Electric overhead travelling (EOT) cranes are a staple diet in many industrial facilities. Powered and operated by a control pendant, radio/IR remote pendant or operator cabin, EOTs have the capacity to lift both heavy and light weights. Also known as bridge cranes, they consist of a parallel runway, connected via travelling bridge, on which a hoist is mounted. They boast three functional motions: crane hook up and down, trolley lateral movement and traversing.
To avoid downtime and damaging loss of productivity, EOTs need to undergo rigorous and regular inspection and maintenance to keep them in prime condition and fit for purpose. Equally, operatives must be highly skilled – and trained – as EOT cranes, if not used correctly, can a dangerous item of equipment, causing serious injury or even fatality.
MULTIPLE CRANES, ONE RUNWAY
Busy sites where several cranes operate on one crane runway can prove something of a headache when maintenance needs to be carried out. “While this offers greater flexibility and increased productivity, the challenge for any crane operator is to safely maintain a single crane without having to shut down all the others and without endangering the safety of the maintenance workers,” points out Paul Boedeker (pictured), product manager Conductor Rails, of Conductix-Wampfler, a leading manufacturer of energy supply and data management systems for the lifting and moving of goods.
The company’s system solution to this challenge is the PowerGuard 0800, pictured lower right, which, he says, “can be used to safely and easily de-energise crane maintenance sections”. PowerGuard 0800 has been designed for use with the conductor rail series 0812 and 0813, and is not only applicable to crane systems, but anywhere the question arises.
“PowerGuard 0800 is an intelligent switch system that allows you to turn off and ground individual maintenance zones, while the rest of the runway remains active and fully usable,” states Boedeker.
As for EOT units that are getting a bit ‘long in the tooth‘,is it a realistic proposition – or indeed advisable/economically sensible – to upgrade these? “For sure, it is possible,” he confirms, “and one of the important aspects and features of retrofitting existing crane systems with PowerGuard 0800 is to make maintenance work that much easier and safer.”
Konecranes is equally convinced of the many advantages – and options available – for upgrading ageing EOTs. “Aside from the clear cost and time savings, customers will also benefit from the latest technology, improved safety, reliability and cycle times,” points out Lee Thorne, the company’s director, service sales, Industrial Service EMEA. “Upgrades can range from a straightforward ‘general overhauls’ – where we replace the recommended fatigued parts to the OEM instructions, to give the hoist and crane new life and improved reliability and safety – to the other end of the scale where we can add new technology and upgrades that revolutionise a customer’s production.”
KNOW YOUR OWN MIND
It all comes down to the customers’ needs and what they are looking to achieve with their future production and process requirements,” he adds. “Most customers are looking to improve their production and retrofits are the easiest way to add new features to an old crane at the fraction of the cost of new equipment. This could be with a simple hoist replacement, where that hoist already comes packed with the latest technology to suit the customer’s needs now and in the future; or with a bolt-on retrofit package where the benefits are more specific.”
One such product he singles out for giving Konecranes’ customers the biggest return on investment is Truconnect. “This collects condition, usage and operating data from control systems and sensors on a crane, and provides alerts to certain anomalies,” states Thorne, “while our remote monitoring data is used in maintenance planning, and predicting possible component or equipment failure.”
These now come as standard in Konecranes’ new wire rope hoists, but are also available as an inexpensive retrofit, which can be fitted to any make and model of wire rope hoist. “Basically, it allows customers to monitor how their equipment is being utilised, as well as enabling them to plan for component replacement before a breakdown occurs,” Thorne adds.The company sees this as an important option. “As we all know, the biggest cost to any customer is the cost of downtime and, let’s face it, a crane never breaks down conveniently when it’s not in use!” Truconnect will also alert the customer of any misuse of the equipment, such as overloads and issues around emergency stops.
In general, just how well are inspection and maintenance regimes adhered to? “Some companies can underestimate the importance and legality of PUWER and LOLER inspections,” says Leanne Wright, service manager at Pelloby, one of the UK’s leading crane manufacturers. “To a smaller business, the approach might well be: ‘if it isn’t broken, we do not need to fix it’; and cost can be a factor, too. Larger business can have their own challenges, where regular monitoring may get submerged in the everyday running of the company.”
She points to the consequences of failing to have a proper maintenance regime in place. “LOLER is a legal requirement. It is there to protect everyone involved, including members of the public not using the equipment who may be close by. The equipment must be safe, secure and suitable for any task being undertaken. To achieve this, any such equipment needs to be inspected regularly, and to have risk assessments and plans for each time the equipment is to be used.”
And should a business fail to do so? “If LOLER is not adhered to and there is an inspection by HSE, this will result in a notice to bring it to a resolution. Should a company still fail to comply, it may result in court proceedings and a fine.”
As to the option of upgrading and modifying an ageing crane, or buying an entirely new crane system, this is something of a balancing act, advises Wright. “In many cases, the upgrades may require replacing internal components to cope with the increased capacity: changing the hoist in its entirety, replacing wheels and upgrading them to a harder material, for example. With that level of time and cost involved, it could be a better option to replace the equipment in its entirety.”