Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Future Of Overhead Crane Maintenance

 Note: This article was originally published a year ago in Industrial Lift & Hoist Magazine. Please check out the original article

New technology is developed for three simple reasons: to have an easier life, to save a life, or to save us money. With the innovations of overhead crane technology, the same applies.  When you think of the future of crane maintenance what do you think about? For all the crane operators out there we know that the way they operate has changed drastically. Variable frequency drives have allowed operators to be more efficient and safer when operating a crane.  But what about servicing a crane? Has anything changed there? Is there any difference from the way a crane is serviced yesterday or today and way it will be serviced 10 years from now?  With the technology that has been developed in the last 20 years I am in wonder of what the future could hold for crane maintenance.  I have been amazed at the advancements in overhead crane maintenance in recent years. A lot has changed but do you know about it?

When an overhead crane technician troubleshoots your crane they are inspecting as they see it. Just like an auto mechanic, if your crane is acting up but works fine during the troubleshooting process it is harder for the technician to find the problem. Several innovations such as condition monitors have been developed over the years from a few crane manufacturers that would allow the technician to see past history of the cranes usage. This helped them see any issue that may have caused a crane malfunction.  This could be overloads, usage hours, crane starts, load swings, and overheating.  However, this is by far not new crane technology. This was the newest technology over two decades ago. Data collectors have been available since the 80’s. 

The future of crane maintenance takes “proactive” to a new level; technology that can predict when there will be a crane failure.  Imagine being able to troubleshoot your crane without stopping production and without even dispatching a technician to your site. You could find symptoms of wearing components before they are problematic and get the components replaced reducing costly downtime, or getting a text message telling you that a crane operator just picked a load over capacity. This is an excellent way to monitor your operators habits and will help focus on operator training that may be required.  This technology is real time analysis and remote monitoring. Real time analysis is a safety, and production feature that was not available previously. With this newest technology you have the ability to find an issue before it becomes a breakdown. Real time analysis has been available for quite some time. Over the years I have seen real time analysis on my customer’s equipment in their facility. On overhead cranes however this is a new idea; an idea that will revolutionize the crane servicing industry. Just think that before you have to place a trouble call, someone is already monitoring your crane. If an issue develops then a remote team has the ability to troubleshoot your crane without even being on your property. This is a time and money saver especially if your overhead crane maintenance provider is not nearby.  If there is a need to send a technician to your site, the remote team representative will call you and inform of what they found. The reports will also inform you if you have a piece of equipment that is not suitable for the application that it is being used for.

This is an evolution of overhead crane maintenance.  Maintenance can now be performed based on actual usage instead of a calendar. This future technology is available now on select Konecranes CXT wire rope hoists and Smarton® cranes. The technology is called TRUCONNECT®. You will be able to monitor your crane usage in real time online. Usage data will be reported in graphs to help you analyze the data making it easy to read. This data will allow you to optimize your productivity and your crane maintenance by viewing the life cycle of your hoist. This life cycle analysis will keep you better informed for future decisions.  Safety alerts sent straight to your phone notifying you of safety issues that can be addressed immediately instead of after the fact. 

With the development of overhead crane service technology you will get a more reliable, safer crane, and lower your investment cost at the same time. This future technology that is available for you today is only a starting point.  The future holds so much more. I recently watched a video that shared these same views.  Companies that invest in innovation will be the leaders to develop and utilize
technology like hybrid service vehicles, crane scanning visors, carbon nano-fiber hardhats, self-lubricating wire ropes, hydrogen powered cranes, and 3D laser printers that can make crane parts quickly during breakdowns. These are ideas that only Walt Disney himself could have dreamed up. But, like says, “If it can be dreamed, it can be done”.