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7th November 2019

How have CAD and BIM helped to shape the crane industry?


Gavin Wadsworth – CAD & BIM Technician, Ainscough Crane Hire

Operating a crane can be complex, and there are many things that can go wrong during a lift. Preparedness can be shaped by a variety of elements, such as the ability of your team or the upkeep of your machinery. All of these factors can be classed as lift planning; the design and organisation of a lift programme which ensures every step will be carried out as safely and efficiently as possible.

Lift planning before the 1990s was an arduous task. Before the industry-wide move to computer software, pencil line drawings were the staple method of design, and still, form part of the Appointed Persons examination today. Ongoing assessments meant constant revisions, and the work could be incredibly labour-intensive. Many hours would be spent on painstaking alterations, and plans could sometimes take an entire day to craft.


Thankfully, it was around this time that CAD, or computer-aided design, became the new centrepiece of technological innovation within the industry. Its automated process became fundamental in all lifting processes, providing planners with a level of detail and accuracy which was previously thought unachievable through the use of older techniques.

Given these increased efficiencies, project timescales were considerably shortened, leading to an increase in revenue with more contract lifts being taken on than ever before. Additionally, with all information being stored electronically, internal communications improved dramatically, promoting faster responses and clearer relaying of information. These benefits were soon felt through all aspects of the industry, and an increased financial performance enabled further investment into other areas, thereby improving crane companies overall offer.

This new, advanced technology also contributed to greater accuracy throughout the entire lift programme. CAD drawings were easier both to create and interpret, and having a more reliable resource enabled clients to feel assured that their service would be delivered to the highest standard.


Now, another shift appears to be readying itself within the construction industry, due in no small part to the emerging importance of BIM.

BIM stands for Building Information Modelling and entails the use of 3D CAD software, combining the previous technology with revolutionary machinery such as virtual reality. Its capabilities allow engineers and designers to view a virtual representation of a building project months or sometimes years in advance. Issues that might arise can, therefore, be quickly identified, and any necessary changes incorporated at minimal cost or time.

As a computerised system, changes are automatically applied across the entire design plan, meaning that if the mainframe 3D model is manipulated, so are all its 2D elements. The benefits of this are clear. As a building project can typically expect to have up to 100 drawings, this technology can save hours of production time, contributing positively, and speeding up progress within later stages.

BIM’s growing importance in recent years has been driven by the UK government’s 2011 Construction Strategy, which embraced the use of BIM and mandated its use to maturity Level 2 on all centrally procured government projects. The impact on the industry has been huge, and the government hopes this has laid the foundations for the rollout of Levels 3 and 4, which they aim to oversee in future years.

BIM also plays an important role in scheduling, helping to avoid clashes with other elements of a construction project. As managers and engineers are allowed more time to plan around crane rigging and lift times, they can also prioritise lifts which BIM identifies as being more complex, reducing the risk of unwelcome surprises.

What’s next?

As CAD once enabled constructors to create designs faster, BIM will continue to drive time efficiencies, and allow for greater complexities in lift planning. Throughout the industry, 2D renderings are fast becoming a thing of the past, as companies look to experience a lift even before its delivery through the use of VR.

Specialist tools have created the opportunity for their application across the crane industry, and as technology advances, there is potential for all areas of the worksite to soon be aided by computer programming.

It seems inevitable that the next stage in development should be the introduction of 4D modelling; introducing real-time analyses to crane operation. Automatic updates to scheduling should ensure meticulous scrutiny of the original lift plan, allowing immediate corrections to any changes.

Construction is often unfairly painted as a ‘traditionalist’ industry, however as programmes like BIM and CAD show, the landscape is constantly adapting. As the next generation of construction workers develop, increasing numbers of coders and programmers may soon emerge amongst them.

Ainscough Crane Hire is committed to using new technologies to deliver continually improved services for our clients. Ensuring up-to-date operating techniques is the simplest way to provide a confident and superior service that is underpinned by making the safe choice. This will allow us to continue to drive improvements within the business and the industry as a whole.

Call Us today on 0800 272 637