An overhead crane, commonly called a bridge crane, is a type of crane found in industrial environments. An overhead crane consists of parallel runways with a traveling bridge spanning the gap. A hoist, the lifting component of a crane, travels along the bridge. If the bridge is rigidly supported on two or more legs running on a fixed rail at ground level, the crane is called a gantry crane or a goliath crane.
Unlike mobile or construction cranes, overhead cranes are typically used for either manufacturing or maintenance applications, where efficiency or downtime is critical factors.
Overhead cranes are commonly used in the refinement of steel and other metals such as copper and aluminum. At every step of the manufacturing process, until it leaves a factory as a finished product, metal is handled by an overhead crane. Raw materials are poured into a furnace by crane, hot metal is then rolled to specific thickness and tempered or annealed, and then stored by an overhead crane for cooling, the finished coils are lifted and loaded onto trucks and trains by overhead crane, and the fabricator or stamper uses an overhead crane to handle the steel in his factory. The automobile industry uses overhead cranes to handle raw materials. Smaller workstation cranes, such as jib cranes or gantry cranes, handle lighter loads in a work area, such as CNC mill or saw.
Almost all paper mills use bridge cranes for regular maintenance needing removal of heavy press rolls and other equipment. The bridge cranes are used in the initial construction of paper machines because they make it easier to install the heavy cast iron paper drying drums and other massive equipment, some weighing as much as 70 tons.
In many instances the cost of a bridge crane can be largely offset with savings from not renting mobile cranes in the construction of a facility that uses a lot of heavy process equipment.