Development in Africa continues and this has seen an increased need for a capable lifting specialist.

Johnson Crane Hire has an established reputation as a lifting specialist who gets the job done and this standing is starting to pay dividends for the company. Significantly, the company operates a fleet of cranes that offers the necessary depth and range of cranes, but it is the heavy lift capability that really sets the company apart from other crane hire operators.

Operating the largest heavy lift fleet of cranes in sub-Saharan Africa, the company is able to undertake complex heavy lift assignments with ease.

Steve Robson, executive business development at Johnson Crane Hire, is quick to point out that this is not just because of the enormous investment in its fleet of cranes but also because the company has the depth of resources to underpin its service offering.

“Having such large and comprehensive fleet is without doubt a major differentiator, but we believe that the proficiency of our people is just as important,” he says. “Undertaking such a complex and specialised activity as a heavy lift requires the ability to engineer the lift from the initial assessment right the way through to the actual completion of the job.”

“What is important is that Johnson Crane Hire can undertake these mammoth projects in a seamless operation,” Robson says.

Johnson Crane Hire’s heavy lift division makes use of 3D CAD software for both the design and engineering of the lift as well as the simulation thereof. “With full time and dedicated mechanical engineers as part of our heavy lift team, we understand the complexity and requirements that go into the planning and execution of these complex lifts,” Robson says. “This level of attention to detail is essential during the planning stages.”

Planning is a critical activity, especially when undertaking specialised lifts in remote areas. Robson says the company is no stranger to working in Africa and is well positioned to extend its footprint even though there are differences from country to country; the lifting specialist has the distinct advantage of understanding the conditions across the continent.

Describing just how complex the logistics around a heavy lift project can be, Robson says that after all the planning has been completed the crane being taken to the lifting site must be broken down into modular components. These are then loaded onto trucks with all the auxiliary equipment including the boom configuration and luffers and this is then transported either via road or sea to the country where the lift is taking place.

“Depending on the crane size and configuration selected to do the lift and the local road ordinance ruling, there would be between 40 to 50 abnormal loads, and moving this several thousand kilometres is no mean feat,” Robson says.

Adding to the mix is Johnson Crane Hire’s internal skills pool and the strong relationships the company has with its logistic partners. This enables the company to undertake the logistical exercises for each lift with relative ease. All aspects of the logistics are thoroughly interrogated to ensure that potential risks are identified early on. This includes route surveys, bridge formulae calculations, permits and road ordinance clearances, permit verification and axles loadings, and communication with utility suppliers and relevant authorities in all countries.

“Most frameworks have elements of similarity and our people are able to negotiate through the logistics with considerable ease,” he says. Robson is referring to border clearances, road transportation regulations, work permits and safety compliance. He says that it is Johnson Crane Hire’s understanding of these frameworks that are another major strength, not just for the company but also for the end customer.

Planning around the logistics is just as important as with the arrival of components it is critical to ensure that these arrive in the correct order to facilitate the timeous building of the crane.

Operators are also a critical aspect of a heavy lift success, and Johnson Crane Hire has a core of specially trained and highly skilled operators, majority of whom are experienced at operating in other countries.

What needs to be appreciated is that a heavy lift operation is an extensive project and can take anywhere up to 60 days or more.

A competent technical team is despatched on each lift project. Robson says that depending on the time frame and the actual location the level of support may differ.

“For example, if a very complicated lift that is being done in a remote area over an extended period the support team would include technical maintenance staff, project management, operators and relief operators, ground crew and equipment,” he explains.

Johnson Crane Hire has conducted successful heavy lift projects in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and DRC in the past, and each package was tailored to the specific requirement to ensure its success.

“Project work can be done on a fully resourced basis with technical and back up support and where possible could include partnering with local crane hire companies,” Robson says.

“It is a specific intention that in these scenarios Johnson Crane Hire will invest in skills upliftment and skills transfer as part of its commitment to the local economy of the country in which the lift is being done,” he concludes.

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