How tech can aid crane safety
By Niamh Marriott14 April 2023
The latest innovations with crane technology are improving the planning, execution and analysis of lifting work, leading to more efficient ways of working. Niamh Marriott reports.
The rise of BIM (building information modelling) and computer aided design for construction projects has encouraged companies to think about digital assets and what can aid the safety and efficiency of lifting work.
Global heavy lifting and transport company Mammoet has introduced its Move 3D project planning tool which can import maps, engineering drawings and other imaging data to build up a 3D visualisation of a construction site, and the lifting work required, prior to any actual work taking place.
New technology is improving remote maintenance, particularly when it comes to offshore lifting work.
One of the latest developments is Liebherr’s LiMain maintenance system, which was recently chosen by Dutch oil and gas company ONE-Dyas for its new RL 2600 ram luffing crane. With the Liebherr system, maintenance operations can be controlled from shore as the system is fully digital, remote, and semi-automatic.
ONE-Dyas will use the system to aid in installing the first gas production platform in the North Sea to be powered entirely by electricity generated by offshore wind. The N05-A platform will run entirely on renewable energy from the nearby Riffgat offshore wind farm, which reduces the emissions to near zero.
After delivery and assembly, the platform operator can subsequently monitor and maintain the entire offshore crane fleet from the office.
Michel Mens, lead engineer at ONE-Dyas, says, “Our aim is to minimise the maintenance effort significantly but, at the same time, to ensure a service life of the crane of more than 20 years. With LiMain’s Module 4, Liebherr offers a solution that is unique on the market and precisely tailored to our crane. The ability to operate the crane remotely helps to monitor the crane’s performance and prevents unforeseen issues during the maintenance visits.”
Digital is trending
Digitisation is one of the defining megatrends in the construction and materials handling technology industry, Liebherr says.
As part of its digitisation strategy, Liebherr is working with customers to develop solutions that will enable them to carry out construction projects more economically, efficiently and safely. It offers them relevant practical knowledge on a IoT platform so they can operate their entire machine fleet digitally.
Liebherr conducted extensive interviews to gain an insight into the industry-specific challenges and concluded that very different business segments often encounter similar challenges.
It appears that construction site processes or projects cannot always be optimally co-ordinated due to missing or outdated machine information and data. This leads to inefficient machine deployment, which in turn can result in high costs and delays in project execution.
Daniel Weis, business unit manager at Weimer Group, says it would be an advantage to have more in-depth insight into the performance data of the machines. For example, what the machine utilisation is during a certain project and the level of fuel consumption.
Olaf Jansen, head of the machine technology department at Friedrich Vorwerk SE & Co, adds that there is a lack of a cross-manufacturer approach, “Because companies of our size generally have large machine fleets from a number of manufacturers, a platform where my entire fleet, including attachments, is visible and with all relevant information would be the optimal solution.”
Camera technology continues to improve and new devices are being launched to the crane market that can assist in many aspects of lifting work.
Hiab, part of Cargotec, has improved its camera system and launched HiVision 2.0 for forestry cranes, with new improvements for operating equipment from inside the truck cabin.
The camera system uses external cameras to show the crane’s surroundings, which the operator can see using virtual reality goggles inside the truck cabin. Hiab says this improves productivity, reduces the weight of the equipment and provides a more comfortable and safer working environment for the operator.
The improved camera system supports a higher frame rate as well as a better resolution and brightness to create a more natural viewing experience. It is also possible to retrofit existing forestry cranes with this version of HiVision.
“The new HiVision 2.0 reduces the issues of dizziness or blurred vision, commonly associated with the use of VR technology. The solution continues to offer improved precision, safety and a comfortable work environment,” says Davide Pernice, director of global product management of forestry at Hiab.
HiVision gives multiple views from three cameras and container landing spot information. Obstacle detection software is an additional safety feature that minimises the risk of injury to people or damage to equipment.
New technology is being used on some of the largest and most challenging sites around the world.
Anticollision technology provider AMCS Technologies has been deploying its solutions at the UK nuclear power station construction site Hinkley Point C. Its equipment is being used to manage interferences between more than fifty cranes.
Construction of the buildings to house the two Hinkley Point EPR (European pressurised reactor) technology nuclear reactors in Somerset was entrusted, by EDF to the consortium Bylor (Bouygues Travaux Publics and Laing O’Rourke).
It is a complex job site with significant technical challenges. AMCS Technologies zoning and anticollision systems DCS 61-S allow the management, in real time, of many areas of interference between the construction site. There are many cranes, including models with luffing and saddle jibs, around thirty of which are mobile.
Real time monitoring
The system shows, in 3D, the distances between each component of the cranes as well as movement speeds to ensure complete immobilisation of cranes at a pre-set distance from particular obstacles. AMCS Technologies also provides 3D jobsite supervisors to monitor in real time the activity of the cranes as well as their positions, the operation of the DCS 61-S devices installed on the site and all other relevant information such as wind speed. The SUP 61 gathers and records all information relating to the position of cranes fitted with the DCS 61-S systems.
AMCS Technologies has also equipped part of this project with additional safety products, including cameras and night aviation lights.
Commenting on this project, Radoine Bouajaj, sales director at AMCS Technologies, says, “It’s a real honour and a challenging opportunity for our company to be part of this incredible project, co-ordinating all these cranes. One of our commitments is operational excellence and we will continue to remain attentive and meet all jobsite high level requirements and share our expertise until its completion.”
Train to gain
New technology is also enhancing the training, and retraining, for crane operation. Bylor, which instructed AMCS, decided to install a CM Labs’ crane simulator on-site at Hinkley Point C.
New crane and signaller station training simulators, as part of a large, multi-crane installation, help operators hone their skills in extreme weather conditions in a virtual training simulator. The five-screen Vortex Advantage creates a full field of view and includes a dynamic motion platform – replicating the real operator experience as closely as possible.
“The client wanted to ensure they can boast the most realistic simulator in the market for training operators. CM Labs’ simulators teach transferable skills that can be applied on real equipment without risk of negative training and teaching bad habits, especially to the future of younger operators,” says Amir Khosh, commercial sales at CM Labs’ European partner, ST Engineering Antycip.
“We have been working closely with Hinkley Point C and the Bylor lifting and plant team for over two years,” says Khosh. “The client wanted to ensure they can boast the most realistic simulator in the market for training operators. This was very important, as there are simulators on the market that do not replicate the actual realistic physics of lifting equipment, which could potentially lead to real-world dangers. CM Labs’ simulators teach transferable skills that can be applied on real equipment without risk of negative training and teaching bad habits, especially to the future of younger operators.”
Operators, slinger-signallers, and construction managers train using realistic crane-related scenarios and test in high winds and poor visibility conditions – all from the safety of the simulator driving seat, using controls that are exact replicas of those found in real equipment.
There’s also a separate station where a slinger signaller can give hand signals on camera to the person operating the crane to assess how well the lifting team works and communicates together even when the operator cannot see the load.
“Simulation is the perfect environment for challenging projects where training is difficult, unsafe, or expensive,” adds Alan Limoges, product manager for the CM Labs construction division.
Operators can log the hours spent on the equipment towards official logbooks. The system can run training modules for a flat top tower crane, a luffing tower crane, a crawler crane, a rough terrain mobile crane, and an overhead traveling gantry crane.
Francois Swanepoel, Bylor lifting lead, says, “We can set up scenarios where operators start a task in good conditions, but then we make it snow or bring down fog. We watch how they respond and talk to them about what they did. This really helps the operator to become familiar with difficult scenarios in a risk-free way.”
Swanepoel believes that the significant investment made will prove to be money well spent. “In the long run we’ll see massive benefits in terms of avoiding potential incidents, and an improvement in each operator’s ability,” he says.
CM Labs’ Limoges adds, “Introducing simulation alongside the actual equipment for operator training at HPC is not only a proof-of-concept project but a start to a different type of efficient and effective training in construction.”
He also says this technological adaptation will enhance training, taking it to the next level, similar to the aerospace and automotive industries, which have been embracing simulation technology for decades.
The benefits of new technology can of course only be truly measured at the coalface.
More real world testing for load navigation system from Vita Inclinata as Creative Lifting Services (CLS) completed a trial with the company’s system on a recent tower crane erection in Colorado. The UK-based company was seeking a way to increase the efficiency and safety of erecting a tower crane in a crowded city centre with multiple obstacles on the jobsite.
CLS handled the lifting work for the construction of a new hotel in Boulder, Colorado, USA. As with most projects in high-traffic city centres, the project presented tight working quarters on the jobsite with vehicle and pedestrian traffic, nearby buildings, and other obstacles.
The Vita Load Navigator enabled CLS to eliminate the use of taglines on the site, which made the tower crane erection more efficient and precise. Its technology uses high-powered thrusters that aim to eliminate load movement during crane lifts, enabling riggers to remotely stabilise loads and precisely place them via remote control.
“One of the biggest challenges we have when erecting a tower crane is running long taglines through a congested jobsite. Using Vita’s system can eliminate that,” said Josiah Rausch, crane tech manager for CLS. “We also usually try to stage the crane sections as close to the base of the tower as possible but on this job we couldn’t, due to the tight working quarters of the site.”
CLS staged sections of the tower crane on an adjacent street.
The loads were then picked from behind the crane using a mobile crane outfitted with the load navigator. The loads then swung across the jobsite to be added to the tower crane assembly.
The loads were guided and placed via the remote-control system. Rausch says the precision with which the Load Navigator was able to guide and place loads was particularly useful when constructing the tower crane’s T-sections and counter deck.
“Using the navigator meant we did not have to run through an obstacle course, making it much more efficient and safer for the crew,” he explains. “Communication can be a major issue on construction sites. Heavy machinery and bustling operating environments make a lot of noise. The remote function really solved that issue.”
“On jobs where we are working in tight spaces this technology is incredibly helpful,” he says.
With the return of trade shows such as Bauma and ConExpo, there has been a plethora of new digital solutions offered to the construction industry.
One example useful for the crane market is a new digital vision system launched at Bauma 2022 from Netherlands-based Stoneridge-Orlaco.
“Our digital vision solutions are designed to improve the operator’s visibility, help reduce blind spots and raise operators’ awareness of their surroundings, resulting in a safer site with less equipment damage and downtime and more confident, productive operators,” says a spokesperson for the company.
In terms of market trends and the future of industrial technology, the spokesperson says, “The construction site of the future will be largely driven by vehicle connectivity, cloud-based features and artificial intelligence. They say there will be algorithms that analyse live images and scan them for safety hazards as standard. Smart robotics will take over repetitive construction activities and self-driving construction machinery will be able to deliver loads more efficiently.”
Technology can aid the efficiency of lifting work by ensuring the people on site have all the information they need to work safely and productively, with the right data to make the right decisions.