Piedmont Hoist & Crane is building multiple cranes for the US Navy at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) in California. The main spotlight is on the 150-tonne gantry crane.

At the time of writing, Piedmont Hoist & Crane was in the final design stages of the massive double girder, double leg gantry. The crane is manual, so no automation software is involved. It will be delivered and installed in the first half of 2024.

With a span of 95ft, a lift height of 37ft and an overall system height of 60ft, the gantry will be one of 28 Piedmont cranes in total.

The cranes range in size from 2.0t up to the 150-tonne gantry and all will handle munitions. In addition, the cranes are environmentally sound as they are all electric AC-powered, and do not produce pollutants.

“The cranes include VFD [variable frequency drive] control systems with advanced diagnostics to evaluate the condition of each motion while bringing safety for the operator and performance to the forefront,” says Keith Butler, national sales manager at Piedmont. He adds that the cranes also include many safety features: “These include monitoring indicators for drive systems, overload systems with readout, anti-collision devices, and automatic rail clamps for outdoor cranes. The cranes are designed for fail-safe operation.”

Four separate contracts were awarded, making up the 28-crane total, as well as a design and supply contract for wheel assemblies that carry three independent buildings along a runway. Installations will begin in the next several months and continue through next year.

Butler concludes: “When complete, there will be a new base full of advanced processing buildings with modern material handling for the navy’s work at this location.”

Discussing the background to the US Navy selecting Piedmont as a crane supplier/designer, Butler, comments: “The [navy] performs an extensive evaluation on crane and hoist manufacturers that desire the opportunity to bid on their projects. Due to the nature of their requirements, which include high capacity and special explosive ordinance handling, they select only a few of the most capable companies throughout the US for their contracting purposes. Piedmont Hoist & Crane has held a…contract with the [navy] for many years and has recently been awarded a renewed contract for five more years.

“The [navy] has a very specific specification that dictates the design of their cranes to which we adhered. In addition, the specification references all applicable industry specifications such as CMAA, ANSI, etc.”

Butler adds that the cranes on the contracts are replacements for equipment damaged in the 2019 earthquake at China Lake NAWS. “Most of the buildings on the site had to be replaced including the material handling equipment,” he says.

“Additionally,” he adds, “the fact that [the 150-tonne] crane is outdoors… requires that we look at potential [issues] such as earthquakes.”

While the structure of the crane is large, Piedmont designs equipment of this nature regularly. “The biggest challenge is to design with regards to a consider of freight and installation,” says Butler.

With 30 years in business, Piedmont Hoist & Crane says it has produced a wide range of equipment for this type of project, designing and engineering cranes of all types up to 250 tonnes in capacity.