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 (USA, ASME B30 series) or a goliath crane (UK, BS 466).
Unlike mobile or construction cranes, overhead cranes are typically used for either manufacturing or maintenance applications, where efficiency or downtime are critical factors.
The most common overhead crane use is in the steel industry. At every step of the manufacturing process, until it leaves a factory as a finished product, steel is handled by an overhead crane. Raw materials are poured into a furnace by crane, hot steel is stored for cooling by an overhead crane, 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 for handling of raw materials. Smaller workstation cranes handle lighter loads in a work-area, such as CNC mill or saw.
Almost all paper mills use bridge cranes for regular maintenance requiring removal of heavy press rolls and other equipment. The bridge cranes are used in the initial construction of paper machines because they facilitate installation of 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.