The Evolution of the Mini Crane

Emma / 1st December 2021 / Articles

Since Jekko began specialising in mini cranes in 2006, the mini crane has undergone many creative, unique and vital modifications. From the first primitive cranes of ancient Greece to the stunningly innovative SPX650, the journey to where our machines are today has been an extensive one.


Ancient Greece 

The Ancient Greeks were the first to provide a solution to the problem of how to lift heavy objects. Without cranes, the construction of buildings and temples, such as the Parthenon, would not have been possible. Although the technology of cranes has vastly improved since the 6th Century BC, the foundational mechanisms have stayed the same, as early cranes were made with simple ropes that later evolved to include a winch and pulley.


Middle Ages – 19th Century 

Through the Middle Ages, cranes were made using wood and were powered by human treadwheels, animals, water wheels or windmills. With the introduction of the steam engine in the 18th century, cranes were developed to be fuelled by mechanical power. This improved their efficiency, allowing them to lift much heavier objects than their counterparts made of wood.

The design of the coal-powered steam crane was improved by Victorian engineer, William Fairbairn, in the mid-19th century. Fairbairn’s crane could lift up to 35 tonnes because of his use of a curved jib made of riveted wrought iron pipework. This ingenious design gave the jib a deeper reach into previously hard to access places, for example, the holds of ships.


1972 – 2000

Over the next 200 years, the design of cranes evolved to their familiar, modern form as machines that can lift, lower and shift materials horizontally, powered by internal combustion engines, hydraulic systems or electric/petrol motors.

In 1972, Jekko’s parent company Ormet was founded to install and sell cranes to the ecological and timber industry. However, large cranes were not suited to every job, and there emerged a demand for a more nimble, lightweight model. In 2000, a glass-installation firm was the first company to show interest in a mini crane, leading Ormet to produce the SLM200 prototype.

The first mini cranes shared the same features as larger cranes, but with many added bonuses. To use the case study of the glass-installation firm: the mini crane’s combination of a vacuum lifter and hydraulic manipulators meant that the glass was easy and safer to grip than if a large crane had been used.


Early 2000’s 

For Jekko, the early 2000s was a time for ground-breaking innovations that would come to provide the basis for their future mini crane designs. In 2001, Jekko tackled the issue of using a crane on uneven terrain by designing the SLM600 and SLM200. This design influenced the foundational architecture of Jekko’s continually growing line of telescopic spider cranes.

Another important invention was the 2002 SLM60; the first tracked mini crane. Not long later and Jekko turned their attention from how to design for stability to how to design for low environmental impact. In 2003, the SPD260C+ was launched, the first crane to be powered by a battery rather than being connected to an electric grid.

Over the next few years, Jekko’s mini crane designs were developed and further kitted out with advanced features to improve their usability, safety, and versatility. For example, in 2007, Jekko presented the SPD500 at the Bauma exhibition in Germany which was the first mini crane of its kind.


2010 – 2018

In keeping with the mass digitalisation that occurred in most industries between 2010 – 2018, Jekko developed the digital technology used in their mini crane designs. The company produced the SPX1040 and SPX527, both with radio remote control and LMI with diagnostic troubleshooting to detect any issue in the functionality of the crane.

Any improvement in digital technology has a knock-on effect on the efficiency of the crane and the productivity of the operator. Greater digitalisation also influenced advancements in the safety of mini cranes. For example, extendable tracks were added to cranes in this time period, allowing them to move with a lower likelihood of slipping.

The 2010s were a really important time, filled with big innovations for Jekko. Not only that, but it was in 2016 that JT Cranes started to distribute Jekkos in the UK.


2017 – present day 

In 2017, Jekko launched their JF line of mini cranes. These models have features that make them incredibly versatile. Many of the models have customisable jibs allowing the operator to have maximum control over how the mini crane serves the job that needs doing.

Jekko designed their mini cranes to be compact and easily transportable, making them suitable for use in restricted or hard to access places. For example, for a job set in the Reggiano Apennines for their client Coflioc, Jekko tendered the JF40 mini crane. These innovations in adaptability expanded the range of jobs the mini crane can perform.

There is no doubt that Jekko are front-runners when it comes to advancements in mini crane technology. They are continually improving designs and striving to be the best. In 2019, Jekko developed the software J-Connect to improve the remote-control service of their mini cranes and allow the user to receive a general informational overview of the crane.

As far as environmentally friendly solutions go, they keep becoming more widespread, as the SPX532 comes with a full electric lithium battery motor and the MPK06 and MPK10 are the first mini pickers to be fitted with 100% electric actuators. Jekko have always been leaders in battery tech, they were the first to use a battery to power their cranes, and the first again to use lithium batteries.

Additionally, Jekko are leading the way in creating technology to assist the glass handling industry, as they are working to fit vacuum manipulators to mini cranes that allow for flat and curved glass panes to be lifted. It’s Jekko’s dedication to making their mini cranes ever more compact, usable, adaptive, versatile and greener that led to the SPX650 winning the product innovation award, amongst others, at the Italian Lifting and Transportation awards this October.

Since 2016, when JT Cranes became the sole distributor of Jekko mini cranes in the UK, the company has undergone dramatic growth. For instance, in 2016, Jekko had a turnover of 10 million, but now in 2021, it’s already more than tripled. The units manufactured have also skyrocketed from 150 to 500, and the number of employees has grown from just 35 to 135.


Next steps

Jekko’s mini cranes are continually expanding and innovations are becoming ever more imaginative and meaningful, and we’re very much looking forward to what the future holds for them. In particular, we can’t wait to be there for the launch of the new SPX328 at Bauma next year! So, no matter what job you’re working on, get in touch with the team here at JT Cranes – the sole distributor of Jekko Cranes in the UK – and we’ll be able to help.