4 Fascinating Facts of Overhead Cranes and How They Changed the Manufacturing Industry 

Human beings have gotten quite good at lifting heavy things. The manufacturing sector knows all too well the need for lifting and moving heavy cargo and materials. This would be so much more dangerous and laborious if it weren’t for the marvel of modern machines that allow for easy access and movement of shipments, equipment, tools, and more. 

As one of the darlings of the Industrial Revolution, the overhead crane has improved production and efficiency—not to mention safety. So, ever wonder about this hulk of a machine? Here’s what you need to know about this awesome heavy-duty vehicle. 

The Overhead Crane Arrives in Time for the Industrial Revolution

Before the age of Industrialization hit the shores of the United States, many Western European nations were experiencing their industrialization era. The first overhead cranes were steam-powered and emerged thanks to a German company called Ludwig Stuckenholz. 

During England’s Industrialization, an electric overhead crane came onto the scene in a Gun Factory in London. These bad boys were first used to lift guns and ammo, as needed for the Royal Army. The capacity of this heavy-duty machine increased as added features like electrical control systems and mass-produced electric hoists were implemented. In the 1930s, the first portable electric chain hoist was presented in America. 

Today, new technologies have improved the crane’s capabilities even more. 

So once these vehicles arrived on the scene, the movement of construction components, steel parts, and other heavy cargo improved efficiency.

Fact #1: Named after a bird, first used by ancient civilizations

Cranes in industrial settings and construction sites are named after a bird. This is an oft-cited fact, but the real question is, “why?” This lifting device is shaped and functions similar to the beautiful omnivorous bird found throughout the world. The bird has long legs, a long neck, and long beaks. When the bird bends down to pick something off the ground, they function as a lever. The machine crane is a lifting device made up of a vertical column and a boom that points upwards at an angle with the capacity to rotate. This setup allows the crane to use force to lift heavy objects while remaining stable. The Greeks were onto this long ago and it’s why they are often credited as being responsible for early versions of the crane.  They developed machines that operated with winches and pulleys in order to move heavy equipment. The Romans are often credited with perfecting the concept by adding large treadwheel drives to increase load capacity. 

While a symbol of eternal youth and happiness, the crane (bird) has served as a great model for modern machinery. Although, there are no guarantees that operating a crane will keep you forever young!

Fact #2 The Overhead crane is essential for over 10 major industries 

Different varieties of cranes are essential for different industries within the manufacturing sector. Bridge cranes, gantry cranes, and other overhead cranes are essential for getting important jobs done and maintaining operations. The cranes are therefore intricately tied to the overall economy! Industries like:

  • Storage facilities and warehouses: Any warehouse that stores heavy equipment or cargo will need to move that stuff around. 


  • Automotive industry: Any major auto assembly line will have to move their product from station to station, this may include moving heavy components, other machinery, and more. 


  • Power plants: These large facilities are powered by generators that often need replacing. These are heavy pieces of equipment that cannot be moved so easily. The crane helps in the careful removal and replacement. 
  • Aviation industry: Building and repairing planes means the movement of heavy metal components. Engines, propellers, wing components, and other essential parts need to be moved carefully. 

These are just a few. You can expect to find the handy dandy crane in other industries including transportation, shipbuilding, construction, and more. 

Fact #3 There are over 20+ types of cranes

Not all cranes are created equal. The concept is relatively consistent among the many designs, but each type of crane serves a very specific purpose and is a specialized task. For example, once heavier steel products were produced after WWII, the cranes were installed in the back of vehicles to create the modern mobile cranes. Common crane types include: 

  • Mobile cranes
  • Tower cranes
  • Rough terrain crane
  • Truck-mounted crane
  • Railroad crane
  • Aerial crane

Fact #4 There is a Biannual Crane Count 

Cranes are so important in the construction industry and indicate the level of work being completed, that there is a biannual crane count. The counting of cranes helps people gauge the health of the construction industry and the count of new projects. For example, this report shows that a recent crane count suggested North America has fewer cranes than it did in 2017 and that the increase in cranes in Toronto is likely due to the building of high-rise condos. 

New Technologies Improving the Function and Reliability of Cranes 

Every other industry has been touched by the good graces of smart technology and GPS. The crane business is no different. Because some factory cranes don’t have full-time operators anymore, some industry experts argue that crane operators might not be as well trained as they once were. This shift indicates that using technology to improve the function of the cranes helps the crane operators pick up the task much more easily. 

Smart features and new improvements in some newer versions of cranes include:

  • Adaptable speed controls
  • Anti-sway control
  • Shock-load resistance 
  • Programmable auto-positioning that can do repetitive tasks

Get the Right Equipment and Supplies with Wisco Supply

We’re not your typical wholesaler. We carry a wide range of industrial equipment, products, and services. As far as heavy equipment, count on us for cranes and monorails, hoists, crane electrification systems, hoist electrification systems, hoists, and bridge components. 

Have questions about what you need or any of our services? Connect with us today.