In a tight world economy, there is no place for unreliability. This is true of all fields, including cranes. To keep cranes ship-shape, in a constant state of readiness, and properly maintained, is no longer desirable – it is simply vital. How do you make them reliable? By introducing quality crane management. To do so, one key weapon, and a particularly effective one, is International Crane Standards. These are developed for this field by the International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee 96, Cranes, Sub Committee 5, Use, Operation and Maintenance of Cranes (ISO/TC 96, Cranes, SC5).

Anyone who has seen International Crane Standards being implemented understands the advantages that they can bring in the crane industry, and also to a good number of similar industries. These benefits are considerable: in time, money – and safety.

A win-win situation

International crane standards set up conditions under which everyone wins. Crane builders can count on producing better, higher quality products. Crane operators enjoy safer working conditions and cranes with improved ergonomics. They can rely on increased crane productivity with lower costs for use and maintenance. And business in general can expect fewer accidents, increased operational safety, and increased reliability.

Without fear of exaggeration, we can say that annual savings of between 30% and 45% are feasible with quality maintenance and the use of International Standards. You can actually see and measure costs going down when optimum use is made of resources in manpower and materials. There will inevitably be increased productivity when there are fewer failures and interruptions to production.

Proper preventive maintenance routines increase the reliability of equipment performance. Using a mandatory defect history database, combined with inspections and repairs carried out by qualified crane specialists, reduces the number of safety-related faults. By specifying qualification requirements for operators and the specialists to train them, safety is enormously improved (crane operator errors lie at the root of 73% of all crane accidents).

International Standards provide crane maintenance firms with tools to evaluate how well they are doing in meeting their customer’s requirements. From experience with crane operations in paper mills in North America and Europe, such maintenance practice has reduced maintenance cost by between 33% and 64%, while reducing failures by between 46% and 60% and safety incidents by between 33% and 97%.

Results of International Standard-level maintenance in steel mills is also impressive: maintenance costs reduced by between 28% and 56%, failures reduced by between 50% and 83% and safety incidents by between 63% and 95%. The USA’s demanding automotive industry, for example General Motors, has made some radical improvements in crane safety and has reduced maintenance costs after focusing its crane management on International Crane Standards. Annual crane defects have declined 86% and maintenance costs have declined 57% (see box story).

Impressive returns

A conservative calculation puts the number of industrial cranes and hoists operating worldwide today at nearly 10 million. On such a scale it is barely surprising that economies can be big when crane management programmes are fully implemented: there is potential to save an estimated $3 billion a year. But money is not the only consideration. Throughout the world, there are increasing safety and environmental demands and regulations, and customer’s expectations are constantly on the rise. Technological developments simplify procedures and maintenance if properly channelled through International Standards.

The world market is the only one that counts in the crane industry and competition is fierce. By applying self-agreed International Standards, much of the grind is taken out of maintenance work with standard components and procedures.

A modern comprehensive crane maintenance programme pays substantial dividends when it is congruent with International Standards.

International Standards lead to higher quality which, in turn, means greater reliability and enhanced customer satisfaction, giving those that apply them an all-round image of a professional global service provider. To become – and to remain – a successful service provider means paying special attention to developing and maintaining services that follow global requirements. This gives the assurance that you are on the right track, at present and for the future.

Winning strategy

There are three basic approaches to crane maintenance: maintenance by in-house crews; service contract by the manufacturer; and service contract by a third party crane maintenance organisation. All three approaches are appropriate if personnel have sufficient knowledge of both cranes and maintenance. The best investment is in the organisation that can do the most things right at the right price. Payback can be significant.

All the elements necessary for building a world-class crane management programme are included in the International Standards, even though the design and execution of such a programme will still have to be coordinated by the plant maintenance organisation or an outside group contracted to handle the responsibility.

The comprehensive crane maintenance programme will include crane inspection and evaluation by knowledgeable engineers, preventive maintenance tasks done by operators and maintenance specialists, predictive maintenance technologies, and computerised maintenance management systems.

One approach, by CranePartner International, has three major elements: inspection; maintenance; and continuous improvement. Information gathered from these processes is fed into a data bank. The inspection is carried out by an engineer, sometimes assisted by experienced technicians, investigating structural, mechanical and electrical component and machinery conditions, lifting and travelling speeds, tolerances, temperatures, overloading, insulation and safety aspects are verified.

Maintenance operations include the normal good practice of work-order-based planning and scheduling carried out by experienced technicians. Crane operators handle some basic procedures. The continuous improvement effort typically includes input and assessment by crane experts and engineers, based on a review of the crane management database and actual operating conditions, to analyse and optimise crane utilisation.

Gathering knowledge

Comprehensive knowledge of crane operation and maintenance is difficult to obtain. Pockets of excellence exist in crane builder and crane user companies and organisations around the world. Promising efforts have been made by ISO/TC96 to harmonise these pockets of excellence, by taking the best knowledge and practice for designing, building, installing, operating and maintaining cranes, and bringing them all together. One of the most valuable committee activities for maintenance organisations is the standard for condition monitoring.

ISO/TC 96 is working on standardisation in the field of cranes, lifting appliances, and related equipment, particularly general design procedures, terminology, classification, load rating, safe use, maintenance, inspections and condition monitoring, manuals, crane selection, etc. There are nine sub committees with delegates representing national standards groups from 24 countries. Sub committees are: SC1, design procedures; SC2, terminology; SC3, selection of wire ropes; SC4, test methods; SC5, use, operation, and maintenance; SC6, mobile cranes; SC7, tower cranes; SC8, jib cranes; and SC9, bridge and gantry cranes.