The robot overhead
Industrial cranes use a robust design, minimal sophisticated electronics and the spare parts are easily available.
BY TEAM CW
There are several common factors one sights when paying a visit to a manufacturing plant. While heavy machinery and materials sprawl over the entire shop floor, raising one’s neck upwards towards the roof helps one see more machinery. The ubiquitous overhead cranes that move from one corner to another carrying load or returning empty. These large girders stationed above look ominous and are capable of carrying hundreds of tonnes of weight that otherwise might appear impossible.
Since the last decade, India emerged as a preferred market for multinational companies as they saw the immense potential in the Indian market in terms of growth and demand for their products. Heavy investments were made as numerous multinationals set up their manufacturing units in the country, attracted by the low labour cost and excess availability of raw materials such as steel and iron. Along with this, other allied sectors also grew, driving demand for equipment such as cranes.
“In terms of technology, the past few years have seen quite a bit of influence from international markets. As a result, direct drive motors and VFDs have become more common and customers are accepting and asking for this technology, moving away from what was the norm for decades. We are also beginning to see a trickle of customers looking to modernise their existing cranes with updated drives and electronics,” says Tushar Mehendale, MD, Electromech.
Most cranes manufacturers have adopted a workable system of monitoring quality standards, which ensures desired quality standards at all levels. Incoming raw materials and bought out items pass through severe quality checks by QC inspectors who ensures conformance of the same in accordance with laid down norms. Similarly, in-process materials as well as ongoing jobs also undergo stringent quality checks for the standards prescribed and/or desired by customer. As and when required, most of them also entertain third party inspection agencies for ensuring a neutral quality inspection for incoming material and also for outgoing finished products.
It’s a norm today for customers that the manufacturer provides a complete package to the product with the overall features of customer service. Resultant to this fact, manufacturers today as a rule are turning towards following competent technology & work structure to ensure zero customer complaints. “We have at all times put our customers’ needs first. We believe in following a ‘solutions approach’ to customers’ needs. This practice has helped us reach where we are today. We have executed various innovations in terms of our company’s products, to be able to offer world-class standards in cranes and hoists by collaborating with global leaders,” says Mehendale.
There’s also a strong focus on selecting specific components to enable cranes in performing beyond the basic demands as per specifications. Strict quality standards are followed on shop floors to ensure a reliable product. All these steps help in providing ‘well engineered’ solutions, thus also ensuring low lifecycle costs on equipments.
Through ongoing R&D, most manufacturers also spend on adopting latest technology and trends coming up globally with regard to design, engineering and manufacturing of products. The technologies adopt are intended to maximise performance of products at an optimised cost. It’s a common fact considering the various new technologies coming up, to commensurate with demand that most of them allot about 3-5% of their revenue for R&D.
The technology for overhead travelling crane in India was quite outdated with old electrical controls. In the last 5-7 years, there has been a drastic change in the same with advancement mainly in the electrical and electronics systems & components. “Yes, most of the installed cranes in India are based on the old designs. A large portion of demand even today seeks cranes based on technology mastered more than 50 years ago. The trend is changing, but slowly,” says Mehendale.
Safety issues in this segment are very crucial and hence it is rare for anyone to compromise on designs, material and workmanship of equipments. Most of them initiate application of advanced technologies and latest electrical controls to ensure safe and sure performance of their components. Then there is the need to educate and encourage customers for usage of latest components in place of traditional ones in the cranes.
ElectroMech takes care to ensure maximum utility from products starting from the design stage. Cranes today are designed keeping in mind the real world usage conditions and not just to match up to the standards laid down by ISI. Manufacturers have to take extra care required for ensuring utmost reliability and ultimately a lower lifecycle cost.
The overhead crane market was quite small during 2007–2009. But, after the economic boom started in India and the capex investment plans followed by government’s focus on infrastructure, the market began expanding manifold and this momentum would maintain for a decade ahead. The current market size of crane industry is around Rs 1,700-1,800 crores and expected to grow at the rate of 30-40% year-on-year basis.
Customers today are definitely more aware of what the global marketplace has to offer and demand the same in India. This has ensured that the major Indian manufacturers have stepped up their game through product upgrades or international tie ups. Acceptance of lighter and more compact cranes is a shift that has happened within the past 4-5 years, factors that can give several advantages to clients. The industry has started becoming more and more customer oriented as compared to the past. By default, customers today expect a high-quality and well-timed customer service. As a practice, manufacturers have to place enabling structures in place ensuring zero customer complaints and prompt responses to service calls.
The crane industry has not seen too many revolutionary changes in technology over the past few years; however evolutionary changes have certainly happened. One of the technology trends that ElectroMech is establishing is the standardisation of radio remote controls across all of its cranes. Radio remote controls offer a substantial increase in flexibility for the crane operator as well as allow safer operations as the operator needn’t remain under the crane. In addition, the need for the festooning system along the crane girder is negated, allowing the cranes to remain lighter as well as neater.
“We also provide sophisticated anti-sway systems in our cranes that ensure that cranes can work at high travel speeds without worrying about load swinging dangerously. This in turn helps the customers in significantly ramping up their productivity,” says Mehendale.
An anti-sway system works on the principle of a pendulum, a load being handled by a crane acts like a pendulum, as the crane begins to move, the load begins to sway. The extent of this swaying depends on the length of the pendulum, or in the case of a crane, the length of the wire rope. Without corrective action, only friction will limit the extent of this and deaden this swaying. With no specific device to do this, controlling this swaying depends solely on the skill of the driver of the machine who manually applies a counter reaction to the movements of the load.
The anti-sway system offers several advantages, namely protection of the load and the machinery and less maintenance, lower risk of accidents, lower operator fatigue, lower cycle times and indirectly and lower energy costs.
Additionally, we offer after sales service through Cranedge, a separate business unit that ElectroMech spun off. Cranedge offers dedicated services for all industrial cranes irrespective of its make and ensures that its clients get the maximum return on their investments. These services are made available through a well-trained and skilled team of engineers and technicians.
“Siemens offers innovative motion control and drive systems for increasing system productivity, both in new projects and when upgrading. Therefore we want to further strengthen our position as automation partner for crane systems even in difficult economic times,” said Joachim Zoll, head of the Siemens business segment cranes, at a symposium.