If successful, the pilot programme could herald the arrival of the ‘smart’ crane, the supplier contends.
Christian Klein, IP global product manager at Stromag, explains: “For some time, we have wanted an opportunity to combine our products for the crane market with IIoT technology to produce a ‘smart’ crane. The desire is to rationalise data automatically via models hosted on the cloud, so we can gain an insight into how this data can be used to extend maintenance intervals and boost crane availability. Duisport Crane Authority provided us with the perfect opportunity to trial these new technologies in the field.”
In conjunction with Duisport personnel on the ground, Stromag installed new systems on a gantry crane located in the container terminal. Another crane of exactly the same specification was kept in original specification as a benchmark for the new system. Stromag provided free components, while Duisport organised equipment, mobile cranes and operatives.
The brakes for elevation, the mounted winch and hoist were all replaced. Geared cam limit switches matched with encoders were installed, which provided data on position, speed, overspeed and possible faults. Hydraulic power units (HPUs) were fitted with intelligent controls. The main aim was not to influence the normal operation of the crane, to ensure accurate real-world results.
A PLC installed on the crane communicates with an external PLC, providing recommendations to operators via a dashboard. Soon, additional systems will be installed to provide data on wind speed, temperature and other environmental factors. The crane is currently undertaking a three to six-month data collection period, a ‘learning’ phase, which will provide enough information to inform maintenance strategy.
However, the capabilities of the system go well beyond simply monitoring for faults, Klein emphasises: “The problem with traditional monitoring is that it only gives data on downtime, which for a port, is far too late. Once we have a sizable sample of data uploaded to the cloud, we can start rationalising it intelligently to proactively influence maintenance. We will utilise a modular-based modelling programme to achieve this.
“When complete, we can rely on artificial intelligence (AI) to identify parameters that affect the performance of key systems on the crane, which allows for highly targeted predictive maintenance scheduling. This will eventually promote uptime and logistical efficiency for Duisport.”
In future, data models will be combined with an intelligent e-commerce platform to streamline the procurement of replacement parts or components inventory.