Automation is the key

11 September 2017

Paola De Pascali finds that users in South East Asia are increasingly asking for smart features to enhance productivity and sustainability.

Automation and smart features are driving the overhead lifting sector in South East Asia. “2016 was an exciting year of innovation and exploration in industrial automation, though the trend toward automation and greater efficiency in the manufacturing and industrial sector is not new to us,” says Karl Tilkorn, regional managing director, MHE-Demag. “While our customers from various industries have started to automate their processes, advancement in precise positioning methodology as well as sensors, controls and software place us in the leadership position in engineering, manufacturing, installing and servicing both automatic and semiautomatic cranes.

“The demand for automation and process efficiency will increase and improve the overall demand for automatic or semi-automatic cranes in the region. “Another trend observed is the increasing demand for online monitoring of crane status. In the past, crane monitoring and preventive maintenance were manually planned and conducted with high dependency on human behaviour and input. Besides the costs of monitoring, it also results in unnecessary preventive maintenance or risks of downtimes.

“Recently MHE-Demag has introduced our Demag StatusControl, which is a wireless remote access system for cranes and hoists that delivers, analyses and evaluates data in real time. Customers can access the remote monitoring system directly via our intuitive software tool, which they can use in the same way on their PC or tablet. The traffic light system shows what needs to be done straight away. Demag StatusControl enables our customers to precisely schedule the maintenance work and they are always kept up to date on the risk of any possible downtime.

“Engineering innovation is another highly sought after criteria. One of the upcoming trends is delivering cranes with reduced size and deadweight for the same lifting capacity, allowing customers to reduce the costs of supporting structures and associated maintenance for dragging unnecessary dead loads around. In short, lighter and better. MHE-Demag is the only leader who is capable of supplying this cutting edge technology and it is delivered through our latest crane innovation, the V-type crane. Tapered diaphragm joints are specially designed to accommodate pressure and tensile forces and improve oscillation characteristics by up to 30%.

On average, the Demag V-type crane is 17% lighter than conventional box-section profile girders thanks to its revolutionary design. This reduces the forces transmitted to the existing support superstructure and gives architects greater freedom for planning new building layouts.”

Tilkorn says the company has been operating in the region for more than 40 years. “Our customer base is spread across various industries, served by eleven manufacturing facilities and over 60 sales & service offices within the region,” he adds. “As our core business is in overhead cranes and hoists, our main customers are primarily from industries that require raw materials or finished product lifting, such as the manufacturing and logistics sectors. MHE-Demag is also appointed for many major developments in various countries for industries such as steel handling, waste to energy plant, power plant and so on.”

MHE-Demag operates within a closeknit regional network and supplies to Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, Thailand and Vietnam. Over the years MHE-Demag has supplied 26,000 industrial cranes, 20,000 dock levellers, 2,000 building maintenance units and 180 car parking systems with more than 6,000 bays to the region.

“Located in over 60 locations with a dedicated workforce of more than 1,600 well-trained staff across the region including 700 responsive service engineers and technicians, an attentive back-office and intelligent IT infrastructure, we also have the biggest after sales service network in South East Asia. For instance, in Indonesia, we have just recently launched our 27th location in Bitung,” Tilkorn says. “We think that the South East Asia region will grow proportionally. MHE-Demag has ventured into emerging markets such Cambodia and Myanmar and we expect more activities in these areas in coming years.”


“Investments in oil and gas industry will remain low and as a result of this, the supply of new cranes to this sector will be affected,” Tilkorn says. “However, MHEDemag is effectively able to continue to support the oil and gas industry in their difficult times, by refurbishing existing equipment at significantly reduced costs, whilst returning the equipment to as good, or even sometimes better, condition than when handed to us. This is owing to the extent of the engineering capacity within MHE-Demag. Energy generation and conservation are an unstoppable trend and therefore we foresee more investment will be put into the waste-to-energy sector.

“Another factor that will affect the overall lifting industry is the increase of commodity price, such as steel. Companies will have to strike a balance between price competitiveness and profit margin.” Maxim Lee, heavy lifting technology manager at South-East Asia Enerpac, mentions the possibility to do “mixed investments” in this region. “For example, the slump in oil and gas has seen many fewer related projects in the entire region in the last few years,” Lee says. “This is expected to continue and the same applies to mining. Infrastructure projects spearheaded by governments such as the high-speed rail in Singapore and Malaysia, railway lines in Thailand, metro lines in Vietnam, bridges in Myanmar will take a long time to materialise. There are still small pockets of opportunities in between.”

Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering used an Enerpac synchronous lifting system to launch a 43,000t offshore oil platform. The challenge was to lift, balance, weigh and smoothly launch a 43,000t floating oil production system for the Gurmusut-Kakap offshore Malaysian oil field. Enerpac PLC-controlled 700 bar synchronous lifting technology was used to individually control 352 compact, high-pressure 300t hydraulic cylinders incorporated in groups into active skids beneath the steel structure. It was able to sense and control any deflection within the required range of 210mm over a 70m span of pontoons and the main superstructure.

Sustainable productivity

T K Mak, industrial equipment general manager at Konecranes APAC, explains that it is becoming increasingly important to be able to supply equipment that helps companies improve sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint.

To enhance productivity, Konecranes has a range of Smart Features to meet customer requirements. This ranges from target positioning and sway control to fully-fledged automated warehouse management and inventory system. “In tight labour market countries like Singapore, automation is the way forward,”

Mak says. “Customers are increasingly aware of the benefits of Smart Features and it is quite common to find such requirements in their specifications.”

Abhijeet Das, marketing and communications manager at Konecranes India adds: “In India and Bangladesh, where heavy process industry like steel, power, automobile have huge presence, the focus is more on safety and ease of maintenance. Tailor-made cranes provided for the steel industry include a redundant hoisting system to ensure the safety of the load, which is sometimes liquid metal and quite risky if it falls. Even if one of the gearboxes or input pinion fails, the load will not fall and you can still complete the operation at 50% speed.

“In these cranes, we also provide an antifreefall system which does not allow the load to fall in case of failure of either shaft or coupling of motor and gearbox.”

The product range comprises lifting solutions for process industries, industrial cranes, and workstation lifting systems, including components such as wire rope hoists and electric chain hoists. The Konecranes range of CXT wire rope hoist cranes can be suitable in nearly any industry where lifting capacity of up to 80t is required.

“The CXT is the industry leader in medium-heavy lifting indoor cranes and is a firm favourite around the world. Over 10,000 CXT hoists are sold every year, indicating its reliability, efficiency and value,” Mak says.

“We’ve seen an excellent take-up of our CXT UNO crane in South Asia, since its introduction in 2016. CXT UNO takes the high-quality CXT hoist and redesigns it using the latest slimline components. “By selecting only the essential features and core components of the robust, proven technology, Konecranes has been able to create a very cost-efficient crane, without compromising on quality.

“CXT UNO is a high quality, highly economical wire rope hoist suitable for a huge range of lifting tasks up to 10t in manufacturing, materials handling and other light lifting tasks in warehouses, assembly lines and factories. CXT UNO is ideally suited to emerging markets and has a simple design, fast service response and quick spare parts delivery, which helps to minimise downtime and improve ease of maintenance.

“The other range that’s experiencing success in the region is the WLS family of Workstation Lifting Cranes—in electric crane capacities up to 5t. The WLS range is designed to exactly fit the different lifting needs of diverse industries and to change with them as their needs evolve.”

The WLS family includes the CLX electric chain hoist, which offers up to 5t of lasting lifting power—50% ED rating (up to FEM 3m) with 300 starts per hour. Easy serviceability and simple maintenance access minimises downtime, says the company, with easy replacement of components with plug-in connections. It also features the SLX electric chains hoists, for demanding use, combining CLX features with stepless hoisting speeds with inverter, plus advanced efficiency and safety technology including electronic overload device, slack chain control, and programmable limit switches.

“Another WLS family member is the extremely light and durable XA aluminum workstation crane, which is approximately 50% lighter than steel, with load capacity up to 2t and featuring smooth running on high quality joint connections,” Mak says. “System profiles, with bolt connections, enable easy extensions, while anodized aluminum surfaces are optimal for clean environments.”

Konecranes also provides manual products, including hand-held chain blocks up to 20t capacity.

“When working in an environment where electricity is not available or impractical to use, these manual products are an economical solution with wide load ranges and design features to enhance work ergonomics,” says Enez See Toh, marketing and communications manager at Konecranes APAC.

“We also have customised process cranes for steel, power, automotive pulp and paper, waste to energy and many other industries. These industries require unique cranes tailored for their processes. Steel manufacturing needs protection from heat and dust, energy production often requires specialised grabs, the automotive industry uses special cranes for coil handling, stamping and assembly. With lifting capacities of up to several hundred tons, we offer tailor-made cranes and open winch cranes, including Smarton and Uniton as per FEM standards and e-TON crane, which is designed as per Indian standards (IS), especially for the South-East Asia region.” Mak says that some of their most recent orders from India are for the steel, general manufacturing, automotive, and power industries; for the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia; from Myanmar for general manufacturing; from Thailand for the waste-to-energy sector and pulp and paper industry; and from Singapore for the waste-to-energy, construction and logistics sectors.

“Waste-to-energy is the obvious growth sector in view of general environmental awareness and new legislation,” Mak explains. “New plants are burgeoning in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and now in Vietnam. A general shortage of electric power in Asian countries has provided the continuous push for many power generation projects in Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.” Talking about the future, Mak says they are already noticing a trend for more advanced digital technologies and it is expected to continue in the upcoming years. “South East Asian companies are opting for example for our Truconnect remote monitoring and reporting and Mainman planned maintenance, which capture results by mobile enabled technicians into an easily accessed online customer portal.

“This web portal, which gives realtime browser-based access to individual customers’ equipment data and maintenance history, links usage data, maintenance data and asset details, giving a transparent and complete view of events and activities of a crane over any selected time interval. Aggregated data can be viewed, analysed and shared quickly, for a single asset or an entire fleet. “Thus, customers can plan their maintenance programs according to actual needs, saving significant downtime. It means that a major problem can often be identified before it occurs, leading to a small amount of downtime as it’s fixed, rather than a large amount of downtime from a crane being out of commission and needing more significant repairs.

“The Internet of Things (IOT) is playing a huge role in shaping how customers use our technologies. We now offer mobile apps to access their crane portal and use SMS to inform customers of important information about their cranes.”

Amongst the most recent applications, the Procter & Gamble Gillette manufacturing centre in Ben Cat, Vietnam uses the remote control technology to safely handle heavy maintenance workpieces, which it can lift, turn, manoeuvre and position using an 8t CXT crane incorporating dual 3t and 5t hoists to provide the balance and precision required. The same proven reliability is built into the 10t CXT crane used to lift, shift and precisely place the nine injection moulding machines in the plant’s production area, and wire rope hoists are used to change in and change out moulds weighing between 1.5t–6t. The Ben Cat plant’s CXT cranes incorporate Truconnect remote services for enhanced safety, reliability and efficiency. This latest innovation in crane maintenance and service includes a suite of remote services ranging from periodic data reporting to real-time diagnostics, technical support and production monitoring.

“Procter & Gamble’s CXT cranes, which feature variable runway speeds for efficiency in changing moulds in and out of production, are essential to the smooth and reliable functioning of the company’s operation,” says Procter & Gamble operations manager Hoang TN. “The safety, capacity and runway speed of the cranes are ideally suited to our needs,” Hoang says. “The compact overhead design gives us clear open workspace without floor traffic, such as forklifts. The cranes are very easy to use and very safe in service.”

GoinG Green

Top-Mech chief executive officer Ter Leong Leng says crane technologies in the region may move towards the direction of energy saving, as environmental issues become a big concern.

“Higher levels of automation in cranes may also be another possible trend, as labour cost continues to increase,” Leong Leng says.

“We foresee that developing countries in South East Asia and South Asia will be a good bet for crane markets.

“Our customers have been demanding semi automatic cranes, such as for the waste-to-energy plants in addition to synchronization of cranes and hoists movements, anti-sway features and antistorm devices for gantry cranes.

They have been using this equipment for diverse applications, including concrete precast for the Infrastructure and building industry; maintenance of rolling stocks for the railway industry; power plants and general industries, and engineering workshops.”

In the next six months to 2–3 years, Leong Leng expects to see a continued growth in the infrastructure industries in many parts of Asia, partly due to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) policies. “In terms of engineering, perhaps a switch from box design to lattice design for gantry cranes,” he says. “The latter has advantages in terms of weight and cost.”

Top-Mech has secured a contract from Cameron, A Schlumberger Company, the appointed contractor by Samsung Engineering to supply two double-girder explosion-proof overhead cranes together with the free standing structure for the cranes. The cranes each had a 24m and 17m span with lifting height of 8m. Capacities were 10t for both units, and the cranes are used for the membrane production floor maintenance work. The crane is supplied with bronzecoated grade 80 alloy material, bronzecoated hook as well as galvanized hoist housing to provide protection from the hazardous environment. “We have to follow stringent coating specification from Petronas technical standard to ensure longevity of the crane structure in the humid working environment,” Leong Leng says. “In compliance with the strict ASCE 7-10 standards, the crane structure had to be designed and constructed against the effects of earthquake forces, as outlined in its seismic requirement.”

Union Steel Holdings chief operating officer Ho Kian Teck says the company offers designed lifting winch, which are supported by software based control systems and intelligent features for higher productivity and safety and lower maintenance costs.

Kian Teck explains that customers have been using the equipment for precast construction yards, storage yards to civil contractors on cable laying, MRT tunnelling or land reclamation.

“Our products are also used in other applications such as refinery, prefabrication, shipyard with gantry cranes,” Kian Teck says. “Thanks to the new technologies, we have improved safety and productivity. The main features are the Anti Sway System, which focuses on maximum ergonomic and functional advantages and eliminates swinging of the load during hoist movement; the Variable Speed Control (VSC), which controls acceleration and deceleration for a current overload protection; the Remote Control Unit and Load Display Unit, which allows operator to achieve optimum position with fully visibility to operate crane movement and take precautions on lifted weight.”

Kian Teck adds that they usually sell in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Australia. “Singapore is a kind of country which is looking for increasing the productivity and our products are very suitable for that,” Kian Teck says. “In general we are seeing an increase of sales because people are recognising the value of our products in terms of safety and productivity.

“We have some on-going projects in Singapore and Malaysia so most of the upcoming sales will be coming from these areas. In the long future prospective we hope to enter the European and American markets.” Technical general manager George Yeap says they expect to see in the next six months some innovation in new technologies, such as gantry automation for predestined lifting areas through PLC software.

“When you leave the object just pressing the button, the object can go to a defined area and that does improve productivity because you don’t need someone to control the path,” says Yeap.

“Another innovation is a similar system for a ‘no entry zone’ because in some factories you have the ban to move the object because there are people working on that area. This new feature will be also available in the near future and it can be very useful for container positioning and shipping. “In the long term future, we are looking into systems that can be mounted on any brand, any existing crane on the market.”


Kian Teck explains that nowadays governments in Asia are much more oriented towards safety than the past years. “So we are looking for countries interested in investing in safety and productivity, so with legislations in favour of our products,” Kian Teck says. “We are also working with authorities to find a better and safer way to manage cranes. Thus, we hope that there will be in the future an increase on the safety level. Of course we understand that it’s a quite long process but we keep going on that.”

Leong Leng (Top-Mech) adds that the crane industry is closely regulated by the government in Malaysia. “All powered cranes need to be certified and annually inspected by the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH),” Leong Leng says. “As the country develops further, more cranes will be introduced to the industry. This may put more pressure for the government to pass on this responsibility to professional organisations such as engineering consultants, in order to have a more efficient delivery system.

“The China factor is growing stronger day by the day. As part of their One Belt One Road strategy, Chinese construction outfits are flooding the infrastructure and building industries in this region. They have the financial muscle to assist receiving countries in the financing of infrastructure projects. This, coupled with their experience in the construction of similar projects back home in their home country, has made China the key player by far in the construction industry here.

“In the future Chinese crane companies will possibly become the major players in the crane market in this region, on top of the European and Japanese competitors.”

A Top-Mech 10t explosion-proof hoist for Terengganu Gas Terminal (TGAST) Development Project.
Enerpac PLC-controlled 700 bar synchronous lifting technology was used to control 352 compact, high-pressure 300t hydraulic cylinders incorporated in groups into active skids.
A Konecranes 10t CXT crane used to lift and place nine injection moulding machines at a Procter & Gamble facility in Ben Cat, Vietnam.
A Top-Mech 160t gantry crane at work in the precast industry.
A MegaCrane 30t gantry crane installed at Nishimatsu Construction plant to lift the mud from a 60m deep tunnel in Singapore
A MegaCrane 30t gantry crane used by Hyundai Engineering and Construction for a tunnelling cable project in Singapore.