Liebherr deploys 58 cranes at Istanbul New Airport

Across a vast construction site north of Istanbul that in just two years’ time will be transformed into the largest airport in the world, a cast of cranes supported by Liebherr Turkey are making short work of the unceasing material deliveries

Only the presence of a vast fleet of cranes on the Istanbul New Airport project site is capable of  facilitating the lifting demands of the simultaneous build-up of the whole area.
Only the presence of a vast fleet of cranes on the Istanbul New Airport project site is capable of facilitating the lifting demands of the simultaneous build-up of the whole area.

Setting a record that is getting increasingly harder to beat, Istanbul New Airport is the largest planned airport development in the world, with a four-phased project schedule that will see the construction of three terminals and six runways by 2030, with the capacity to handle more than 150 million passengers a year.

In the ongoing initial phase, which involves the construction of the main terminal and the first three runways, the project is scheduled to deliver an opening capacity of 90 million passengers a year by 2018 — which is the same as the throughput of the busiest existing airport, Dubai International Airport.

This isn’t a proposed project, or a stalled project; this a project very much in motion, and there can be little doubt of the ambition behind it — not least in the sense that the infrastructure will pose a major threat to the hegemony of the Gulf hubs over international transit routes through the region.

But PMV Middle East is here to discuss the machinery required to set the plans for a 1.3 million-square-metre terminal in motion in what could arguably, in its own right, be described as a record set-up time for a project of its scale and scope. The fleet of cranes poised over this vast new build site is a single brand fleet of Liebherr cranes: some leased, but 58 of them bought and delivered in a single mega-order by the contractor.

Why Liebherr hardly needs any introduction, the project is still a significant moment and milestone in the Liebherr story, and one which has pushed the capabilities of the German company’s sales and service operations to the very limits of possibility.

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The obvious challenge behind the project is the extremely short delivery schedule, with preparatory earthworks on site only commencing in mid-2014, and in terms of the activities of Liebherr on site, the delivery of the full order of 58 cranes within less than a year of the order being signed.

“Like the project as a whole, the time frame for the negotiations was very challenging,” says Dominique Tasch, MD of Liebherr-Werk Biberach, Germany. “We started the negotiations in March 2015 and were able to accept the order in mid-May 2015.”

In fact, the first tower cranes had to be delivered at the end of June, just a few weeks after signing the contract. Together with the extremely short lead times the company was able to provide, the other challenging criteria in the bid for the order was the capacity and specification of the tower cranes.

Tasch explains: “A great deal of expertise is required for major projects of this type to show how to use tower cranes efficiently. To identify how to use the tower cranes most economically, the Tower Crane Solutions department initially researched the complete infrastructure and planned building complexes. The complete crane fleet was then planned on the basis of the project.”

After the technical issues were worked out, the solution arrived at by the Tower Crane Solutions team was a fleet consisting of ten 154 EC‑H tower cranes, thirty-two 280 EC‑H tower cranes and seventeen 200 EC‑H tower cranes. The construction contractor and the dealer then entered negotiations over the conditions for such a large package deal.

In addition to price, these negotiations included lead times, the availability of the defined range of services, spare parts supply and the strength of the on-site service.


While the short window for the supply of the order favoured Liebherr during bidding, with its large manufacturing footprint, the scope of the project presented a serious challenge even for the company’s extensive engineering, design and production departments.

Günther Hardock, MD on the production side at Liebherr-Werk Biberach, notes: “To react quickly to market demands and to supply what the customer wants naturally requires the infrastructure at the production plant to be state-of-the-art. Regular investments are required to manufacture complex products with a high production depth — as we have been making for more than 60 years here in Biberach, Germany.”

One example of the cutting-edge machinery that Liebherr employs at its factory are six-axis welding robots, which can handle components weighing up to 10 tonnes and be used to weld tower sections of up to 12.5m in height.

Liebherr’s Biberach plant makes everything from largest tower crane, the 4000 HC luffing-jib — with a maximum capacity of 100 tonnes and a load capacity up to 22.5 tonnes at a radius of 96m — to its smallest mobile fast-erecting crane, the 13 HM1, which is able to lift just 0.5 tonnes at a working radius of 22m.

Hardock notes: “The systems and dimensions of Liebherr tower cranes vary enormously. As a result of all our crane series and crane models, we actually manufacture 200 different crane versions.”

In terms of the project in Istanbul, the plant in Biberach was concerned with the production of the EC-B series flat-top cranes and the EC-H series of high-top cranes — top-slewing cranes that are the characteristic feature of construction sites around the world.

“On average the production time for a crane from the start of the structural steelwork to the final inspection is eight weeks,” Hardock explains. “Our internal planning works with over 6,000 production orders resulting in around 32,000 work processes. To document this complex process on A4 paper, you have a stack around two metres in height for each individual crane.”


Liebherr Group has been active in Turkey for decades, originally working through local agents and direct with relevant manufacturing plants. As the importance of the Turkish market grew, Liebherr chose to open its own sales and service company, Liebherr Makine Ticaret Servis, eight years ago in Istanbul.

When Liebherr Makine Ticaret Servis was approached about the supply tower cranes for the IGA project, it moved quickly to coordinate with the operations in Biberach.

“Close support for the customer from the very outset is of central importance for the successful completion of a project of this scale,” noted Danyel Temizkan, managing director. “As a result of our longterm, close collaboration with the contractors involved, we were able to offer the possibility to provide required technical consultancy services to the customer from the very start.”

To clarify the technical requirements, selection the right equipment to optimise the organisation of coordination of deliveries on site, Temizkan’s staff continued to work in close collaboration with the German team.

Even so, the Istanbul airport order, together with its scope and speed, also meant a significant increase in the demand on Liebherr’s production capacity. The order required the manufacturer to make urgent adjustments to its sales, production and delivery schedules by paying overtime, hiring temporary personnel and outsourcing or relocating component fabrication.

Günther Hardock adds: “We were able to create the additional capacities required to manage the IGA order very quickly. In detail, these efforts comprised 35% purchase capacity, 15% outsourcing, 25% leased personnel and 25% overtime by our own workforce.

“Networked production was another important criterion in this respect. We managed to relocate production of the structural steel components, such as the corner posts for tower section production to our sister plant in Pamplona, Spain.

“All this action enabled us to deliver the last tower crane to Istanbul on schedule on 21 December 2015 despite our production facilities already running at high speed.”

On-site service

By mid-2016, a total of around 13,000 people and 2,000 construction machines were at work on the site at one time, and for Liebherr the work continues to this day. During the bidding, the promise of service personnel and parts on site was just as important as the prompt delivery of the cranes.

“We can ensure the maximum availability of all the cranes by having five fitters permanently stationed on the site,” says Temizkan. “In addition to this, to coincide with the delivery of the first tower crane, we established a spare parts warehouse for the crane types in use, and stationed this warehouse on the site. This enables us to minimise the delivery times for spare parts.”

Liebherr is also providing 24-hour service through both local service technicians on site and service technicians in Germany. Regular visits by technical personnel from the Biberach facility also ensure that the advice and training for the customer is ongoing. “We also ensure the constant flow of information between the site and the plant,” adds Temizkan.

Today, work at the massive construction site, which encompasses 3.4 million m2 of closed area, continues despite the recent political upheaval and terrorist incidents in Turkey.

Upon the completion of all phases, the New Istanbul Airport will feature six runways, eight air traffic control towers, 165 passenger boarding bridges, 6.5 million m2 of rail-connected terminal and 500 berths for airplanes and 150 million passenger a year.

While the current phase of the project will end in 2018, the Liebherr tower cranes will in all likelihood remain on site up until 2030 — their reputation in Turkey truly cemented.

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