Over the past 10 years manufacturers have seen demand grow for chain hoists and lifting applications from items for occasional lifts to being used extensively within the industry. As a result of this growth, companies are beginning to expand, for example, Liftket Hoffmann, manufacturer of electric chain hoists, near Leipzig, Germany, has opened a UK branch and Hoist & Winch, UK industrial lifting equipment supplies, is looking to further expand its product sales, online presence, export business and project engineering.

Liftket is possibly the first chain hoist manufacturer to enter the UK market in quite a few years, establishing itself in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, to reduce delivery times on its hoists and spare parts, hiring Barry Williams as GM and John Jones, as director of sales, who between them have experience working with Verlinde GIS, CM Lodestar and Yale hoists.

“I sold Lift Turn Move to GIS three years ago, the contract stopped me returning to work immediately and everyone said I was retiring but I was not sure even then. I was delighted when I spoke with Jurgen Dlugi of Liftket in Germany, and he was interested in setting up a UK company to sell its range of Liftket Electric Chain Hoists,” said Jones.

“I have been involved in lifting since 1973 with Verlinde Hoists in the UK.

“I have seen chain hoists grow from items used for occasional lifts to being used extensively now. I also grew up with entertainment chain hoists from the early days in the 1970’s at Verlinde to being involved in some huge jobs in arenas and large tours including the last Ed Sheeran and Adele tours.

“Liftket has worked for years with Harrison Fabrications but clients seem to be excited that the biggest producer of Chain hoists in Europe finally has its own base in the UK. We offer hoists up to 24t capacity and 200m lift.”

In the future, and regarding an emphasis on sustainability, Jones does not think the lifting attachment products will change massively because ‘to lift a certain load at a certain speed you need a motor of a certain size – that is physics’. “But the manufacturing processes and the business behind the supply chain is certainly changing. Liftket and its competitors launch different products with electronic controls and variable speeds but the core client seems to want a simple hoist, 1 or 2 speeds at a reasonable price,” he said.

Hoist & Winch manages the supply and installation of standard and explosion-proof air-powered/electric hoists, as well as hoist hire, and works in many industries including: heavy construction, cement production, petrochemical, offshore, marine, mining and tunnelling. Despite having a hire and workshop facility in Alcester in the UK, a notable part of the business is exporting to Africa, Asia, Australia, Central Europe, the Middle East and South America: from spare parts and small items, up to complete packages of lifting equipment comprising powered/manual hoists, overhead cranes and ancillaries and it is looking to further expand its product sales, online presence, export business and project engineering.

Other services include the design, supply, installation, testing and LOLER certification of hoist runway monorail beams, and light crane and monorail profile tracks (up to 2000 kg safe working load).

In terms of new technology, Will Dunn, CEO, Lifting Equipment Store, says it is seeing a lot of interest in load balancing equipment and monitoring advancements like Bluetooth load cells.

“Since we have all become more conditioned to think about health and safety, these safety focused products are becoming ever more the focus of manufacturers in our industry. Heavy lifting and rigging dates back thousands of years in history – the essentials are already there and have been for a very long time, but now it’s about refinement and how these companies can engineer lifting and rigging equipment to be safer and more productive, we’re seeing many products redesigned to be better, faster, stronger and safer with focus also paid to sustainability and a reduction in production costs as the price of raw materials skyrockets.

“In the future expect to see more load monitoring technology built into the products we use every day, overload sensors and markers being built into more standard rigging like slings and shackles, hopefully bringing them back to being a re-useable item in the field once again. Expect more cranes to be converted to radio control for the purpose of being able to safely distance from the load at all times and be ready for the era of remote-controlled lifting clamps. There are a couple of brands on the market right now and I’m excited to see this kind of technology eventually go mainstream with the traditional clamp manufacturers.”

One example is The Crosby Group, which has launched an updated version of its HHP Bluetooth App for monitoring loads in several additional applications. Initially launched in 2018, the app connects to its Bluetooth load cells with a wireless range of 100 meters or 328ft.

“We appreciate our network of partners in the industry who have worked with us to bring this next-gen HHP app to life and continue our shared journey of delivering innovative solutions to enhance safety and productivity at job sites,” said Thomas Dietvorst, director, Technology Solutions, The Crosby Group.

The updated version allows the app to connect wirelessly to up to four Bluetooth load cells on a single smartphone, versus one with the previous version, following demand from customers. Another feature is the capability to set a lift threshold; when that is triggered the lift is effectively counted. In other words, if a user has two cranes working alongside each other, they could see how many lifts per day each one has completed and what the productivity is.

The app now includes an analogue load indicator on the main screen and is offered in English, Dutch, Spanish, Norwegian, Japanese, and Chinese. It also adds GPS coordinates into data logging reports and features updated overload and warning alarms to accommodate manual value entries.

The HHP app is predominately used with the Bluelink, ChainSafe, and Towcell load cells, Bluelink first introduced Bluetooth technology to users previously utilising outdated mechanical force measurement.

In terms of new technology, Rope & Sling (RSS) is no stranger to Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and tracks every item of its lifting and rigging equipment from shackle, hook, sling, and harness with a tag that can be read by a smart device to capture inspection and location details on an app.

Motion Software’s Kinetic system is a third-generation package, built with user configuration and mobility in mind. These RFID tags work in harsh environments with excessive dirt, dust, moisture, and extreme temperatures and the technology is changing the way lifting and rigging gear is inspected and monitored.

“Many sites used to be dictated to only by the requirements of LOLER [Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998] to inspect and document equipment periodically — six-monthly, for example. However, by utilising RFID technology, sites are driving this down to monthly, weekly, and daily tracking procedures,” said Tony Teeder, regional account director, Midlands, London and South, RSS.

“The system shrinks the time from inspection to final report, while automatic alerts and updates make sure you never miss an inspection. All equipment can be easily referenced against relevant legislation, and inspection renewals are tracked. Reports can be built with a unique app builder.”

Much of the equipment RSS supplies is already fitted with RFID chips, but they can be added to webslings and roundslings, if they are not already present. Such tracking is valuable to end users on items such as Crosby’s shackles.

“RFID tags are important to the industry as it’s unique. Over the course of the last 10-15 years it’s been dabbled in by a lot of companies. But, never actually done properly. Or they just gave up and reverted back to how they always reported their inspections. Now we have the technology to do this via an app-based system and it’s completely paperless for end users to carry out daily and weekly pre use checks. And they receive a weekly report with all equipment used during that week. So end users can also identify any potential faults and quarantine the defective equipment immediately,” said Teeder.

“There are many different tags available. In various shapes and sizes. We’re now getting RFID tags sewn into Endless Roundslings and duplex webbing slings with the help of Unitex group. We are now getting shackles from Crosby group with RFID tags already installed. which makes our job even easier. Chain slings are also coming in with RFID metal tag already attached as well. So, before any equipment leaves any RSS groups locations. The piece of lifting equipment will have an RFID tag, correct colour code system as per our customers’ requirements and pre-loaded onto the online system. Before anything is delivered to any project in the UK.

“A lot of companies are now putting this as best practice across their projects especially for the likes of HS2 and Thames Tideway projects to name a few. It’s great to be involved with such projects and pushing the boundaries of innovation by collaborating on major construction and infrastructure projects. This will only benefit RSS going forward and keeps our competitors at arm’s length whilst we develop the system further to cater for all of our customers.”

Yoke Industrial Corp. is another company now supplying shackles embedded with RFID chips from 1/2” up to 4” for pre-use inspection, via its NFC (Near-Field Communication) mobile and reader system.

Yoke RFID SupraBlue tag technology has created a practical system for everyone with a mobile device or industry standard RFID reader to follow a simple step-by-step pre-use inspection and verification programme. Its standard 13.56Mhz chips can be found in products including 1.5t shackles, 6mm chain slings, 2t snatch block, swivels and 8mm lifting points.

“We announced the technology at the end of 2021 to offer users a more complete range of shackles for RFID solutions. The industry has been struggling for years to offer users in the field easy access to pre-use inspection systems (traditionally the inspection records were filed on paper), visibility of safe use instructions and previous certification, as well as identifying the status and location of their rigging equipment,” says Mandy Liao, marketing executive, Yoke Industrial Corp.

“This year we plan to expand our portfolio with products embedded with RFID chips from our Yellow Point series to Shackles (both screw pin and bolt pin type) and Yellow Snatch Block series.”