Technology helps lifting equipment to keep moving

11 September 2017

When you compare the bare bones of modern overhead lifting equipment to similar kit from decades ago, there are pretty clear similarities and indeed some aspects that haven’t changed much at all.

Fair enough—if the geometry works well and the physics follow the calculations in practice as on paper, then the basic framework of a crane can remain largely unchanged.

Look a little closer, though, and there are constant incremental improvements being made to the equipment used in, and produced by, our industry.

These are amongst the developments we chart on these pages each month—from increased capacities and efficiencies through to modifications that make existing products suitable for new applications and sectors.

One area of particular interest at the moment—in all of engineering and manufacturing, not just overhead lifting— is what’s been dubbed ‘Industry 4.0’.

In a nutshell, Industry 4.0 the use of high-speed data collection and wireless transfer systems to gather realtime information from the different processes within an operation, so the performance of each variable can be monitored.

As well as reporting back to a central data logging system for subsequent analysis, the interconnected machines can also ‘talk’ to one another, allowing the manufacturing process to be streamlined and optimised in real-time. It’s not ‘talking’ in the way C3P0 talks to R2D2, but it’s less twee and certainly more useful.

In our report on the South East Asia overhead lifting market, which you’ll find on page 20 onwards, we look at the trend for ‘smart’ technology in the region.

While Japan is well-known for cutting-edge technology, not all the national markets in South East Asia have a similar reputation. But as companies in the region discuss, the dawn of Industry 4.0 and all the efficiency and sustainability improvements that come with it have been embraced. The endless pursuit of technological progress is also having an effect in another area of overhead lifting—the equipment supplied to cleanroom operations.

Manufacturers of products such as pharmaceuticals have long required cleanrooms to ensure that their goods are protected from contaminants during the production and packaging processes.

Measures are applied to the equipment used in such operations, such as the containment or elimination of lubricants that could otherwise leach into production. An up-to-date report on the sector in this issue notes that the ever-increasing electronics industry is driving demand for more cleanroom equipment, with higher and more exacting standards.

Meanwhile, away from high-tech developments, there are still improvements being made to the most fundamental components of cranes. I’m pleased to have been introduced to Britlift, a UK company established just last month. The company’s flagship product is a weldfree spreader beam, which removes the need for weld inspection. We’ll be talking to them in-depth soon.