Kempkes finishes his two-year term in September when the 31st FEM Congress meeting in Tampere, Finland will choose a new president.

Cranes and lifting equipment had always been separated in three sections – heavy lifting and handling equipment, mobile cranes and series lifting equipment. In 2004, all of the sections were reorganised into product groups. In particular, hoists were united with cranes in Lifting Equipment (EOT cranes) and hoisting equipment, a subgroup of the new working group Cranes and Lifting Equipment (which also includes tower cranes and mobile cranes sections). This sub-group is presided over by Demag Cranes and Components engineer Joachim Biewald.

“The main intention was to bring together the industry with the same, strong interest,” Kempkes says. “We have combined lifting equipment and hoisting equipment because there are so many interfaces between hoists and cranes. It makes sense to join the effort of standardisation and representation of the industry because they are facing the same problems and the same questions.”

“During the last two years the product groups could concentrate more on the technical and governmental issues than they could before when they were involved in changing the FEM structure. I would not say that the organisation is better after my tenure, but I would say it is more developed in the new structure.” The electric overhead travelling cranes and hoists sub-group currently has members from Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

“We have made this new organisation with as little manpower as possible. Business is more and more tough. We aim to be short on manpower because it is one of the biggest cost factors in the industry. Here we can say for example that through forming the new cranes and lifting equipment product group we streamlined the secretarial work and reduced the costs by about 50%.

“The FEM Cranes and Lifting Equipment is not only a successful because it is cutting costs. It is also successful in the new tasks that it is starting to manage. In the EOT group in particular, we are preparing a paper with rules for jib cranes and light cranes. We are also preparing a paper for hand-operated and power-driven hoists for special purposes, such as theatres. These papers are FEM rules which, as experience has shown over the past 20 years, are well accepted by interested experts.

“Most of the FEM documents are used as a basis for EN and ISO standards. This does not mean that it is a duplication of work – the FEM creates documents within a small and effective group of specialists and in an effective and efficient organisation that saves a lot of time for standardisation work, it is also well accepted as a basis for EN and ISO standards.

“The complicated structure that we have in EN and ISO standardisation is because there are so many more countries. We cannot make a decision or a paper that supercedes these international standards. What FEM is doing is preparing in a short, flexible way these rules with the experts which are represented in FEM. It does not have the smell of a national paper. It is already an international paper, prepared by a small international group, that can more easily be accepted by other international standardisations.

The three groups join forces. Last year, for example, the Noise Directive 2000/14/ EC, published in 2000, would have forced manufacturers to cut noise emissions by the beginning of the year. But thanks partly to the FEM’s work, an amendment to the directive excepted mobile cranes. An upcoming item is the Vibration Directive, which will affect not only mobile cranes, but drivers in cabin-driven cranes as well, Kempkes says.

“In addition to its technical work, the FEM is also a bridgehead between industry and authorities, formulating and communicating the industry’s position to European legislation. It is only composed of the lifting equipment manufacturers. But if you look back over the more than 50 years of history of the FEM, you see that the manufacturers of lifting equipment really formed rules which protected the interests not only of the manufacturers but also of customers and authorities,” Kempkes says.

“The key role of the FEM is in EU directives. The FEM cannot influence the work of the national organisations. But the work of the national organisations have to be based on EU directives. And here FEM gives input to EU directives, and is well-accepted to do so. In the next few months there is another high-level meeting with the EU Commission to exchange our views.”

Because it spans many countries, the FEM helps simplify trade and technical work in Europe. “More and more we have a common global market, and we also need to have common views and opinions. For example, some years ago we had different rope calculations in different European countries. When we delivered a crane or hoist to Italy, we had to use different ropes than in other countries. Now we have one standard that covers all of the EU. It is a big advantage for manufacturers, but also for customers, because it reduces fabrication costs in designing and stocking.”

But Kempkes says that the respective roles of national associations and the FEM may shift over time. “It is clear that we have a federal organisation structure in Europe. We need centralised joined representation for a big part of our interests which can only be done by one organisation. But there are also many tasks which are services that the national organisation offers to its national members. So I think in the future some of these tasks could be shifted to a centralised organisation like FEM, but in the future we would need national organisations as well.”

Kempkes says that changes in the structure of manufacturing may also change the FEM. “There is less and less manufacturing in Europe. But we have very good contacts in the European industry. The secretary general of the FEM is in the offices of Orgalim, which is a very big and strong European organisation of the machinery and electrical industry. FEM has close contacts with the Material Handling Industry of America in the USA. We have some contacts with the Japanese, and other smaller organisations, such as in Argentina. These links are on a case-by-case basis. Life is a constant process of change. We have to watch this and consider this in the future.”