Friday, October 4, 2013

What Do I Need to Know Before I Buy a Chain Hoist?

There are many advantages to purchasing a chain hoist.  They are low maintenance, lower cost than wire rope hoist, and they are lightweight. Having a lightweight hoist enables the owner to easily relocate equipment when needed. Typically, facilities that often move a process frequently or they install a crane system for a process that will be used temporarily, the chain hoist is the best choice because it can easily be moved from one location to another.
Many people think a chain hoist is a commodity item and lowest cost is the best choice. People will purchase a chain hoist based on price not realizing that many things can go wrong with a chain hoist if it is used in the wrong application, or exposed to an environment that it was not designed for. Or perhaps they purchased a chain hoist not realizing the warranty was too limited to even be considered a warranty by anyone's standards. There are several factors to consider prior to your investment. I have come up with several questions to ask yourself prior to purchasing a chain hoist. These questions will help you pick the best hoist for your needs.
There is no such a thing as a hoist that fits every application. Every hoist is designed to fit within the parameters of a certain application. I have seen time and time again where companies will purchase a hoist and use the same hoist for several different applications throughout their facility. The hoist may last for a while but in the wrong application your hoist can wear faster causing production and safety issues. Many people do not know what they should be looking for when they purchase a chain hoist.

When you are in the market for a chain hoist you need to ask yourself these eight questions…

What is the application?

What are you going to be lifting with the hoist? Are you using it to assemble a product and precision is required? Are you using below the hook devices for this application? These questions allows you to decide if a chain hoist is the right tool for the job. Depending on the application, different duty cycles, and capacities may be required.

What is the environment the hoist will be used in? (hot, cold, caustic, outside, inside)

  • The environment a hoist is being used in is detrimental to the life of the hoist. Hoist have a duty cycle within certain temperature parameters.
  • High heat areas can cause the hoist to malfunction, and in many cases cause gearbox leakage.
  • Extreme cold temperature can cause casing cracks, and seized components.
  •  Extreme changing temperatures can cause condensation in the electrical panel if the wrong hoist is used causing components to short out.
  • Is the hoist going to be inside or outside? If the hoist is exposed to the elements of the weather then this will greatly affect the life of the hoist if you don’t have the right hoist.

What is the duty cycle required?

How often will the hoist be running per day?
How long does one cycle of the hoist last during its use?
Many chain hoists cannot dissipate the heat from the motors so the duty cycle is very important to consider prior to purchase.

What is the weight of what you are lifting?
  • The weight of what you are lifting is vital to the decision of what type of hoist you invest in.
  • Don’t forget to include the weight of any below the hook device that you will be using for this application.
  • Pick a hoist with a greater capacity than what you are picking up. Just because you are lifting 500 lbs does not mean you need a 500 lb capacity hoist. The duty cycle will also play an important part in this decision. If you are picking up 500 lbs every pick the hoist will do during its cycle then you should consider getting a larger capacity hoist to reduce wear and tear on your equipment.
Most chain hoist can only go up to 5 ton capacity.Over five tons you should consider a wire rope hoist. Some manufacturers will design a double hoist unit that combines two hoists together and the capacity can be increased to 10 ton, but should only be used in certain applications.

How high do you need to go?

  • Remember unlike a wire rope that spools the excess wire rope not being used, the chain hoist has a chain container to catch the excess chain. The greater the height then the bigger the chain container will be. If it is too big it may be an obstruction of what you are lifting if it is required to go close to the hoist.If it is over 30 feet of chain that will be needed then you will also need to think about the duty cycle and speed of the hoist.  There are Windmill Hoist on the market that allows for low capacity, high lifting speeds, with high allowable height of lift.
  • The distance from the top hook to the bottom hook when the bottom hook is at it's up-most point needs to be taken into account as well. You will need to ensure you have enough height for your application using that dimension.

What is the voltage available for the hoist?

Higher duty cycle hoist will not run off of single phase voltage. You will need to purchase a three phase hoist so make sure you have enough power in the building for your hoist.
If you are considering purchasing a single phase hoist, make sure it is for a low duty cycle application.

What safety features do I need to be aware of? 

There are many safety features that you should think about having for your hoist. Again the application will be dependent upon what type of safety features you should have for your hoist.
  • All chain hoist should be purchased with a load limiter or internal clutch that does not allow for severe overloading. This will be safer for your operators that will help prevent overloading causing severe wear, or even worse someone getting hurt. Overloading is easily preventable.
  • Ensure that you have upper and lower limit switches. This prevents the chain from falling out of the hoist or the hoist two-blocking and getting the load stuck or in the air.
  • If you have a motorized trolley on the hoist you should think about travel limits. Travel limits will prevent the hoist from slamming into your end stops increasing the life of your hoist.
  • Self Adjusting brakes is a great safety feature that also lowers your cost of maintenance
  • Motor Thermal Overload features prevents the hoist from overheating

What is the warranty and what does it cover?

Purchasing a hoist out of a catalog because it is economical is not always your best deal. Warranty needs to be considered because it can help you down the road immensely. Don’t just look for a warranty length either. Read the fine print. There are chain hoist manufacturers that will provide you with a lifetime warranty on their equipment. But if you read that fine print, that lifetime warranty only applies to certain components of the hoist, and typically does not include labor to repair it. Find a dealer who is nearby that can easily service the hoist, and pick a hoist that has a solid warranty with labor included. Labor typically will cost you more than the parts so it is very important you look for this.

Once you have answered all these questions you should be able to pick out the hoist that is right for you and will provide the best return on investment. It is a good idea to include your overhead crane service provider to help you with making the right choice in your investment. Don't go it alone, find a provider who is willing to partner with you and provide free consultations on projects no matter how small. 


Monday, April 29, 2013

How Often Must I Inspect My Overhead Crane?

How often should you inspect your overhead crane? I can tell you that this question gets asked to me quite often. Depending on the use of the crane, the class, or the location of the overhead crane, will change the answer to that question quite a bit. Here, I will give you the guidelines and you can decide which category your crane falls into.
To know the frequency of inspection will require you to understand the usage of your crane.  The inspection intervals are broken up in three usage categories. You have Normal Usage, Heavy Usage, and Severe Usage. Most overhead cranes fall under normal usage but let me give you the guidelines for each usage so you can decide for yourself which category your cranes fall under.

Normal Service – Around 5 lifts an hour, Can pick up over 50% capacity but not over 50% of loads at rated capacity

Heavy Service – Pick up over 50% of rated capacity, 5 to 10 lifts an hour and 65% of loads at rated capacity

Severe Service –Pick up near capacity on most loads, 20+ lifts an hour

According to ANSI B30.2-2011 there are five categories for overhead crane inspections; Initial, Functional, Test, Frequent, Periodic, and “Crane not in regular service”.  All these inspections require a qualified person to determine which deficiencies are safety issues.

Initial Inspection

The initial inspection is a documented visual inspection that is required after the installation of a new crane or hoist, and equipment that has been reinstalled from alteration, modified or repaired.

Functional Test Inspection

This is your pre-shift inspection. Every shift your overhead crane operates, this test must be performed.  You will be testing all the functions of the overhead crane and performing a visual and audible inspection. In addition to the functional test, the upper limit of the hoist is also required to be tested, and the wire rope or load chain requires a visual inspection as well.  Documenting this inspection is not required but it is advised. Documentation will show that the overhead crane has been tested so other operators on that shift know it is safe to use. The documentation will also show that you are pro-active when it comes to safety in your facility which will help greatly if an accident ever does occur within your facility.

Frequent Inspection

A frequent inspection is another visual and audible inspection of your overhead crane. The frequent inspection is based upon the usage of your crane. There are three different categories of the frequent inspection. Which one does your crane fall into?

Normal Service – Monthly

Heavy Service – Weekly to Monthly

Severe Service – Daily to Weekly

During this inspection you would do everything on the functional test inspection, and you also check the “operating mechanisms”. The hoist brake is the most important component to inspect next to the wire rope or load chain. This will have to be checked and made sure that it functions properly and any adjustments would need to be made at this time. The inspector should be listening for any abnormal sounds. The hook and latch requires an inspection as well. The frequent inspection does not require a record like the functional test inspection but “should” be made.

Periodic Inspection

The periodic inspection is the inspection that many overhead crane owners call their annual inspection. The usage of the crane again depends on the frequency of inspection.

Normal Service – Yearly

Heavy Service – Yearly

Severe Service – Quarterly

Please note however the periodic inspection is not in the state of California. In California annual inspections are required on all overhead cranes, and also quarterly preventive maintenance is required regardless of the service class or crane capacities.

Now what about that crane you have that you rarely use? If you have a crane that has not been used for more than a month but it is under 1 year, then you will be required to perform an inspection on it prior to use. The same applies if it has been more than one year as well. My suggestion to you is that if you know you’re going to use it, then get it inspected. If you know you are not going to use it, and it will not be used in any emergency then wait to get it inspected when you need it.

In addition to the five categories of inspections, the manufacturer of your overhead crane will sometimes require additional inspections. If this is the case on your overhead crane, then this must be followed as well. These additional inspections could include quadrennial gear case, motor coupling, bottom block, or load brake inspections. Your owner’s manual will list these requirements so make sure you have a copy of one.

There are several overhead crane owners that I know of that simply either cannot afford to do the required frequency of inspection or feel that they can get away with just an annual inspection. However, just doing an annual inspection does not make you compliant and if the reason you’re doing the annual inspection is to stay compliant, then you would need to do all the required inspections. A crane that is used often can be unsafe to use if the frequency of inspection is not followed. If someone was to get hurt in your facility from a faulty overhead crane component and OSHA was to investigate, doing one annual inspection is not going to reduce any penalties. You still missed the daily, monthly, and frequent inspections. You’re also creating a lot of wear and tear on your crane that can easily be preventive with routine maintenance. Your overhead crane operators  are required to have operator safety training as well. I am willing to bet if your not doing the inspections then your definetly not doing the training either. This is how accidents happen. Having cranes that are not maintained and operators that are not trained. Not only is it against regulations, you are putting your employees at great risk. Take the time to know what inspections are required of your crane. Talk to a reputable overhead crane company that can consult with you and help ensure that your cranes are inspected at the correct frequency.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Choosing an Overhead Crane Service Company

When you’re deciding who you want to service your cranes how do you decide? Do you go with just who you know? What about the cheapest price? Perhaps you decide by who manufactured your crane? There are many reasons why companies pick a vendor to service their overhead cranes. Hopefully your reasons are the right ones.

When choosing an overhead crane service company you want to look for five major points to ensure a successful partnership.

Does the company have enough people to service your facility?
You will need a company that has enough personnel to inspect your equipment, and repair when needed. Most importantly you will have breakdowns throughout the life of your equipment. Does the Service Company have the ability to service your facility during an emergency? What is there response time? Do they have enough people to service all their customers and you in an emergency? If you have a company that cannot get there the same day then you have the wrong company. 

Are they properly trained to work on your equipment?
Ask your service company what kind of training they provide for their technicians and inspectors.  You will want to make sure that they are fully trained with your equipment that is in your facility. Someone untrained in your equipment will lead to increased troubleshooting cost, and misdiagnosis that could lead to thousands of dollars of unneeded repairs, and further damage to your equipment costing even more in expensive downtime. When asking about training you should also be asking what kind of safety training program they have for the people that go on your site. You will want the service technicians, inspectors, and even sales representatives to work in a culture of safety. This will reduce the chances of an accident occurring in your facility.

Does your service company provide any other services besides just a crane technician for your repairs, or perhaps they provide a salesman that pushes things down your throat that you have no idea if you really need it? You should be looking for not just a service company but a consultant, a partner. Typical service companies with just quote for you, a true consultant will offer you solutions. Find a company that offers free consultations; a company that will come in a sit with you and be willing to partner with you. Find a company that will take the time to sit down and discuss your needs. One that will go over any issue and provide multiple solutions so you can decide what the best decision overall is for your facility. Consultants will also come in and discuss issues to help provide a successful partnership. They would discuss with you crane regulations, crane operator safety, crane technology, and modernization capabilities of your equipment.  A consultant will often check up on you just to see how your operation is running. If you do not have this currently with your service company then you do not have a successful partnership.

How soon can you get parts from your service company? Do they stock parts?  Do they have resources to get hard to find parts? Are they the OEM? Do they have the ability to re-engineer hard to find parts? Are they a distributor or a manufacturer? Typically if you have a manufacturer for a service provider, you will save on new equipment, and time resourcing equipment and spare parts. Pick a company that has stocked parts or a parts department. A good service provider understands the importance of getting your parts as soon as possible. Typically when you need parts, delivery time is very important. You do not have the time to wait for a service provider to find the right part for you. Pick a service provider that will take the time to create a recommended parts list for you. Keeping spare parts on hand will help you when spare parts cannot be resourced in a timely manner.


In today’s world, technology capability is just as important as technology capabilities from your cable provider or mobile phone provider. Without it you are limiting yourself to the resources that are out there to make you and your equipment more efficient and reliable. What if you could get a text message sent to your phone every time your crane picked up over capacity, or if the motors were overheating? Would this be helpful to you? This type of technology is out there and ready for you to use. You just need to partner yourself with a company that has the resources to offer you tomorrow’s technology today.

Insurance is something that is often overlooked when companies pick a vendor for their crane servicing. It is still very important to ensure you have an insured company working on your premises. Crane servicing has a huge liability as you can imagine. If you choose the wrong company and an accident happens on site and the company is not insured, it could be very costly. Ask to be listed as additionally insured and get a copy of their Certificate of Liability prior to signing any contract. They should have more than just general liability insurance. Check for Automotive, Umbrella, and Workers Compensation.

When you pick a service company you are also picking a partner in your business whose job is to help you maximize your production, keep your facility safe for your employees, maximize your equipment life, and keep your equipment in compliance of federal and local regulations. Just because you have a crane service company in your facility, it does not mean they are meeting all these needs of yours. Ask the questions to make sure you have made the right decision with the company you have chosen to work on one of the most important pieces of machinery in your facility.