Logical progression

18 April 2019

Daniel Searle attended the recent Logimat show in Stuttgart, Germany, to speak with exhibitors about their latest products, and their views on the prospects for the market in 2019.

If reports on the German economy are accurate, the usually-reliable industrial giant hit a relatively slow patch in late 2018, only just avoiding falling into recession. One reason for the decline in growth, according to analysis in The Week, is the German market’s reliance on exports—exports accounted for 47% of the economy in 2017, says the report—and so when external markets were hit by issues such as the slowdown in the Chinese economy and the steel tariffs implemented by President Trump, the German economy suffered as a result.

Nevertheless, the impression from the recent Logimat show in Stuttgart was one of a bustling industry, in the overhead lifting sector at least. The show, this year in its 17th iteration, filled one of its halls with companies from this sector, with some other exhibitors from our industry in other halls further along the Stuttgart Messe.

For Schmalz, a vacuum lifting system specialist and manufacturer of accompanying manipulators, jib cranes and light aluminium cranes, the versatility of their products has kept prospects bright. “Schmalz has a very wide product portfolio for many different industry sectors and requirements. So we aren´t depending on one special industry,”

says Michael Schlaich, head of business development process for handling systems at the company. “Growing markets, for example, are the distribution logistics for online shops where the handling of small packages in high frequency is needed. Established industries like the automotive sector or the wood industry still offer great potential for Schmalz.”

For Spanish crane manufacturer Jaso, the show was one method of promoting its products to help boost sales in Germany and the surrounding central European markets. “In the EU, since last year we have experienced a recovery of activity and as economic and industrial activities have grown, the lifting industry has reacted in the same way,” says Raúl Fernández, sales and marketing director at Jaso Industrial Cranes.

“Volumes are far away from the past years before the economic crisis but we, fortunately, have balanced them with our growth in export markets.

“Opportunities include investments in renewable energy sectors like wind and offshore, and the slight recovery in the building industry in general. One of the big challenges is the uncertain situation within the automotive industry due to the diesel regulations that is directly affecting many car manufactures in Europe. Additionally, the political situation due to Brexit and reorganization of political trends in EU will be something to pay attention as they could directly affect the economy.”

Meeting demand for new trends by developing new technology such as the company’s Smartlink system has helped business at Jaso, adds Fernández:

“From our perspective connectivity between cranes and other equipment within the production process is more in demand at this time. In our case, we have developed our own monitoring system for cranes, called Smartlink, that allows you in a very easy and friendly way to control your cranes and to optimize their performance and productivity through the information provided by the system.

“Additionally, and mainly during the last two to three years, everything regarding automation and the development of automatic cranes for different purposes, has been getting increasingly in demand. In that field we have developed different solutions for waste-to-energy cranes, stacker cranes for logistics, and cranes for chemical treatments for the piping industry, that allows our customers to increase the productivity and quality of the products and of course the safety, to minimise the risks for their workers.”

Schmalz also emphasises the demand for safety in its product development— not just in avoiding the risk of accidents but also in ensuring long-term health through ergonomic systems—and for connectivity. Versatility of products is also key, says Schlaich: “There are many customers just searching for an efficient handling solution which optimises their production process. In addition, many customers are searching for lifting aids to prevent musculoskeletal problems of the employees that are frequently caused by the physical strain encountered during operational production and warehouse processes. So, Schmalz offers standard solutions as well as new products which are ready for Industry 4.0.

“Collaboration is becoming an increasingly important topic in manual handling applications. To that end, Schmalz developed the smart rope balancer SRBC. In the spirit of industry 4.0, the rope balancer makes manual lifting tasks smart and digital. The collaborative handling system is suitable for tasks requiring both dynamic movement and precise depositing, for example in joining or assembly processes. Loads of up to 80kg can be moved safely and with little effort—and without the risk of the load overshooting.

“To avoid collisions with fixed obstacles, software can be used to define working spaces, pick-up and deposit points, and travel speeds. The intelligent vacuum lifter evaluates process data and offers a diagnostic function to assist the user. Safety queries prevent collisions as well as lifting and dropping errors and increase work safety.

“We have been producing intelligent manual handling solutions for customers on request. That means for example solutions that offer information about the workpiece, the weight, predictive maintenance and so on.”

Jaso also designed its V range of wire rope hoists to be one of the safest available, says Fernández, with the hoist’s frequency inverter operating in a closed loop to ensure reliability of the transfer of information. The range comprises three models up to 15t capacity, and are suitable for very tough working conditions such as the iron and steel industry.

Meanwhile Schmalz showcased its Jumbo Low-Stack at Logimat, designed as a vacuum-lifting system that enables ergonomic lifting and gripping of loads up to 80kg from the ground, without the operator having to bend. It follows the launch at last year’s Logimat of the JumboFlex High Stack, which allows loads to be stacked at heights of up to 2.5m. This means that space is more likely to be used optimally, explains the company. The High Stack can lift loads of up to 50kg.

Also on display was Schmalz’s new jib crane, designed to be smaller to suit operations with lower ceilings. The crane, which can lift 35kg, is part of the company’s wider range of aluminium cranes and jib cranes.

Kuli, based at Remscheid, Germany, introduced a retrofittable upgrade to its range of cranes, in the form of an energy recuperation system. As is standard in the industry, the company’s cranes previously used resistors to change the electricity used to lower loads into heat. Now, the cranes can bring that energy back into the grid, resulting in a return-on-investment on the system of less than one year, explains managing director Oliver Kempkes.

The system can be retrofitted or, if installed on a new crane, will reduce the weight and size of the system, as no resistor is required, just space in the control cabinet.

Kempkes has a positive outlook for 2019, foreseeing further growth for the company. Industry association forecasts anticipate slightly less growth than in 2018 for the sector as a whole, he adds, but Germany will still be quite strong, as well as providing a good base for working with other national markets.

Demag, based in Wetter, Germany, is celebrating 200 years in business this year with a series of events including open days through to smaller events such as concerts from members of Demag’s team, explains Christoph Kreutzenbeck.

A dedicated website has been set up—at www.demag200.com—and the company also employed a team of historians to research the full history of its business, which has been compiled in a book.

Back in the present day, Demag discussed its warehouse management system (WMS) at Logimat, suitable for applications such as handling paper, metal coils and sheet, and the automotive sector. It can provide automatic placement of goods, or guidance for the operator during manual use.

The aim of the WMS is to optimise overall performance and to minimise crane movements back and forth, says Markus Otto, vice president of process cranes at Demag, as well as ensuring the highest number of throughput cycles and the best use of storage capacity.

The company has so far completed two installations in Europe of its Papermaster crane system featuring two lifting attachments, which can work independently on the same crane using the WMS. Siegen-based Vetter was promoting its modular Ergoline range of light aluminium cranes. The modular set-up includes adjustable sections to enable the height and length of the cranes to be altered, says head of export department Joerg Schachtschneider, and more modules can be added to further lengthen the crane if required. It also allows the customer to disassemble and move the cranes to new facilities.

The system is particularly wellsuited to logistics applications, says Schachtschneider, where fast and easy movements are required, in sectors such as the window manufacturing industry. The company is currently selling its products primarily to Germany, with some activity in Austria, Switzerland and Poland.

Stroedter, based in Rhynern, is a manufacturer of manipulators and light crane systems, supplying the automotive sector and general industry. It produces two types of manipulators, based on either rails or arms, along with customised gripper attachments for specific applications. For rail-based manipulators, the company produces the Rollyx series of aluminium rails, as well as the RollyxPlus+, which offers integrated supply of power or air, and therefore features no external cables. The RollyxPlus+ is currently available in five profiles, with capacities up to 3t.

One of the company’s latest products is the lightweight aluminium vertical column profile, which is designed to be easy to erect.

TAWI launched its mobile order picker at Logimat, with a low-built design enabling the system to access pallet racks while still being able to reach the top pallet. It features a lighter arm than previous models, and has a capacity of 35kg, as well as offering control of the tower, pump and light via the manipulator handle.

British company Reid Lifting also exhibited at Logimat, promoting its new 1t-capacity Porta-Gantry Rapide gantry crane. The manufacturer began by selling the product, an extension to its existing Porta-Gantry Rapide range, to hire companies and is now selling direct to other resellers and end users as well. The ease and speed of assembly of the gantry, which requires no tools, are key advantages and make it particularly suitable to applications such as maintenance projects and confined space work.

Reid exhibited at Logimat to help boost international business, explained sales and marketing director Elisabeta Battersby, as part of its strategy to increase exports. The company has a distributor in Germany and is keen to make contact with other potential distributors and resellers to support their growth aspirations. In November 2019 Reid plans to be back in Germany at the A+A show, which focuses on safety, security and health at work. 

Schmalz showcased its new Jumbo Low-Stack at Logimat, a vacuum-based lifting system for picking loads from low heights.
The latest mobile order picker from TAWI features a lighter-weight arm, amongst other features.
Jaso has developed the Smartlink software system for its wire rope hoists, which allows operators easy access to pertinent data.
Stroedter’s product range includes manipulators with bespoke gripping attachments, along with rails and crane arms to hold the lifting systems.