Entertainment hoist Q&A28 September 2023
We speak to Nick Fleming, business development specialist at Columbus McKinnon, and Erich Widmer, sales and marketing manager at GIS, about every aspect of entertainment hoists.
HOW DOES AN ENTERTAINMENT HOIST DIFFER FROM HOISTS USED IN OTHER SECTORS?
Nick Fleming: Entertainment hoists are similar to industrial products in terms of componentry, but the biggest difference is how the hoists are utilised. Entertainment hoists are typically deployed temporarily. For example, a touring show may install and strike [set deconstruction] in multiple locations throughout a tour season. In that type of application, the hoist is attached to the load instead of the anchor like in most industrial applications. That way, installing and striking the show can happen much faster. Having a hoist that can operate both in motor up (hoist body to the anchor) or motor down (hoist body attached the load) is also important, and Columbus McKinnon’s entertainment hoists allow for use in either situation.
Erich Widmer: As a matter of principle, we manufacture all of our chain hoists in accordance with the machine directive DIN EN 14492-2. For holding or moving loads above people as requested in the entertainment industry we further follow country-specific regulations like, for example, the German regulation SQP2 or the European regulation EN17206. Compliance with this requirement can include, among other things, the installation of a second brake, a path or load measurement or the consideration of a higher safety factors of the chain or the parts in the line of the load.
[Other things to note include] a black hoist and chain; enough power reserve of the motor (stator) to allow group drives with synchronous lifting speed; direct and low-voltage controlled application depending on the group controller; in the entertainment area, the electric chain hoist (motor) can be suspended stationary from the ceiling or as motor down used as a climbing execution – with our chain hoists we have made it a point of importance that the type of suspension can be changed without further modification; greater lifting heights, but fewer work cycles; rarely in operation under full load (exception: D8 [regulation applications).
WHAT ARE THE LATEST TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT HOIST SECTOR?
EW: Frequency drive and modular-built electric chain hoists (motors) to fulfil all requests according to the entertainment standard EN17206
NF: Automation is a driving force for technological trends in the entertainment sector. Bigger, more impressive shows are put together every year with more elaborate set-ups, so there is always an exciting push to see how many automated functions can be added to our hoists – things like faster ramp-up, more precise positioning or better load monitoring capabilities.
WHAT NEW DEMANDS ARE CUSTOMERS PLACING ON THE PERFORMANCE OF ENTERTAINMENT HOISTS?
EW: Based on the standard applied, the chain hoists must be light, robust, durable, quiet and modularly built; increasing demand of variable speed hoists for moving loads over people; and heavier loads – for, for example, huge display screens.
NF: With shows becoming more elaborate each year, reliable feedback is key. For instance, if an encoder cannot read the correct revolutions for hoist positioning because a component wasn’t machined correctly, that could cause a show to go down or worse.
WHAT SHOULD A CUSTOMER LOOK OUT FOR BEFORE BUYING AN ENTERTAINMENT HOIST?
EW: A manufacturer who can give fast support and offers a brand that is wellknown in the market; the hoist is delivered with a certificate that shows the safety regulations that are fulfilled; the delivery times of the supplier to order in time; spare parts availability at short term; service availability.
NF: Often, end users consider the hoist’s main function to lift and lower a load, but they sometimes forget to consider the surrounding environment. Environments, for example, on a beach, would require considerations for proper IP ratings or salt spray tests. If performers work underneath a raised load, does the venue require the hoist to be D8+ or need secondary securement? These are a few examples of how the surrounding environment can factor into a purchasing decision.
OF THOSE CRITERIA, WHICH IS THE MOST IMPORTANT?
NF: There are a lot of different hoists that are capable of lifting and lowering loads, and often, end users weigh reputation as an important criterion. As the saying goes, “the show must go on”, so end users want to have confidence that the product will work night after night. If it doesn’t, there is a quick fix to get it back up and running with minimal delay. Having a robust product with a proven track is key. Plus, by backing that durability with a great service and support network both domestically and internationally will ensure the show will always go on.
EW: Safety first, because there are people under the load.
WHEN IT COMES TO MAINTENANCE, WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AN ENTERTAINMENT HOIST AND HOISTS THAT OPERATE IN DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS?
NF: Entertainment has a specific maintenance requirement, as called out in ANSI E1.6-2. Industrial follows ASME B.30-16. These two standards are similar but more closely align with the two separate industries.
EW: The intensity of use is much higher for industrial chain hoists, as they are in operation for the entire working day, depending on the application. In addition, industrial chain hoists are used more frequently under full load and in higher duty classes. This places greater stress on the motor, the control system, and also the wear parts. There is also a longer chain [for entertainment hoists] to check for wear and tear.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A HOIST FAILS DURING A PERFORMANCE?
NF: Safety is always the top priority in the entertainment industry, and it is important to recognise the steps end users can take to ensure their safety. From proper hoist certifications to additional redundancies built into systems in case of failure, to the safety training the riggers receive from Columbus McKinnon and other equipment manufacturers, most end users go to great lengths to maintain a safe environment.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST-SELLING ENTERTAINMENT HOIST AND WHAT DO CUSTOMERS MOST LIKE ABOUT IT?
NF: Our CM Lodestar Classic is our top performer, as it has been for decades now. Its durability and reliability have been industry staples since the 1980s. There is such a large install base of Classic Lodestars in the entertainment market, which allows for great flexibility among shows. It enables shows to expand their fleet through sub-renting without changing brands or types of hoists. The Lodestar is also still in high demand due to the large number of riggers that have been through our training programmes. Not only are riggers comfortable using these hoists in the field, many of them are trained to inspect and repair the units to keep them running at optimum levels.
EW: We sell most chain hoists for the lower-capacity ranges, as there is a higher demand and more application areas for these hoists. Our electric chain hoist types LPM250 D8+ for 250kg and LP500 D8+ for 500kg are the ones we sell the most as these offer a very good ratio between their dead weight and lifting capacity and can be used for a wide range of applications.