US CRANE MANUFACTURER LINK-BELT TALKS ABOUT FORGING STRONG MARKET TIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
CBNME talks to Roy Burger, manager for international sales at US crane manufacturer Link-belt
The history of Link-belt Cranes Dates almost years to when a young salesman named 7illiam $ana %Vert lrst Conceived of a chain belt that had detachable links (hence Link-belt), rather than the drives that could break and debilitate harvesters when they were needed most.
The surroundings of the large-scale projects in oil and gas and infrastructure that Link-belt Cranes has been supplying to in the Middle East region are very different to the rich and verdant state of Kentucky where the mobile crane specialist is based in today. However, the region has proven to be a largely successful territory since it lrst entered the market in the 1960s as one of the most established leaders in its leld.
The company’s international sales manager, Roy Burger, tells CBNME: “Link-belt’s strongest market share comes from North America where it is able to market its full range of products and where the greatest concentration of distributors is located. However, the Middle East is still a strong market for Linkbelt. The most comparable market to the Middle East for Link-belt Cranes is Latin America.”
Rough terrain, telescopic, and mobile cranes were once viewed as useful for the oil and gas and infrastructure industries in the Middle East but undervalued for other styles of projects. Progress made by companies like Link-belt, and others such as SANY and Liebherr suggest attitudes are changing. Burger says that the US company boasts clients from both the private and public sectors and a varied resumé of projects – including a recent deal for the sale of multiple 50-tonne rough terrain cranes to Bilal Transport in the UAE for the Dubai Harbour project.
“Link-belt’s major markets in the Middle East include oil and gas, infrastructure, and general construction – either for government or commercial development. Many of Link-belt’s most notable achievements and projects have also involved partners in the military sector in the Middle East and Africa,” he explains before adding that the biggest drivers for crane purchases are “routine maintenance in relneries for oil and gas, power plants, and other general lifting necessary for maintenance”.
Link-belt is able to rely on a strong distributor network in the region with distributorships located in )raq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Burger says the company is working alongside them to access their customer bases, “to communicate the benelts of owning and operating a Link-belt Crane. This involves training of sales staff not just on our products but also on specilcations of our cranes that meet or exceed the requirements for safety, service, reliability, and overall resale value in the region.”
The end of 2017 saw its ranks of distributors further bolstered by the appointment of the Egymec Engineering Company in Egypt. Through the partnership, the El Didi Groupowned business will be entrusted with growing the brand in a country desperate for equipment and expertise as it reignites its programme of development on a national scale.
“Egymec coming aboard this year is also integral to future growth in Egypt,” aflrms Burger. “Egymec Engineering Company is a division of El Didi Group founded in 19 and headquartered in Cairo. Egymec plans to have the cranes and support, including technical staff, to cover the needs of their customers. We think this is essential for their success.”
With the distribution deal in place, Egymec has subsequently purchased a 60t HTC-8660 Series II hydraulic
“The Middle East is still a strong market for Link-belt. The most comparable market to the Middle East for Link-belt Cranes is Latin America” Roy Burger
truck crane for a company owned by El Didi Group. A further 50t RTC-8050 Series II was delivered in 2017 to Zohr gas leld (the development of which is viewed as critical in Egypt for its energy security) for which Egymec will provide service and support. An additional RTC-8050 Series II is also on order to go into Egymec’s dealer stock, adds Burger, and is due to be deliver in Q2 2018.
Beyond Egypt, April will mark the fourth anniversary of Link-belt’s appointment of Bakheet in Saudi Arabia. Like other machinery and equipment suppliers, the company has had to persevere during a tough period for the construction and energy sectors in the country. Burger says that Link-belt will be prepared when demand for its rough terrain, telescopic, and other mobile cranes starts to recover.
“The Saudi market has been challenging,” he laments. “Although many changes are underway, we have maintained our focus with our distributor, Bakheet. Our focus is on continued training and having a viable growth strategy in place when the market does return.”
When it comes to how Link-belt’s products give its clients a productivity advantage in the leld, he says that the company methodically selects its distributors. He says: “First, you ship a great Quality product after that, it’s all distributor support, not promises over the phone from the factory.”
From a technology point of view, he argues that its cranes also feature, “best in class capacities with longest booms, combined with intuitive incabin controls, comfort and visibility are standard project targets Link-belt continues to design into its cranes.”
He continues: “Link-belt’s new cab design offers 20% greater visibility and a camera vision package that enhances on-board site monitoring and includes cameras for viewing the right side of the upper, the main and auxiliary winch, as well as one for backing up. Link-belt’s mat-deck carrier design, access and egress, and work platform guardrails are three very important features that reinforce working boundaries.
“Ease and simplicity of routine maintenance are also delning characteristics of a Link-belt Crane that increase the service life of a crane and reduce cost of maintenance. Once on deck, routine checks on powertrain components and muid levels are a snap with large swing-out doors and LED lighting that illuminate the entire engine compartment. A centralised pressure check and grease bank located near the cab allows an operator to monitor multiple pressures and muid workings from one centralised location.
“Finally [there is] versatility. At Linkbelt, we begin every new crane design with transport in mind. Minimising the number of loads required to move a crane and simplifying assembly/disassembly are at the core of our design and how we ensure that Link-belt cranes transport better than any others in the industry.”
At Conexpo 2017, Link-belt debuted the huge TCC-2500, a 250t telescopic crawler crane with an overall tip-height of 105m. This is a crane built to handle huge industrial, energy, and construction loads and CBNME asks, given the scale of projects in the Middle East, whether it might lnd a role here.
“The energy sector is a very important market for the TCC-2500. Several of the early units to ship out have been found on energy projects in the US including a wind farm in Texas, a rail yard in Kansas unloading wind components, and a chemical plant in Illinois where the TCC-2500 is completing routine maintenance. The TCC-2500 will be available to ship globally with different engine options beginning in 2018,” he remarks.
Another much smaller but also potentially useful technology on display was the Link-belt Pulse 2.0 system, which has been designed to deliver a high-resolution screen tough enough for harsh operating environments as well as the ability to service the crane remotely. It solves issues familiar to operators in the region.
Burger explains: “Pulse 2.0 is currently available on the TCC-2500 and 75RT. The reaction to Pulse 2.0 has been very positive from Link-belt customers and operators alike. Based on ongoing operator and customer feedback, the intuitive design of Link-belt Pulse 2.0 crane operating system provides a simple interface for crane operators with a larger display, along with programmable features that allow each operator to customise their display; and software can be updated remotely.
“The most visible difference to Link-belt’s Pulse 2.0 is the new 10 in. display, 7% larger than the original Pulse screen. It has a resistive touch screen and can be used with gloves and be seen in direct sunlight with larger, clearer images; and the unit is pivot-mounted for optimal viewing. The interface is more dynamic throughout the operating system, with larger buttons and interactive indicator lights displayed on the margins.”