Efficiency & ProductivityTechnology

Remote Crane Monitoring, Now And The Future: What Users Need To Know

Remote monitoring of overhead cranes and the function of their components is — like many other consumer and commercial technologies — poised to become far more commonplace. Just like camera-equipped doorbells whose video is accessible wirelessly, the technologies that leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to collect crane status data and share it with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) via Cloud computing for analysis are becoming increasingly more affordable — and of vastly better quality than ever before. That makes the opportunity to mine crane information to more precisely predict maintenance activities significantly more advantageous. Remote monitoring offers particular importance for operations whose cranes are in continuous service, or are mission-critical to daily operations.

That’s not to say that such data isn’t available today. It is. It just cannot be accessed remotely, via the Internet.

Instead, an authorized technician must physically connect a laptop or tablet to the crane and hoist to access the current technology that resides “on board” the equipment. This batch download provides actual load histograms, including of the magnitude of the load, duration of travel, contactor switch functions, operation and total operating hours for the individual motions. Downloaded information can be used to compare against actual design standards, as well as tracked to identify trends. The resulting comparison can be used to predict more accurate timing of required maintenance activities. Additionally, vibration and temperature sensors can collect information about specific components within the crane and hoist, and error codes can be transmitted.

One advantage of remote crane monitoring is that data collection is continuous. This enables trends to be identified more quickly, as well as presents an opportunity for real-time technical support should an error or fault occur. An operation can get expert assistance from the manufacturer without waiting for downtime associated with travel. Or, a crane-mounted camera — or even a drone — can be used for a visual inspection, with video transmitted to a remotely located technician.

Further, remote monitoring allows OEMs to collect data about multiple crane installations. Information can be aggregated and analyzed to detect patterns of wear. The same IoT system can also be used to push firmware and software updates to a crane’s variable frequency drives (VFDs), electric (EC) motors, or programmable logic controllers (PLCs) as they become available, rather than waiting for a routinely scheduled service appointment. This enables an operation to utilize additional features sooner than they would otherwise be able to do so. And, ultimately, with remote monitoring a crane may even be able to tell its owners when it needs service, or how much time remains before a specific component must be replaced, eliminating costly and unplanned downtime.

The members of the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA) represent the industry’s leading suppliers of overhead crane systems. They design, manufacture, assemble, install and service overhead cranes and components. CMAA members, with the combined experience of more than 30,000 crane installations in North America in the last decade, are committed to providing products which focus on safety and innovation. The organization offers a variety of resources — including buyers’ guides, engineering specifications, OSHA Alliance safety tip and fact sheets, inspection and maintenance checklists, safety seminars and more — via its website at www.MHI.org/CMAA.