modules, with lengths of up to 80 m, they see up to four coats of paint applied, one on top of another, after cleaning with water as well as sand blasting. Reliability is therefore at the very top of the list of priorities.
In production hall three the process finally comes to a head. We witness what even unemotional engineers call a wedding. The crane base, weighing approximately 80 t, is lowered onto the turntable and locked onto the undercarriages, which weigh in at approximately 200 t. The semi-finished crane can now be started within the production workshop and proceed into final assembly under its own steam.
“This is the second pair of cranes being built. They are destined for Bronka,” according to Dirks, who has to shout over the noise. The ro-ro ramps and container bridges are used to tranship the produced cranes on the quay and transport them to Russia by vessel.
A very multifaceted site
The special feature of the Rostock site is in the minds. In addition to the experts on site it is home, amongst other things, to the Liebherr academy, which provides training to 176 apprentices and employees, as well as the Maritime Training Centre, where the staff of customers, for example crane operators, is trained and prepared for its assignments using its own equipment.
The Rostock site is expanding. It was established in 2002 and is well-suited for handling products, given its location by the sea. Since the beginning of 2016 Liebherr has pooled its production, sales and customer services for mobile port cranes, vessels, offshore cranes and reachstackers in the port city on the Baltic Sea.
The process was initiated in 2014, in order to bundle the company’s expertise. Liebherr’s business fields nevertheless remain closely connected, because production collaboration with corporate manufacturing sites in Killarney (Ireland), Sunderland (England) and Nenzing (Austria) continues to function well, which benefits the offshore sector, amongst others.