When the time comes to make major acquisitions, some people prefer to look into used products such as used lifting equipments. The main benefit is undoubtedly the cost savings. Considering the investment involved in purchasing an overhead crane, it is not surprising that some companies keep their eyes open to such opportunities. In addition, some might think “my equipment won’t work hard… a used crane will do the job!” But is this wise?
Apart from the use and amount recorded on paper, it would be appropriate to focus on the indirect costs related to this type of purchase. Indeed, it is appropriate to recall here that a very short-term economy does not necessarily mean a reduction in costs over the long term. Could that kind of surprise really happen with a worn crane? In fact, unexpected costs could occur even before starting to use an equipment! So here are some things to consider before deciding to buy a used crane.
The used purchase and the compliance
The wear of second-hand lifting equipment can be highly variable. But in all cases, this does not exempt the new owner from meeting all compliance requirements. The CSA B167-16 standard states that the owner of an existing crane must “gather and document the information” specified in the table opposite “before using the crane” (5.1.9). This means that he must be able to demonstrate the compliance of his equipment at any time by presenting the required documents to the relevant authorities. But will the former owner have provided you with this critical documentation? If this is not the case, it will still fall on you as a new owner since the device is now your responsibility. Therefore, this information will have to be obtained in one way or another from the manufacturer, the supplier or an engineer. For more details on the compliance issue, please see our blog : Compliance of Lifting and Handling Equipment.
Documents that must be collected in the existing device logbook:
performance specification for the equipment, including:
relevant drawings for equipment arrangement and installation;
special environmental conditions applying to use, if any;
special service conditions, if any (e.g., high-temperature applications);
specifications for power supply and power supply system;
clearances and dimensions;
evidence of engineered design for the crane or hoist and supporting structure;
evidence of initial inspection/commission and load test;
presence of other cranes on the runway of an overhead travelling crane;
maintenance log book;
technical requirements and other applicable requirements.
When compliance documents are missing, the process for obtaining them can vary and become complicated. For example, getting a sealed plan requires engineering, and implies engineering costs as well. These fees must therefore be added to the original purchase price. In addition, the absence of certain documents may result in associated costs. For example, if there is no written evidence to support the rated capacity of the used crane, engineering will be required to establish its actual capacity. If its real capacity is lower than expected, you may decide to make some modifications to the equipment itself to achieve the required lifting capacity. These fees can be high and difficult to predict!
Now let’s see how physical adjustments alone can impact your decision.
The bridge span adjustment
In most cases, the span of a worn crane will have to be modified to fit the new structure. Indeed, it is unlikely that the distance between the tracks at the new location would match exactly the previous one. Therefore, whether it is an extension or a reduction in span, engineering will be required because any “modifications affecting structural, mechanical, or electrical integrity of an existing crane or hoist shall not be performed unless the modification has been evaluated and stamped by an engineer.” (CSA B167-16 5.1.11). This means that an engineering fee, in addition to the adjustment fee, will be required to adapt the bridge’s span to its new location.
But that’s not all. The welding made for those changes must be performed in accordance with the applicable welding standards (see CSA B167-16 5.5; CSA W47.1; CSA W59 and BCS). As a result, these compliance elements are added to the list, and the documents used to demonstrate it must be included in the logbook as well. Also, the installation and commissioning of a used equipment must be compliant as well.
Installation and commissioning
A used crane is subject to the same requirements as a new crane regarding its installation and commissioning. For example, there is no different criteria whether the crane has already been used or not, or has been modified or not. That means doing an initial inspection and a load test before any operation. What will those interventions reveal about the status of your new acquisition? This is sufficient reason not to ignore the following recommendation.
Pre-purchase inspection: a highly recommended step
It may be prudent to request a third-party inspection before deciding to purchase a used crane. The reason is obvious: it helps to avoid unpleasant surprises! For example, many second-hand car buyers have them inspected before completing the transaction, which is a good idea. So, what about a lifting device? Let say that the inspection reveals significant non-compliances that require mandatory repairs prior to use. The costs could be considerable! This would probably challenge your decision! In addition, in the case of worn cranes, essential or major components may be obsolete, such as motors or the hoist itself. The replacement cost of these components could reflect the price gap with new equipment.
In short, the condition of the used device and the changes you will have to do to make it compliant can have a significant impact on your choice. In addition, the regulations for lifting equipment are the same regardless of the degree of use of the equipment, whether its usage is light or heavy. So don’t jump too fast on those enticing offers and apparent savings! When it comes to investing in machines at the heart of your production, it’s better to be vigilant and insightful. Yes, the investment in a new crane can be significant. But if you’re not careful, the overall expenses associated with a worn crane could be much worse!