Standing Firm

21 November 2022


Process cranes combine automated technology with overhead cranes to handle heavy duty loads and streamline working procedures. The two largest end-user sectors are metal and mining followed by manufacturing, automotive, and the utility sectors. Jenny Eagle investigates.

The main reason driving the growth of the global overhead cranes market is the rising automation of different tasks in the industrial sector. The advantages of overhead cranes and advancements in crane technology are encouraging industries to employ these cranes. Process cranes also guarantee 100% safe operations when handling large goods, says Market Research Future (MRFR), ‘Overhead Cranes Market Information by Product, End-User and Region - Forecast 2028’, stating the market is estimated to grow at a 4.6% CAGR to reach $7.12bn by 2028.

Another significant element driving demand for overhead cranes is the swift expansion of several end-user industries, including the automotive, mining, iron and steel, and warehousing sectors, among others. The global market for overhead cranes is expanding as a result of the rising governmental and private expenditures made in these sectors’ modernization.

The report states the technology of cranes has advanced quickly. The production costs of items have benefitted from increased overhead crane automation. Because they are significantly more effective and affordable than lifting cranes, these cranes are still a common choice. The market for overhead cranes is expanding as a result of the increase in public expenditure in the construction of infrastructure. To improve the output produced by industrial processes, numerous actors are using new digitalization technologies in industrial settings as part of the Industry 4.0 initiative. The need for overhead cranes with electronic controls has increased as a result.

As an example, Demag recently partnered with logistics provider Vollers, which invested in a new infrastructure at its Port of Amsterdam site. Designed for storing cocoa beans, HoogTij port terminal went operational just a short time ago and now three fully automated Demag process cranes handle the tropical seeds.

Amsterdam is home to the second largest port in the Netherlands, after Rotterdam. In Europe, it ranks sixth. More than 20% of the international cocoa harvest is handled right here on the North Sea Canal, where the Amstel river and the IJ bay flow into the IJsselmeer. That makes Amsterdam the biggest cocoa port in the world.

A significant proportion of this volume is handled by Vollers Holland, part of the Vollers Group founded in Bremen, Germany 90 years ago. With a team of 320 employees and 13 locations across Europe, the owner-managed company is one of the most experienced logistics specialists for transport, storage and processing of green coffee and cocoa in Europe.

Vollers uses a large part of its 120,000m² warehouse facilities to store the cocoa beans. This requires great care to ensure the natural product can later be processed and turned into cocoa mass, powder and butter.

Yet, the logistics provider’s range of services extends beyond handling the sensitive raw material. Vollers also offers value-added services like cleaning and blending cocoa beans, as well as pest control.

With the newly built terminal adding 75,000 tons, Vollers now boasts a bulk capacity of 250,000 tons in Amsterdam.

To put the new storage facility into perspective: 75,000 tons of cocoa beans equals 1.5 billion bars of chocolate. Most of the goods are shipped to Europe in containers and by sea – mainly from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon in West Africa. After the vessels are unloaded by crane, the produce is moved with mobile conveyor belts.

Trucks are also employed to transport containers on additional routes. The conveyors deliver the goods to the storage bays, where a feeder bridge operating on a track underneath the crane level then feeds them to the designated compartments.

The output conveyor installed on the feeder bridge minimizes the drop height, which helps to ensure gentle handling of the valuable goods.

The recently built HoogTij cocoa bean storage terminal comprises three quayside hall complexes, each measuring up to some 150m in length. The halls have up to 11 storage compartments featuring concrete walls that measure 10 metres in height. This arrangement ensures various grades of cocoa can be stored separately.

The cocoa beans are retrieved in each hall by a fully automated process crane. The cranes also perform tasks such as storing and retrieving as well as blending and ventilating the goods.

Vollers’ project management team and Demag collaborated to engineer the automated material flow concept that is the basis of the crane system control to ensure it meets the requirements for efficient and cost-effective material handling with a high level of system transparency.

The three fully automated process cranes each have a load capacity of 17 tons. In the three stores, they operate on crane runways measuring 150m in length with a span of 37 metres covering the individual storage compartments.

Each crane can retrieve 200 tons of raw materials per hour. To achieve this, the process crane approaches the storage compartment assigned by the system according to the store supervisors to pick up the specified quantity. Besides retrieving specific grades, the crane and conveyor system can create carefully selected blends. The positions of the cranes and the feeder bridges are also managed to ensure that any collisions can be avoided.

To ensure the processes are completed swiftly, the cranes reach long and cross-travel speeds of up to 80 m/min with a maximum lifting speed of 45 m/min – or 70 m/min for partial loads.

The cocoa beans in the store are gently picked up with a motor-powered clamshell grab. Boasting a capacity of 14 sqm, the grab is operated with a hydraulic control system featuring magnetic valves.

Despite its impressive dimensions and high load capacity, the grab can be used for reliably weighing and handling smaller quantities. The quantities are continuously monitored and logged by the calibrated weighing system installed on the trolleys.

Demag uses Dedrive-Pro 880 inverters in all motion axes to facilitate variable travel, lifting and lowering. This provides for gentler handling and greater precision in positioning thanks to smoother acceleration and braking motions as well as reduced oscillation during transport. Moreover, electrical braking reduces wear on the mechanical components, as speed adjustments are made pre-emptively.

The industrial drive solutions by Demag featuring ZBA motors and travel wheels ensure the process cranes travel with exceptional smoothness that is gentle on the runways.

Crane and travelling hoist positioning is continuously monitored by a long and cross-travel position measuring system, and data is transmitted to the bunker management system.

For retrieval, the crane picks the cocoa beans up with its large-volume grab and transports them to an output hopper. This is designed to prevent unnecessary dust. The cranes also utilise a multi-step opening method to raise less dust when they feed the hoppers. In addition, this method also ensures that the valuable and sensitive product is deposited very gently. The cocoa beans are transported to the loading points for trucks or barges via conveyor belts.

This facilitates both on-time loading of the hoppers and transparent inventory management. Scanner systems were installed on the crane system to measure the height of the bulk goods. Scanners fitted below the crane bridge continuously track the height contours in each area of the bunker area. The software in the crane control centre uses the information to determine a precise height profile and visualises the fill levels in all storage areas, including the minimum and maximum amounts.

The stored fill level values prevent the grab from touching down hard on the bulk heap with a slack rope, further minimizing any damage to the husks when the stored product is handled and transported.

The control centre shows the current status of the crane with all relevant status messages. Customer-specific storage strategies can be added via the user-friendly interface at any time.

Each crane features a touch panel and a 7” display installed in the switchgear cabinet door. For system diagnostics, current operating and error messages are displayed in the order received, simplifying service work. Technicians can safely and conveniently carry out maintenance and any repair work from a walkway along the crane girder.

The integration of the three cranes into the existing bunker management system increases efficiency and transparency in managing the inventory. Demag realised crane communication with third-party programs for conveyors and output hoppers. The crane control and automation systems are optimised for operation with demanding and sensitive loads in a dusty environment at Vollers Holland and provide data on the system status, storage volume and operating processes in real time.

At the request of the customer, the grab has attachment points for other loads as a special feature. At Vollers, this enables the crane to lift a mini excavator into individual storage compartments to sweep them clean once emptied.

A few months after commissioning the crane-operated terminal, impressions at Vollers are resoundingly positive. In the first nine months of operation alone, 80,000 tons of cocoa beans have been placed into storage. The automated material handling system with the three process cranes is reliable and ensures smooth material flow.

Jaso has a longstanding relationship with Irizar Forge, where since 2002 it has supplied 10 cranes to the company, and in return, Irizar has manufactured crane components for Jaso, being one of its main hook suppliers.

The fleet of cranes at Irizar Forge include: a 32t, 16,220-metre span double-girder crane; a 12.5t, 14,010-metre span double-girder crane; 32t, 14,010-metre-long double-girder crane; two 1.6t, 6-metrespan single-girder semi-gantry crane; a 5t, 13,995-span single-girder crane; 12.5t, 16,520-metre-long double-girder crane; 6.3t, 10,525-metre-long double-girder crane; 5/2.5-ton double-girder crane with a span of 11,870 metres and an 18t double-girder crane with a span of 16,220 metres.

Among all of them, the 29.5-metre, 18t, 16,220-metre span double girder crane with a special open trolley, and integrated in its forging manipulator, stands out.

Its main function is to manipulate steel parts at 1,200ºC while they are being forged in the presses. This crane has been designed to withstand the extreme conditions of a forge.

The main feature of the forging manipulator is its maneuverability in confined spaces, as it is capable of multi-axis movements. This double girder crane is dimensioned to withstand the high reactions that are generated due to the fact that the weight of the piece is far away from the vertical axis of the manipulator.

In addition, it is also used to transport materials weighing up to 18 tons between the furnaces and the presses.

In short, Irizar Forge is a special case in the Jaso Industrial Cranes portfolio: in addition to being customers, they are also responsible for supplying hooks for their equipment. A long-standing symbiotic relationship that demonstrates that both companies have high-end, robust, and long-lasting equipment.

ABUS recently announced its overhead travelling cranes are being used in flat and long steel distribution in Brazil.

Flat and long steel is used as a raw material for the production of machines, parts and tools in the majority of Brazilian industries. These materials are indispensable in the furniture industry, road construction, mechanical engineering, agricultural machinery and in the maintenance and repair in various industries in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Sidersul, a company based in this region and active in the steel market for well over 40 years, is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Miguel Gonçalves, partner at Sidersul, says the guiding principle for his business is always the total satisfaction of his customers.

“We achieve this through fast deliveries and prefabricated materials. This is the reason why we always have to be up-to-date, both in terms of our knowhow and our workforce. This includes new technologies in production but also the procurement of more modern work equipment,“ he said.

There are more than 3,500 different types of steel worldwide. These are classified according to their shape among other things such as flat steels and long steels, etc. A wide range of market segments can be efficiently served with a variety of these formats whereby each steel grade is usually used in several areas.

Sidersul supplies companies in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. Sidersul distributes steel in general and supplies the market with sheets, beams, and tubes, with round, square and hexagonal steels that can be rolled or drawn, and provides also flat steel and angle iron.

Gonçalves explains that the steel market generally experienced high growth rates during the Covid pandemic and adds that both purchase volumes and prices increased significantly.

“We see the need to expand in the thick plate sector, a material where we are seeing strong growth thanks to the acquisition of more plasma cutting machines,” he explains.

“The ABUS EOT cranes installed by Eidt-Ciriex help us a lot as they speed up the distribution and the transport of steel bars and plates whether for feeding the machines or for loading and unloading of the lorries.

“We chose the ABUS cranes from Eidt- Ciriex because we have great confidence in this brand which has been with us for a long time. These cranes are compact lifting devices with low maintenance costs in relation to the required working capacity. We are already using six overhead travelling cranes and are very satisfied with our latest acquisition.”

Today Sidersul has three overhead travelling cranes in operation where the original hoists have been replaced by compact ABUS electric wire rope hoists and also operates two ABUS single girder EOT cranes with 5 and 6.3 tons SWL respectively.

Inside one of the three stores: a 150m long crane runway with 37m span
Three quayside stores of identical structure with storage capacity for 75,000 tons of cocoa beans
The Jaso cranes in operation at the Irizar Forge plant.
The Jaso cranes in operation at the Irizar Forge plant.
ABUS overhead travelling cranes are used in steel production in Brazil.
ABUS overhead travelling cranes.