(Springfield, OH) –Better safety, functionality and comfort are just some of the payoffs of operating a crane remotely.
A Remote Operating Station for overhead cranes was the star attraction at the recent Crane Users Conference hosted by global lifting leader Konecranes in Pittsburgh this fall. The idea of operating one or multiple cranes from a safe, central location offboard the crane, away from the crane bay and in a remote location, has always been an intriguing concept for people who make their living working with cranes. This year, 35 conference attendees in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had the opportunity to run a crane located in Houston, Texas in real time. The results were a revelation for many.
Brandon Schweiger, a 30-year old millwright mechanic and veteran crane operator who trains new hires on the heavy cranes at steel mill equipment manufacturer SMS Group’s facility near Pittsburgh saw the possibilities right away.
“I ran the crane for probably 15 or 20 minutes, because I was so interested,” related Schweiger. “I didn’t want to trust the facilitator when he said to go ahead and run it full speed into a ground mounted hand rail at the end of the bay, but when it stopped immediately with no sway or swing right at the railing and I never took my hand off the bridge master switch, that’s when I knew that it was legitimate. It made you feel as if you had a guardian angel right there with you. I’m not really into computers, but that kind of technology was amazing. I’ve never dreamed it could be possible for a crane to do that.”
Even though the crane he was operating via the Remote Operating Station was 1,337 miles away, Schweiger was able to put it through its paces with no perceptible delay.
“Everything I was doing, it was doing. When I went left, the crane went left. When I went right, the crane went right, one hundred percent of the time,” he said. “Frankly, I was speechless.”
Konecranes Remote Operating Station (ROS) features the same controls as an operator’s cabin, integrated into an ergonomic electronic desk. It has multiple armrest, master switch and desk height adjustment capabilities to suit every operator of every size, including handicap accessibility that was never available before. The ROS uses monitors displaying real-time camera views, along with crane and process-related information. It allows the cranes to be driven from a distant control room away from the crane’s operating area and without a direct line of sight to the crane. This is a real advantage in industries operating in areas that are hot, dirty or difficult to access. Iron, steel, aluminium, waste-to-energy, petrochemical and biomass are some of the industries now embracing the technology, which Konecranes can add as a retrofit to cranes built by other manufacturers.
According to Juergen Gieske, vice president, industrial crane sales for Konecranes, the advantages of operating remotely are substantial.
“Along with improving operator safety and working conditions, the ROS allows the location of the control room to be based on the plant’s needs, rather than the crane’s physical location,” says Gieske. “Facilities can save on capital expenses as there is no need for an operator’s cabin on the crane, or walkways and platforms to access it. Even better, multiple cranes can be operated from the same ROS station without the need for crane-specific operator cabins or the need for operators to be in harm’s way on the shop floor with a radio or pendant controller. An operator’s degree of freedom and safety improves as distance away from the crane increases,” he continued.
In addition to Sway Control mode, which essentially prevents the load from swinging electronically, the Konecranes SMARTON crane used in the demonstration was equipped with a number of other software and camera-based safety features designed to protect people and production.
Hook Centering automatically puts the trolley and hook in the proper position for a vertical lift without load sway, and Snag Prevention halts the crane’s lifting motion if a snagged or dragged load is detected. Protected Areas establishes no-go zones for the crane to protect people and equipment. Target Positioning is a simple pre-engineered semi-automation mode that programs the crane to head to a destination and return to the same home location for repetitive movements with the push of a button. Target Positioning was a feature that caught Schweiger’s attention.
“It could very much benefit us for the routine moves that we do with our 175-ton high-bay crane. Most of our target destinations for that crane are repetitive.”
Schweiger said that after using the Remote Operating Station, he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others.
“I definitely would recommend it. This technology is something that could prevent numerous accidents and fatalities, and help build confidence in crane operators–especially young operators. I take my role as a trainer very seriously. I can’t hold their hand and run the crane for them, but features like Target Positioning, Sway Control, Snag Prevention and Load Centering have the potential to build confidence in operators of all ages.”
According to Juergen Gieske, hands-on demonstrations of Konecranes Remote Operating Station and the associated Safe Features found on the 20-ton SMARTON crane are always available at the company’s Houston facility. The ROS sits in the office area and camera views efficiently take the place of being in the crane bay a few hundred feet away.
“From 1,300 miles away or 100 yards away, the idea is the same,” says Gieske. “You don’t have to see the crane, to operate the crane. We’d like to invite anyone interested in the potential offered by the Remote Operating Station to come to Houston and experience it first-hand. Just give us a call.”
Interested parties can contact Juergen Gieske at 262-853-2062 to schedule a demonstration.
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Amulya Raghuveer, Marketing and Communications Manager,
Konecranes Region Americas
[email protected] or 937.525.5533.
About Konecranes, Inc.
Konecranes is a world-leading group of Lifting Businesses™, serving a broad range of customers, including manufacturing and process industries, shipyards, ports and terminals. Konecranes provides productivity enhancing lifting solutions as well as services for lifting equipment of all makes. The Group has 18,000 employees at 600 locations in 50 countries. Konecranes class A shares are listed on the Nasdaq Helsinki (symbol: KCR).