Northern heights18 September 2019
John Bensalhia takes a look at the North American hoist market, and reports on its notable projects, products and innovations.
Hoist manufacturers say that a number of factors are influencing the US market. For example, the state of the international economy has had some bearing on performance, as Columbus McKinnon’s executive director of sales Steve Vitello explains. “Markets seem to be constricting due to international economic volatility.” However, Vitello adds that capital projects are still moving forward and that corollary spending has been robust.
More positive news is that Columbus McKinnon’s share in North America is, as Vitello comments: “high and pretty evenly spread across our portfolio. Some of our specialised products, i.e for oil and gas, have been following the trending of that vertical.”
Dan Beilfuss, director of sales at Magnetek Material Handling and North America Wire Rope Hoist, adds that while the overall picture is optimistic, there are still possible concerns with performance for the rest of 2019. “Growth potential exists for expansion into new markets. While strong capital spending has been attributed to the robust market environment, concerns exist for a potential slowdown throughout the remainder of the year.”
However, Jeff McNeil, VP marketing and innovation at Gorbel, says that the last few years have been very solid as companies continue to look for ways to improve processes in order to be more efficient. “In most areas, demand has been brisk as companies work to keep up with production in order to meet the requirements of their customers. These have led them to re-think traditional processes, and many times, the new process involves the use of an electric chain hoist. This is true whether the lift involves a light load or many tons— efficiency is the goal.”
McNeil explains that one of the positive things about the hoist market is that hoists can be used across a wide range of industries—which in turn results in a broad spread of demand from various sectors. “No single industry drives the hoist business, but the economy as a whole can be a major factor. In the US, the economy has been strong for the past two years. This has helped to drive demand across most industries.”
The project sector has been a notable source of demand for the North American hoist market. Beilfuss says that large project-based capital spending has led the way in nearly all aspects of the market. “Steel, waste water treatment, and government spending have led the way, and there have been glimmering signs of a resurgence in oil and gas, leading to explosion-proof opportunities.”
Growth of Ingersoll Rand hoisting products has been driven by operations, maintenance and assembly environments that support the power generation industry. Hunter Golden, global product manager for Industrial Tools at Ingersoll Rand, says that its customers are seeking products that are simple, durable and flexible for a wide variety of applications. “Electric solutions are becoming increasingly popular due to their simplicity and low maintenance requirements. For example, customers like the Ingersoll Rand ELK Series Electric Chain Hoist’s simplicity, modularity and capacity range.”
The new Ingersoll Rand ELK Series Electric Chain Hoist incorporates modular features that make it easy to maintain, thus reducing the time required for maintenance and employee training. “The self-contained gearbox includes permanent lubrication and has fewer parts and complexity,” says Golden. “The hoist is available with various configurations to perfectly suit a wide range of applications.”
Another popular choice at Ingersoll Rand is the pneumatic MLK Chain Hoist, which Hunter Golden says is known for its durability and longevity. “It is rugged and reliable for harsh applications that require high speed and high duty cycles (such as steel mills or foundries).”
The MLK Chain Hoist is particularly suited for use in production cycle environments on account of its fast speed and precision. Pull chain or pilot pendant controls allow for precise spotting capabilities, and for even more pinpoint precision, slow speed models are available. Meanwhile, a selfadjusting, air-operated disc brake can stand up to more than one million cycles before it needs to be replaced.
Golden adds that another big Ingersoll Rand seller is the KM Kinetic Series Manual Hoist: “Lightweight and portable, this is used in numerous maintenance and repair applications.”
While the KM manual hoist may be lightweight, it is still designed to resist both tough environments, wear and tear, and corrosion. This durable hoist boasts a reinforced double pawl brake, complete with ample diameter pawl springs to produce an extremely reliable brake system. The KM manual hoist’s full bearing construction on load sprockets and pinion shaft also guarantees a longer lifetime for the product, while reducing the level of pull effort
Columbus McKinnon’s Yale YK and Shaw-Box SK wire rope hoists are the leaders in the North American hoisting industry. “In the upcoming year, we will be filling out these robust wire rope hoist product lines with additional options for customisation, higher lifting capacities, and safety features,” says Beilfuss.
Rather than providing separate products, Gorbel tends to offer a complete package that normally consists of a crane, trolley, and a hoist. “Numerous configurations are available, but all aim to have a full solution at the workplace in a matter of days so that the customer is up and running,” explains McNeil. “We don’t have the ‘one hoist fits all’ philosophy, but instead we concentrate on systems based on the exact needs of the customer.”
In terms of hoisting product trends in North America, McNeil notes that there is heavy reliance on the distributor or dealer when selecting the proper products for the application. “At many end-users, individuals wear so many hats that it is difficult for anyone to be an all-around expert on overhead lifting. This is why we work with the top dealers in the country. They understand our products and how they can meet the customer’s requirements with the best possible solution.”
“We have seen an increased interest in pairing crane-specific technology with our wire rope hoists, as well automation and kit cranes,” says Dan Beilfuss. “Magnetek brand Impulse variable frequency drives are smart solutions that can continuously monitor many environmental and functional components on a crane, such as motor temperature, end of travel and slow down limits, brake functionality, motor speed, and more. Continuous system monitoring reduces the potential for failures, minimises downtime, and provides additional safety.”
Columbus McKinnon’s crane kits consolidate essential crane components into plug-and-play systems that are designed to consolidate ordering requirements and reduce build time. Beilfuss explains that standard Yale YK and Shaw-Box SK crane kits are available, while additional options can be included for unique application needs. Standard crane kits include twospeed hoist and trolley, end trucks, festoons, pendant, and bridge panels featuring Magnetek brand Impulse drives.
In addition to the hoist, trolley, and crane, many customers are looking for special tooling that can be used for specific types of loads. McNeil at Gorbel says that at times, these may be relatively simple, and yet at other times, there may be considerable design work to be done in order to match the tool with the load and the positioning/lifting needs: “We work with numerous tooling experts around the country who can be relied upon to develop the proper tool for the application.”
Meanwhile, Vitello says that Columbus McKinnon is seeing a growing interest and traction in ergonomic features, asset management capability and unconventional control options. The Impulse frequency drive is another notable technological development. Powering the Yale YK and Shaw-Box SK trolley motion, Columbus McKinnon’s Magnetek brand Impulse•G+ Mini variable frequency drive expands speed adjustments, improves load control, offers high duty cycles, and increases hoist life. “The Impulse•G+ Mini offers a compact design with standard programming for basic applications or advanced programming for highperformance environments,” says Beilfuss. “Our Impulse•VG+ Series 4 variable frequency drive paired with a continuous duty hoist motor provides reliable, userfriendly control and industry-leading features to keep operators working safely.”
Beilfuss says that Impulse variable frequency drives act as the cornerstone of automated material handling systems, providing communication and diagnostic capabilities. Advanced drive features can be integrated with upper-level facility enterprise systems to provide additional functionality including workflow monitoring, material tracking, wireless data transfer, and more. “Also available, Magnetek Impulse variable frequency drive diagnostic tools provide critical information that allows end users to keep their systems up and running,” says Beilfuss.
The future for hoisting products in the North America region depends on the continuing innovation displayed by manufacturers. While the turbulent economy continues to pose challenges, meeting the core requirements of customers will hold the North American hoisting market in good stead. “My crystal ball suggests that turbulent economic times are in store for North America for the remainder of CY19 and most likely into CY2020,” says Vitello. “Product innovation and solving high value customer problems will be key to growth over the next 12 to 24 months.”
Part of the continuing innovation is to meet the evolving demands of technology. Automation and advanced systems will go hand in hand with traditional hoisting products, as well as providing a complete package of crane systems. “In the future, it is likely that we will see the increased need to combine hoisting products with monitoring systems and automated movement,” says Beilfuss. “Offering complete crane systems into new markets, with additional options for complete customisation, is also a focus, making it easy for customers to select their ideal systems.”
McNeil says there is an increasing awareness of the benefits of overhead lifting or hoisting products, which should lead to more requests for this type of equipment. “Hoists and cranes can combine for a safe, convenient means of lifting and positioning products, but they remain just one of many options for material handling.
“However, especially in applications where processes are improved considerably by the use of a hoist and a crane, users embrace the technology at a rapid rate. With education and training programmes becoming more accessible, it is expected that the demand for hoists and cranes will continue to grow.”
With the constant needs for workplace efficiency and safety, hoisting products will continue to be popular in North America. “Companies continue to focus on improving workplace safety and increasing productivity, driving demand in North America for reliable and durable lifting products to support these trends,” concludes Golden.