A CONVERSATION WITH BRAD GROW, ACE MODERNIZATION EXPERT
Overhead cranes are robust machines that generally enjoy a long lifespan. They can be an integral part of a business’ production and companies depend on them to work hard processing or moving materials. Whether they are used every day, all day or only periodically, over time, components or parts will wear down and you must decide on the most cost-worthy or efficient approach—to replace your crane or update worn parts? Ace National Sales Rep for the Pulp and Paper Industry, Brad Grow has been working on Ace’s modernization team for 13 years, and has just about seen it all. Brad answers these common questions for customers who are considering modernizing or replacing a crane.
Under what conditions might you want to modernize a crane, hoist or other components?
The most common reason is that an OEM manufacturer no longer makes or supports the customer’s crane parts or components after so many years and they become obsolete. Another reason would be that the customer has increased their production rates so they’ve now grown into the need for a crane with an increased duty cycle and/or capacity.
Heavy process cranes undergo an extreme amount of stress due to high duty cycles and typically lift repetitive loads of 70% or higher of their rated capacity. This creates fatigue in not only individual components but also the crane structure itself. We start seeing cracks in girders, end trucks, girder to end truck connections, and supporting structures such as legs. This would seemingly be the “end of life cycle” in a crane but it can also be an opportunity to revitalize it by modernizing parts or components.
Some product manufacturers modernize based on changing a product. An example of “re-tooling”, as some call it, is if a customer has one 10 ton hoist on their crane but their new product line will require two 5 ton hoists in order to lift the end product. These kinds of circumstances lend themselves well to a modernizing solution.
Does it save on costs to update instead of replace a crane, parts or components?
In most cases, yes. It really depends on the crane structure’s age and exactly what the customer expects to get after the modernization. For example, if a customer wants to install new hoists and controls but also wants to change from a bridge center drive system to dual drive system, then it’s less expensive to modernize. However, if they also need new end trucks due to stress cracks being found then it may be less expensive to simply replace the entire crane due to the amount of labor that it takes to properly replace the end trucks.
There are also instances where it may make more sense, from a monetary standpoint, to replace the crane rather than modernize it. However, due to the interference on plant or facility production that a new crane installation could cause, they opt for the more expensive modernization. They may lose more money through lost production than the difference in costs associated with the more expensive option.
Are there codes to follow to make modifications to existing cranes and hoists?
Absolutely. Ace always follows CMAA, ANSI, and OSHA regulations on all of our repairs, modernization projects and new installations. We have select, qualified individuals look at what needs to be done for any one project and refer to our engineering department on changes that differs from the original OEM components. We also tend to find some components or parts on an older crane that may not meet current OSHA or CMAA guidelines even though they look good to the naked eye. An example would be catwalk handrails. OSHA has strict guidelines for handrails that have changed over the years. Grounded electrical circuits have also change per OSHA and the NEC (National Electrical Code) over the years, pertaining to cranes.
Do you have to test the new parts before using the upgraded equipment?
Yes. We perform a function test as well as a load test of 125% of its rated capacity. We also offer maintenance training for the facilities maintenance crews as well as operator training for the facilities crane/production operators.
What components of an overhead crane can be modernized?
Literally every component of a crane can be modernized or upgraded to a certain extent. Hoists, electrical controls, motors, end trucks, bridge drive units, festoon systems, even girders!
What are the most important aspects of planning and executing a modernization?
It’s extremely important to know and understand the customer’s production processes. If you know how a customer’s product is manufactured then you can avoid pitfalls and save time when it comes to design and planning. Not just the design and planning of the chosen components but also the planning of the installation itself, as it relates to working around their production needs.
It’s also extremely important that we listen and understand our customer’s vision and expectations. We want that customer for life, not just one project so we not only want to follow regulations pertaining to our current scope of work, we also want to be very detailed and professional on the quality of work the customer receives.
We always want to be honest and upfront with our potential client on his expectations vs. the scope of work provided to us. If the scope of work does not accomplish the client’s ultimate goals, then we are doing them a disservice. This is when we up-sell the additional upgrades that achieve their goals.
We know when to say “no”. If a customer wants to achieve something that we know cannot be accomplished given the current scope or current condition of the existing equipment we need to be upfront about it and offer alternative solutions. It would not serve either the customer or Ace to proceed with a project if there is any possibility that the customer’s expectations cannot be met. We not only want to meet their expectations, we want to exceed them.
If you are considering modernizing your overhead crane and need some professional advice, give Brad a call at (251) 259-7136.
Author Brad Grow
Brad Grow has over 30 years of overhead crane industry experience. In 1990, Brad started out by troubleshooting motor controls on cranes as a licensed journeyman electrician for a local electrical contractor. Since then he has held occupational titles in our industry as a crane technician, Service Manager, Branch Manager, Regional Modernization Manager, and now as a National Pulp and Paper Modernization Manager.
Brad lives along the Gulf Coast in Satsuma, AL. with his wife, youngest son, and two dogs. He enjoys fishing, hunting, camping, and spending time with his grandchildren.
"The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty."—Zig Ziglar