Choosing to invest in an overhead crane is not a small commitment. Such a capital outlay will typically range from $1,000 to $1 million, depending on what kind of crane you need for your operation. Also, cranes do not last forever, as the average service life ranges from 15 to 50 years, depending on size, proper endurance, and engineering design.
It can be daunting to invest time and money in an overhead crane system that will endure wear and tear over its service life, but by understanding the use-case of your cranes and investing in skilled operators and maintenance, there is a better chance to extend its performance and receive a greater return on your investment. Let’s explore three ways you can extend your overhead crane's availability and ROI.
1. Understand your crane’s use case
Overhead cranes come in various shapes and sizes, with different functionalities geared toward specific tasks within a plant. When you evaluate how you will implement an overhead crane system, it is important to understand the type of crane that best suits your operation. Are you working in a high-volume environment where you will need more power? Or are you dealing with smaller manufacturing loads that require quick precision? High-capacity cranes and less-frequent-use cranes are two options that a plant may choose between to address these variables.
High-capacity cranes: High-capacity cranes can lift significant weights with little-to-no effort. These cranes specialize in lifting heavy loads – like raw materials or steel beams – and are integral in high-volume environments like steelmaking or automotive manufacturing. These machines need to be precise and exact in their movements to ensure heavy loads are moved effectively, efficiently, and safely. If you have loads that need to be moved with extensive power and precision, consider investing in a high-capacity overhead crane.
Less-frequent use cranes: Similarly, less-frequent use cranes require precision but for much smaller loads in different manufacturing environments. You will usually find lower-capacity cranes in manufacturing plants that have varied usage for cranes, like moving sensitive electronic components from one assembly station to the next. These types of cranes deal with high demand and high-precision loads that require fast, agile, and accurate movements for overhead crane lifting. At their core, less-frequent-use cranes act as a small bridge that quickly carries products to the next part of the assembly process, contributing to operational productivity.
2. Invest in confident installers, skilled operators
When it comes to installing your overhead crane, it is imperative that you have an installer who has a holistic understanding of how these machines will be implemented into existing workflows at your plant. Whether working with high-capacity cranes or less-frequent-use cranes, installers should act almost like an urban planner to envision how these cranes will be built into a manufacturing plant’s infrastructure.
Installation planning ranges from thinking through how a crane will be elevated on the manufacturing floor to how much clearing space will be required for placement. It is vital that your installer understands not only the ‘ins and outs’ of installing your crane but also goes a little further to develop and execute a detailed installation plan, and can effectively communicate with plant managers and OEMs.
Additionally, source an installer with years of experience and a keen understanding of the overhead crane and manufacturing markets – someone who knows what is coming down the pike and can pivot to meet industry standards. By working with a skilled installer who can provide a turnkey solution for your overhead crane planning and installation needs, you can ensure extended service from your cranes.
Once installed, crane operators will take over the equipment's day-to-day management and operation. Like installers, these operators should understand how your crane works and functions while also taking preventative measures, like avoiding overloading and abrupt stopping.
However, the everyday tasks associated with crane operation can be both taxing and repetitive. This has resulted in labor shortages and high turnover rates within the manufacturing industry, coming in at 39% in 2022. It is vital for plant managers to source crane operators with the expertise to complete complex lifts while also investing in training to ensure they stay on top of industry trends related to the operation of your equipment. By investing in skilled workers and providing practical training courses, you can reduce the likelihood of personnel injury while increasing the service life of your overhead cranes.
3. Consider a maintenance and safety strategy
Consider implementing a maintenance and safety strategy to prolong your crane’s service life and record significant ROI. Like other types of equipment in a manufacturing plant, cranes will experience wear and tear, including some add-on parts and components that will not last as long as others. Actions like abrupt stops and overloading magnify mechanical stress on overhead crane systems, often resulting in operational downtime, which can be costly for a plant.
Moreover, plants that do not have maintenance strategies in place risk the safety of both the crane and its operators. Neglected equipment can lead to injuries and breakdowns, furthering the duration of downtime. However, with regular maintenance check-ups and incorporating preventative measures during operation, you can ensure the safety of your equipment and employees while also increasing your plant’s operational efficiency.
While installing an overhead crane can be a significant investment, you can guarantee a stronger ROI by extending the service life of your equipment. Fully understanding the role of your crane in your plant, ensuring you have skilled employees, and enacting a maintenance and safety strategy are the necessary ways to move your operations forward and ensure you’re meeting your bottom line.