SGL Carbon, LLC, a division of SGL Group, is a manufacturer of carbon-based products. The company converts carbon into graphite for an ever-evolving roster of products including semiconductors, chemicals, railroad wheels, drill bits and continuous castings.
The company owns 13 CMAA Class E overhead cranes ranging in age from 50 to 75 years, engineered for continuous use in a harsh environment. Built by P&H™, the 10 and 15-ton cranes are massive by today’s standards, with structures comparable to modern 50 to 100-ton cranes. The structures were sound, but SGL was having problems with the 1940s-era contactor controls and parts that were increasingly hard to find.
“Controls on the oldest crane were fingerboards, essentially a 4-inch by 4-inch block of wood with brass fingers on it – completely archaic,” said SGL’s engineering and maintenance manager Cory Kilby. Although parts were still available, the trolley itself was bent and binding.
Upgrading older cranes with a modern service approach
Jon Travis, Konecranes branch manager, Charlotte, N.C., reached out to Tripp Harper, operations service manager at SGL, and learned that the company was actively seeking proposals to upgrade their problem crane. As OEM for P&H™ with all of the original drawings on file, Konecranes was in a unique position to offer ideas, which included a new trolley structure and an upgrade to variable frequency drive (VFD) controls.
Cabs were augmented by primary radio controls that allowed the operator to have a better view of production. Old-style load brakes were converted to modern hydraulic alternatives with instantaneous response. The new brakes eliminated downtime, reduced wear on the drum, and improved brake life. According to Harper, the amount of maintenance technicians now perform to maintain proper braking has been reduced to nearly nothing.
“We looked at upgrading this crane with another vendor and the price was significantly more – hundreds of thousands of dollars more,” says Harper. “Konecranes Jon Travis thought outside the box to find specific upgrades that we could afford and would fit into our budget.”
“Other crane companies will usually tell you to replace the crane. Konecranes doesn’t do that. They know their cranes and understand how to engineer an upgrade to make them usable and reliable without spending a huge amount of capital money. We expect to get another 70 years out of this crane, which creates a lot of value for us", says Cory Kilby, Engineering and Maintenance Manager.