At almost 30 years old, a Franna MC-6 goes to work every day for Gladstone based fabrication business extreme Xtreme Engineering. Danny Black general manager at Franna and Scott Harrington, general manager at Xtreme Engineering explain why the crane has stood the test of time.
The design process for the Franna MC-6 began in 1992 at the request of Queensland Alumina. At the time they were using CAP cranes which were proving incapable of accessing areas of the smelter.
“It was really and Brian Hay, one of the previous owners of Franna and myself, who came up with the concept of the MC-6. We were working with the people at Queensland Alumina and they weren’t happy with the reach of the old CAP cranes they were operating in the smelter. We decided to design a very small and extremely manoeuvrable 6 tonne capacity crane. It has a limited 90° slew, 45° either side and it isn’t articulated, unlike a typical Franna, but it does feature a slew ring,” said Black.
“It features a unique mechanism on the top where the boom has two luffing cylinders and you could actually kick the boom right over to a very steep negative angle which enables it to get to the ground. This helped them when they were working on their maintenance projects and being able to pull things out like pumps and pipes and all sorts of things. It then has the conventional luffing cylinders which enables the boom to go from the horizontal to the 60°. The maximum boom length was 6.5m.
“It features the single telescopic extension and it also has four wheel steer so it is not only front wheel steer it can crab steer, it can lock steer as well making it very manoeuvrable when it was operating inside the smelter. And like wise, it has a very low overall height which, at the time, was one of the customer’s requirements to get into the areas where it needed to operate. We only built five,” said Black.
One of the five units was eventually purchased by Harrington many years later. He explains how where he first saw the MC-6 operating and he how came to purchase his unit.
“About 15 years ago, I was working on a shutdown for a local Alumina Refinery, Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) and the MC- 6 was working in an area called digestion. I had seen it go by carrying a massive valve under pipe racks in the refinery area and it just caught my eye. I had never seen anything like it running around previously, as mini cranes were not really a big thing then.
“Actually, I was not even aware it was a Franna crane to be honest, we were on chain blocks removing our valve and I thought that would be useful right now. Sometime later I went to look at a crane which was for sale at a local crane hire business and as I was inspecting it, I noticed the MC-6 sitting next to it. I asked the guy what he was doing with the little machine, he said it was out of service and not running but for a few extra dollars he’d throw it in if I purchased the bigger machine. We shook hands and I walked away with two cranes instead of one, I’m our accounts departments’ worst nightmare. I thought the MC-6 would be a great little yard and workshop crane for a heavy engineering business,” said Harrington.
Black explains more about the process of Franna proceeding from an enquiry to designing the machine, engineering the prototype and then entering into a short production run with the MC-6.
“In 1992, it was our first completely CAD designed machine. Prior to this we were using traditional engineering hand drawings type methods. It was something new and exciting for us because we bought our first CAD system from a 3D modelling perspective. We were able to conduct a whole new analysis on the machine which we hadn’t had the capabilities to do previously, so we were able to use a lot of new technologies to design something that was actually very different to what we had been doing with the pick and carry cranes. The slew ring and the four wheel steer, oscillating rear axle made the MC6 quite unique and it really fitted a particularly important niche at the time. The first machine wasn’t actually delivered until 1995,” he said.
Harrington discusses his experience with the MC-6 highlighting it’s performance in various applications.
“The MC-6 has performed absolutely brilliantly over the years. I had to spend a bit of money up front to bring it up to speed and to meet operational standards, but it has exceeded expectations. It basically paid for itself within the first six months of ownership.
“Typically, this machine is suited to low areas with tight confinement, areas not typically accessible by a standard Franna crane or even a mini crane. We use it for mainly to pick and carry work,” he said.
Harrington then describes a typical example of how popular the MC-6 is with his customers.
“Recently, we had the MC-6 on a shutdown across town so we could not supply it to a regular customer at the time. They brought in a mini crane instead, which got into the required area and picked up the large pump but it could not slew or walk. The customer rang immediately asking us to ‘please bring our machine over as we have to get this out today,’” said Harrington.
“I have never really seen anything like this crane. The only machine that may come close is the Grove “Yard Boss” but it doesn’t the capability of MC-6 for this type of application.
The MC-6 may not have the 360 slew or reach of a mini crane but it’s ability to pick & carry is what sets it apart from the others, along with its quick travel ability to deliver an item to one part of the site the return quickly for the next lift.
“Our crane is now sort after within Gladstone for local shutdowns due to its unique size and charts. We use it under large industrial buildings, refineries, tanks, vessels, pipe racks, inside power stations and various marine works,” he said.
Black confirms how popular the MC-6 has been with those businesses lucky enough to own one.
“We have been asked if we could build more of the MC-6 because it has created a bit of a niche market but it wouldn’t be a high volume product. At the time Lew and Brian, Franna’s previous owners, were certainly very innovative as far as examining and predicting what the next trend in products was going to be and they were always looking at where we could invest and develop and create a point of difference. The MC-6 achieved all of these objectives.
“Because the MC-6 was unique and designed for environments where operating and manoeuvrings space was extremely limited, the owners of the units have given us very positive feedback. I believe QAL still operate one as well as one in Whyalla in South Australia. I think BHP Blackwater in Queensland also had one and of course Xtreme Engineering continues to operate theirs every day,” he said.
Harrington explains what impresses him most about the MC-6.
“I like the uniqueness of the MC-6. It’s designed and engineered by Aussies and manufactured in Australia. It is classic Aussie thinking outside of the box. It’s a solid little work horse and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to operate or repair.
“I think it was an engineering masterpiece, an example of how Aussies think outside the box to solve a problem. This machine’s design really highlights how we look at a solution and not focus on the problem.
“When I first acquired this machine, I rang our crane mechanic Steven Kajewski to ask him to come and take a look. He said, ‘Scott I know this very machine I conducted the 10 year inspection years ago when it was with Boom Logistics. He knew the history and told me the full story behind it and how lucky we were to have this crane in our fleet.
“I often have comments on the crane and I’m asked what type it is and where does it come from. We now supply it for an annual shutdown at one of the local petro-chemical refineries. Traditionally they brought in a large all terrain, removed the roof sheeting from a six story building to lift out from ground level to change out a large compressor. Now, we use the MC-6 Franna to come in from under the bottom floor of the plant and pick it up, carry it out and job done. The old saying, ‘it’s not the size that counts it’s how you use it’ could not be truer in this situation,” said Harrington.
Black goes onto the explain how Terex Franna has continued with its commitment to innovation over the almost 30 years since the first MC-6 was designed engineered and manufactured. He says this has been a major part of the company’s evolution.
“You only have to look at the AT40 to understand that innovation is something we will continue to pursue. The AT40 has a number of new technologies which has never been done before on a pick and carry crane.
“The most obvious feature with this model are the three axles and our patented control systems which enables us to lift the third axle when we are running in ‘crane mode’. This gives the operator the turning circle and the manoeuvrability of a MAC 25. But when get onto the highway, you can drop the third axle and you don’t need to change the counterweight from the front to the rear and it can travel on the road well within axle requirements,” he said.
“Likewise, with the AT40 the articulating counterweight provides the ability for it to improve the articulation capacities, especially when you come to side slopes. This is the first crane where we have implemented this technology.
“From an overall software and control systems perspective, the control systems for the AT40 were developed with our colleagues at Demag and since Terex sold Demag to Tadano, we have further invested in this technology. We now have dedicated ‘in house’ software engineers and we are continuing to develop the Demag platform but obviously customising it for a pick and carry application. We’ve got some really exciting developments to come from this area in the near future. Watch this space,” said Black.