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Meridion Group overhauls crane fleet

Don Procter
Meridion Group overhauls crane fleet
Meridion’s new fleet is from Italian crane manufacturer Raimondi from which it recently ordered three luffing boom cranes. Another dozen are on the buy list over the next three years. -

Mark Mungo, 34, knows a lot about tower cranes. He started learning about them at the age of 10 when his father Dominic took him to construction sites on weekends to watch him transport equipment and materials from one place to another from the perch of a tower crane cab.

His father ran CIP Group, one of the largest formworking and crane suppliers in Toronto for three decades.

Mungo continued in his father’s footsteps, taking over the company last year and rebranding it as the Meridion Group. Near the top of his priority list is updating the company’s aging fleet of cranes, some of which are nearly 20 years old.

He says today’s cranes are more user-friendly and offer new features that provide useful data to operators on lifting procedures. Wind alarms, anti-collision alarms are often standard and even software that stops a crane in its path to prevent collisions with other cranes are on many of today’s models.

A particularly helpful addition is the on-board computer, capable of tracking crane operator manoeuvres — data which can be reviewed by the contractor or the manufacturer for necessary equipment tweaks to improve production efficiencies, Mungo points out.

"It doesn’t matter if a crane is brand new or not, it can require adjustments. That data helps the manufacturer figure out what those adjustments might be or whether the operator needs to do something differently."

Controls, he adds, on new cranes are easier to adjust to the operator for optimum efficiency, including how fast the crane swings and hoists.

But beyond the technological improvements, reliability is a major factor for why Meridion is gradually switching in the next few years to a new fleet of about 30 cranes.

When a crane breaks down, lost time can be significant — weeks in some cases — affecting construction schedules for everyone on site, Mungo explains.

"Even though you can continue to do some things, you can’t keep going up (erecting the tower) which is what keeps you on schedule."

He says a crane breakdown in 2015 on the 43rd floor of a downtown Toronto building cost Meridion upwards of $120,000 to replace a motor.

A derrick had to be built by hand on the broken crane to lower the damaged parts and hoist up replacements.

The dollars lost, he says, don’t include rent paid for other equipment shutdown or the temporary layoff of the workers.

Meridion’s new fleet, being purchased over several years, is from Raimondi, an Italian crane manufacturer. Last year the contractor acquired three flattop cranes and it recently ordered three luffing boom cranes with vertical booms to allow for materials and equipment transport on tight sites.

Another dozen Raimondi cranes are on the buy list over the next three years.

One of the reasons Mungo chose flattops rather than traditional hammerhead cranes (which have an apex projecting above a horizontal boom) is that flattops provide more clearance of each other on tight sites.

Also, flattop booms are easily shortened or lengthened to meet site perimeters.

"With an apex crane, sometimes you have to completely change the configuration to change the length of the boom including the back jib."

While the contractor updates its entire fleet, other contractors in Toronto are standing pat. It is easy to understand why: a new fleet can easily run into millions of dollars.

Raimondi cranes range from $300,000 – $700,000 in cost, depending on the model, but Mungo says they offer a good bang for the buck and rank among the best tower cranes in the world.

The interchangeability of mech-anical parts is one reason that companies hang on to existing crane fleets, even when those cranes are aging fast.

"If a crane breaks down and you have the same model in your yard, you can replace parts quickly," he points out.

Furthermore, cranes can be customized to fit construction sites using parts from other cranes of the same make and model.

"If you have a mishmash of different cranes you can’t connect them to each other. You have to custom-make transition pieces and that becomes very difficult."

Meridion has exclusive distributorship for Raimondi cranes in Canada. Its flattops have just started operating over a waterfront four-tower condo complex by Daniels Corporation at Queens Quay in downtown Toronto.

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