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What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, & Components

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017 / Categories: Blog ( The Mazzella Companies

What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, &

A base-level explanation of overhead cranes and how you can select an overhead crane that is best (/progressivecrane)
suited for your business’ needs.

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In this article, our goal is to unpack some of these questions and break them down into their simplest format. We want
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What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, & Components


In the

(/Portals/0/EasyGalleryImages/1/38/under-running.jpg) /cs/c/?cta_guid=5297ad4d-13cf-40bf-bf73-0972b23da4b2&
Under Running Bridge Crane
simplest of terms, an overhead crane is a machine, or piece of equipment, that allows you to lift and move heavy aMvbEy5jiMGPCdssoeouVux0gr15UpYjTHxFmQWXoHUdPX4IH3UIwVAG2hYd9JGj7_DTJcC4MSEr0IHndfBpyUwrN
materials ( from one hsutk=c7a0000011ab17871fd40168e2bd1097&
location to another in a precise manner. There is no “one size fits all” approach to defining an overhead crane, as each utm_referrer=https%3A%2F
overhead crane is carefully designed and engineered for a specific purpose or application to suit a business’ material
handling needs.

Overhead cranes can be designed and built in all kinds of configurations, and different components can be swapped
out or engineered to improve its capacity and performance. Some of the most popular reasons for using an overhead
crane include:

Loading or unloading materials from a truck

Moving materials around a facility more efficiently than a tow motor or manpower can
Flipping or pulling dies (
handling-automotive-stamping) in and out of stamping machines at a manufacturing facility placement_guid=fa562007-f3cb-4d0e-a8e4-d053d0ea2396&
Feeding raw material into a machine at a manufacturing facility portal_id=3336966&canon=https%3A%2F
Moving pieces or parts down an assembly line in a controlled fashion
Moving containers around a shipyard or railyard redirect_url=APefjpHnhwm_1ndkD_kqNlYfTtN4RdAAQCcdIS5xgbMgQ-
In addition to simplifying some of the processes described above, there are two main reasons why a company would 1eDITTyXdytY03Q-RC9DaI-mkHvgXmDdqm_YyNcSnO-
want to install an overhead crane, or a series of overhead cranes, in their facility:
1. Efficiency—Overhead cranes are more efficient than using a group of workers or tow motors to lift and move utm_referrer=https%3A%2F
material and can work up to 2-3 times faster. Think about how a manufacturer, mill, or warehouse can streamline beams-vs-lifting-beams-definitions-differences-and-design)
their processes and procedures by introducing an overhead crane to automate the lifting, maneuvering, and
unloading of materials at their facility.
2. Safety—Another advantage of installing an overhead crane (
/Blog/overhead-crane-installation-procedures-conception-to-completion) in a manufacturing, assembly, or
warehousing facility. Cranes can be used to lift and move materials in extreme environments and can handle
corrosive or dangerous materials like hot metals, chemicals, and heavy loads. A workstation or jib crane can be
put in place to help workers move heavy objects in a controlled manner and help cut down on repetitive motion
injuries and muscle strains.

Other benefits to using an overhead crane system include:

Reduction in workplace accidents

Reduction of product or material damage
Improved workflow
Lowered costs (
Green solution that reduces environmental impact /cs/c/?cta_guid=267ef7b1-90ca-4f09-8864-115e5b760ddb&
In KW7NDX60dB6Ysm6uVdL7bDM4hCinK4Tp0UxedK2NsPbfO3rmRwPf2tQAyFlma7ta8z0q7oyVkp8Ln2iR4A_hxzL4GJ
order click=bb14c5d0-4281-4e53-b5ed-00b606981ef4&
to get utm_referrer=https%3A%2F
Lifting & Rigging Resources:

Components of an Overhead Crane

understanding of some terms we’ll be using later when we describe the different types of overhead cranes, we’ll
discuss the different parts and components of a crane, and how they can affect performance and design.

HOOK – The lifted load is supported using a hook (

require-hook-with-safety-latch) which connects to the hoist.

HOIST – The hoist is what makes the lift and holds, raises, or lowers the load using wire rope
( or
chain. Hoists can be powered (
design-wire-rope-chain-manual-electric-air) manually (by hand), with electricity, or with compressed air (pneumatic).

TROLLEY – The trolley supports the hoist and moves horizontally along the crane bridge, to position the hoist and
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hook, prior to picking up or lowering a load. Trolleys can be configured in an Under Running or Top Running design:
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What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, & Components

Under Running / Underhung – Trolley wheels run on the bottom flange of the crane beam
Top Running – Trolley wheels run on rails fitted to the top of the crane beam. Most frequently seen in higher-
capacity double girder designs.

BRIDGE – A load-bearing beam that runs the width of the building. This is the primary structural component that (
connects the runways and moves the hoist forward and backward using a trolley. /cs/c/?cta_guid=2ee3ec9a-
A bridge can be comprised of one or two beams—more often referred to as a single girder or double girder /cs/c/?cta_guid=577a69fe- placement_guid=d0b422fc-
228a-4445-a88e- bf90-4842-
e3986196bc7c& b032-79eb64bdde26&
design. Girders can be made of rolled steel or can be fabricated by welding the beams into a steel box design. placement_guid=155531d2- portal_id=3336966&
daf0-4afd-b027- canon=https%3A%2F
RUNWAY – What the bridge crane travels on to move the crane up and down the bays. These are typically part of the portal_id=3336966& is-an-overhead-crane-
building structure, as beams, and there are two (2) per overhead bridge crane system. canon=https%3A%2F definition-types-
is-an-overhead-crane- redirect_url=APefjpELmTk-
RUNWAY RAIL OR TRACKS– Rail supported by the runway on which the crane travels. Top-running cranes typically definition-types- sgqFhWlU5vwp-
run on ASCE/railroad rails. Gantry cranes can also utilize a rail or track system installed in the floor to move the bridge components& sCPv8nArtFIoCoqbM-
back and forth.
click=a6a4b949-3abc- click=af3ab573-7087-4549-
END TRUCKS – Located on either side of the bridge, the end trucks move the bridge up and down the runway utilizing 4a89-854e-d6e54444af6a& bb4e-5751573b70f0&
a series of wheels that ride on the rail. Each end truck can have a configuration of 2, 4, or 8 wheels based on the utm_referrer=https%3A%2F utm_referrer=https%3A%2F
crane’s capacity.
beams-vs-lifting-beams- beams-vs-lifting-beams-
definitions-differences-and- definitions-differences-and-
BUMPERS – Bumpers are designed to absorb the crane’s energy and reduce impact—bringing the crane to rest in a design) design)
controlled manner and minimizing forces when the crane or trolley reaches the end of its travel. Bumpers can be
attached to the bridge, trolley, or runway stop.

CONTROLS – Controls are typically mounted in a panel on the crane or hoist and the pendant or remote radio console
controls) allows the operator to run the crane. The controls operate the drive and hoist motors, and can control Variable
Frequency Drives (VFDs) (
/cs/c/?cta_guid=4a8e5c49- /cs/c/?cta_guid=fadb2fd5-7b8e-
controls-overhead-cranes) to control hoist speed for precise load positioning. f930-436a- 4275-a67b-ae1f3318a55e&
9870-65d80028b182& placement_guid=2168a119-
placement_guid=c06aa20a- e092-4853-9b98-100bbe568150&
ELECTRIFICATION – Insulated conductor bars or festoon systems ( 39e1-43b6-95e7-3134fb9d753b& portal_id=3336966&
/Blog/crane-electrification-conductor-bars-cable-festoon-cable-reel) (flat cables) bring power to the crane from the portal_id=3336966& canon=https%3A%2F
is-an-overhead-crane- definition-types-
definition-types- components&
components& redirect_url=APefjpHLsA-
RLyLzNFvbIgZb063mIJw& NYo1oCO3QmQV4Sda_63HRzkG33byrNq0QRiwCjgX9lJDs_it8RTciq2d7g&
Overhead cranes come in all different sizes ( click=bb4c46f1-457f-48b3- click=68485de1-6651-4d02-
overhead-cranes), shapes, and capacities and selecting the right type of overhead crane is essential to streamlining afc9-1fbad884c4ce& aaa4-fc99b336aa72&
your production processes. There is no “one size fits all” approach to identifying the right type of crane for your
utm_referrer=https%3A%2F utm_referrer=https%3A%2F
business’ lifting needs, so the following need to be taken into consideration when choosing a crane for your facility:
beams-vs-lifting-beams- beams-vs-lifting-beams-
definitions-differences-and- definitions-differences-and-
Motion of the crane structure
design) design)
Weight and type of material / load
Location of the crane—indoors or outdoors
Required capacity Most Popular Articles:
How often the crane will be used
Length or span of the crane What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, &
Components (/Resources/Blog/what-is-an-overhead-
BRIDGE CRANES How to Dispose of Damaged Rigging Gear, Wire Rope, &
Slings (/Resources/Blog/how-to-dispose-of-damaged-
A bridge crane is a type of crane that includes two overhead runways built into the building’s support structure. A single
or double girder configuration, called a bridge, moves the crane up and down the runways, and the trolley and hoist run Does OSHA Require a Hook with a Safety Latch for an
side-to-side along the bridge. The trolley allows the operator to position the hoist and hook, prior to raising or lowering a Overhead Lift? (/Resources/Blog/does-osha-require-hook-
load. How to Make Your Overhead Crane Inspection Program
OSHA Compliant (/Resources/Blog/how-to-make-your-
Bridge cranes have different configurations including single girder and double girder designs, and the trolley and hoist
Spreader Beams vs. Lifting Beams: Definitions,
can be designed to be top-running or underhung depending on the design of the building structure and the Differences, and Design (/Resources/Blog/spreader-
requirements needed to make the lift. beams-vs-lifting-beams-definitions-differences-and-design)

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Single Girder Bridge Crane


Single Girder – The bridge consists of one girder beam supported on each side by an end truck. The trolley and
hoist are underhung—meaning they run on the bottom flange of the single girder. Single girder cranes are
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typically less expensive due to:
Reduction in freight expenses
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Simpler hoist and trolley design

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What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, & Components

Lighter runway beams City*


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Double Girder Bridge Crane

Double Girder – There are two girder beams that make up the bridge, and they are supported by an end truck
on each side. The trolley and hoist run on a rail installed above or below the bridge girders. Double girder cranes
are recommended for heavier-duty applications where the crane has to handle heavier capacities and longer
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Bridge cranes fall into two categories based on their service, capacity, and environment. Common terms for the two
different types of cranes are “Process” and “Modular” cranes. We’ll explain what each of these means in greater detail

Process Cranes – A process crane is built for a specific need, and these types of cranes are heavy-duty (mainly
Class D, E, and F cranes) and in constant, or near-constant, operation. They’re typically a top-running, double
girder design and have a lot of engineering built-in to perform high capacity lifts, or to perform a very specific task
over and over again. Process cranes can be found in places like automotive assembly plants, steel mills,
container yards, lumber mills and are performing anywhere from 10-20 lifts per hour at around 50-75% of their
rated capacity.

Modular Cranes – Modular cranes are typically found in smaller manufacturing facilities, smaller-sized mills, or
machine shops, and have a design consisting of a more base-level hoist, trolley, and bridge. They’re economical
and affordable solutions to moving material through a facility and don’t normally come with a lot of extra bells and
whistles. These cranes are typically Class C and are being used at around 40% capacity, but can be bumped up
to Class D with extra engineering built-in if the lifting application requires it.


A gantry crane
is similar to a (/Portals/0/EasyGalleryImages/1/38/gantry.jpg)

bridge crane,
but instead of
moving on
suspended Gantry Crane

runways, the
crane uses legs to support the bridge, trolley, and hoist. The crane legs travel on fixed rails embedded in, or laid on top
of the floor.

Gantry cranes are considered when there is a reason not to incorporate an overhead runway system. They’re typically
used in an outdoor applications where full beams and columns can’t be installed, or may be used below an existing
bridge crane system. Gantry cranes can most commonly be found in shipyards, railyards, special outdoor projects like
the construction of a bridge, or in places like steel mills where overhead room may be an issue.


Monorail Crane


Most commonly found in a production or assembly line, this type of crane uses a trolley to carry the hoist along a single
path. The trolley is designed to connect to an I-beam and runs along the flat surface on the bottom of the beam. These
cranes run material back and forth in a straight line or can be designed to follow a curved track with switches,
branches, and changes in elevation. Monorail cranes are designed for lifts that do not require the side-to-side trolley
movement provided by the bridge in an overhead or gantry style crane.


Jib cranes come in

a number of
different styles and (/Portals/0/EasyGalleryImages/1/38/jib.jpg)

types but do not

utilize a runway or
track system. They
can be stand-alone Jib Crane
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or column / wall-

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What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, & Components

mounted and offer a wide variety of capacities, heights, and spans.

Jib cranes ( are space-

saving, economical, and are ideal for jobs like maneuvering or moving items for assembly within a small area. They can
typically offer 180-360° of rotation, and even small ones can hoist several tons of material.


Workstation Crane


Workstation cranes are designed to allow the operators an ergonomic means of moving or lifting loads with limited
effort in a smaller size work area. Workstation cranes are typically lighter-duty systems lifting materials from 150 lbs. up
to 2 tons in capacity. They’re designed for repetitive lifting of loads and increase worker productivity and ease work
flow. Workstation cranes can be freestanding or ceiling-hung and can be designed as top running or under running.
Workstation cranes are so appealing because they're versatile, able to be customized, and can be expanded via
modular design.

We hope
that this
article was
able to
give you a

Top Running Bridge Crane

understanding of what an overhead crane is. In the simplest terms, an overhead crane moves materials, or heavy
objects, from one location to another in a precise manner. A crane’s design can be as simple as a jib crane that moves
material within an arc of 5 feet during product assembly. Or, it can be as complex as a 50-ton double girder top-running
bridge crane used for hot-dip galvanizing in a steel mill.

At Mazzella Companies, we have two companies (Progressive Crane (

/progressivecrane) and FHS, Inc. ( who design and build world-class
overhead crane systems. We have over 40 years of experience in the overhead crane industry and can build custom
solutions ranging from light-duty economical cranes to large-capacity, high-duty cycle cranes.

Our work is done in full compliance with CMAA (, NEC (, OSHA
( and ASME ( standards and we have extensive electrical capability, as
well as AWS certified welders on-staff. We offer in-house engineering that can furnish PE (Professional Engineer)
stamped drawings and calculations and can also design custom below-the-hook lifting solutions
( for your unique project needs.

We welcome the opportunity to address your overhead material handling needs. If you’re interested in learning more
about how an overhead crane system can improve the efficiency and safety of your facility, or want to schedule a
consultation, contact us to speak with a Crane Specialist. (

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What is an Overhead Crane? Definition, Types, & Components

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