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A head for heights

Potain technician Patrick Merta, based in Langenfeld, Germany, shares his 25-year adventure of mastering heights, unraveling technical puzzles, and embracing new technologies.

Few professions offer a blend of technical mastery and breathtaking views quite like that of a tower crane technician. Looking UP caught up with German Potain technician Patrick Merta 25 years into his sky-high career to find out what keeps him motivated and the advice he would give to others thinking of following the same path.


Looking UP: Patrick, what led you down the path of becoming a tower crane technician?


Patrick: I've always been fascinated by mechanics, the way things tick, and the thrill of tinkering. So, when it came to choosing a career, the combination of mechanics, electronics, and, let's face it, the breathtaking views, drew me to tower cranes.


Looking UP: 25 years is a long time at dizzying heights! What keeps you passionate about the job?

Patrick: It's a unique blend, really. Every day presents a new puzzle, a technical challenge to be unraveled. Finding the right solution, whether it's through meticulous troubleshooting or a clever improvisation, is incredibly satisfying. Then there's the responsibility; knowing that the smooth operation of the crane impacts the entire project, its progress, and ultimately, people's livelihoods. That adds a certain purpose to every climb.

I’m also excited by the digital transformation we are experiencing at Manitowoc. For the last 10 years, we have been working with remote diagnostics to ensure we arrive on site with the right tools and parts to fix an issue first time. That’s crucial for minimizing disruption to the customer and keeping them happy. Now, we have Potain CONNECT, which builds on the remote monitoring with service and crane management info in a single platform. The richer data, such as geolocation, makes it easier to combine jobs for greater efficiency and productivity. We can also approach maintenance proactively to identify minor issues and prevent them from turning into more serious ones. This makes a big difference to uptime and the overall health of Potain tower cranes today.


Looking UP: Do the heights ever faze you?


Patrick: Honestly, the initial climb with your tools and safety harness can get your heart racing, but the view is simply breathtaking, and you get a unique perspective of the area that is usually reserved for birds. Of course, when working at height, safety is paramount. Potain service technicians receive regular training, and we have strict protocols to follow to ensure our own safety, as well as that of our colleagues, customers, and the public. For that, you need a calm mind and should never attempt a job if you feel stressed, under too much time pressure, or the weather conditions are severe. Safety is everything.


Looking UP: What skills are essential for someone considering this career path?

Patrick: First and foremost, manual dexterity and organizational skills are key. You're dealing with complex machinery, often in challenging conditions, so precision and order are crucial. But equally important is a keen eye for the bigger picture. Understanding how the crane fits into the entire project, anticipating potential issues, and communicating effectively with engineers and operators – that's the link between technical expertise and real-world application.


Looking UP: You mentioned communication. How does that play into your daily work?


Patrick: It's the invisible thread that binds everything together. We're not just fixing machines; we're building trust with customers, ensuring their projects run smoothly. So, being approachable, patient, and able to explain complex technical issues in a way that is easily understandable is vital.


Looking UP: Do you have any final words for anyone contemplating a career as a tower crane technician?


Patrick: If you're not afraid of a challenge, are looking for a dynamic work environment, and want the satisfaction of seeing what you have achieved at the end, then this might be the perfect fit. Not only is the view really worth it, but everyone can see what you have achieved from afar.


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