Overhead Crane vs. Hoist – What’s the Difference?

Posted on 02/05/2018 | Crane Repair Company|Cranes 101

Does it bug you when people misuse terms, saying something like “cement” when they really mean “concrete?” 

Hoists and cranes are both machines that help move and lift heavy loads on the job site, but they have many fundamental differences in design and usage.

Below, we set the record straight about what each of these devices does, and how they work together to assist in your next project.

Crane vs. Hoist: What’s the Difference?

First things first – a hoist helps to do one thing: move heavy loads up and down.

An elevator is probably the most well-known hoist. Elevators are the perfect machine for transporting loads vertically, but in no other direction (unlike a crane’s functionality).

On the other hand, a crane can move in two or three dimensions. Overhead cranes suspend from a beam or move along a rail.

Just like cement is a component of concrete, a hoist is a central part of an overhead crane. Essentially, the crane moves the hoist around.

Types of Hoists

Hoists are defined by their lifting medium, power, and suspension.

Lifting Medium

The lifting medium is the flexible material that connects the load hook to the overhead body of the hoist. It can be either a rope, metal cable, welded link chain, or roller load chain.

  • Welded link chain, like an anchor chain, is a series of identical metal loops attached together to form a string.
  • Roller load chain, like a bike chain, is made from alternating roller links and pin links to form a line that easily engages with a toothed sprocket.


Hoists can be powered manually, electrically, or pneumatically. Manual hoists use a pulley to multiply the operator’s pulling force.

You can also use electricity or air power to actuate a hoist motor. Choose what’s easiest to access. Factories with many air tools might find air power more convenient.


The suspension method for a hoist depends on how it will be used.

A stationary hook-mounted hoist is a simple solution when you only need to move a load straight up, such as from a truck to a trailer. Meanwhile, a hoist bolted to a beam will handle heavier loads.

A hoist can be mounted to a trolley running along a beam or a rail, giving you the ability
to lift up then across the facility.

Gantry cranes give you three-dimensional motion. You can lift up, move the hoist along the gantry rail, then move the crane itself wherever you need it.

Discover the differences in hoist duty classifications >

Types of Overhead Cranes

The type of crane you have determines what your hoist will do for you. Some of the most common overhead crane types include:

Top Running Crane

The bridge moves atop a pair of rails mounted to the ceiling, allowing for heavy loads to be lifted and moved.

Under Running Crane

The bridge travels along the bottom flange of two beams. Certain buildings’ construction might require this type of crane for your project.

Gantry Crane

A single or double girder attaches to a pair of broad legs with wheels, enabling the crane to operate without being attached to the ceiling. These are popular cranes in shipbuilding.

Monorail Crane

The hoist attaches to a trolley on a single rail that follows a path around the facility in an oval or snaking path. This is effective for moving around a complex space.

Ready to take your hoist and crane education to the next level? See how many of these 10 common crane and hoist terms you already know (and how many you don’t) >

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