August 23, 2017

Lifting the standards in mobile crane technology

Heavy industries and high-profile civils projects situated in remote locations across Sub-Saharan Africa can significantly streamline efficiencies and save on overhead costs, following EMCO’s official local introduction of specialised high-capacity, hydraulic-free mobile gantry cranes manufactured by Italian market-leader, Eden Technology.

Johannesburg-based EMCO-MH (Pty) Ltd, trading under the brand of EMCO, is the exclusive Sub-Saharan distributor of electric mobile gantry cranes manufactured by Eden Technology – which has remained an internationally-recognized specialist in the design and manufacture of special equipment for lifting and moving heavy components, with experience of more than 40 years. EMCO gained local distribution rights to the Eden range of cranes, which are fully-customisable to offer unique solutions to highly-complex and niche applications, in mid-2015.

EMCO director Wynand Andeweg points out that conventional mobile and overhead cranes are not always suitable to uniquely specified projects, and require additional supporting infrastructure. “Eden mobile gantry cranes are fully-customisable to ensure that they meet the precise individual specifications for projects such as bridge building, civil construction and heavy industry lifting – while eliminating the need for costly support infrastructure that is a requirement with conventional rail mounted cranes.”

One of the greatest breakthroughs in the patented design of the ‘EVA’ Eden mobile gantry crane range is the elimination of all hydraulics. Traditional cranes use diesel engines that drive hydraulic pumps by pressurising the oil, which triggers the hydraulic motors to generate the necessary movement. This results in a high degree of environmentally-damaging oil leakages, as well as machine downtime.

Eden mobile gantry cranes make use of patented components to enable a fully electrically driven mobile gantry crane. “Electrical power boasts far greater efficiency than hydraulic power, which results in up to 20 percent energy savings, in addition to simplifying and reducing maintenance cycles. This can result in substantial long-term savings, especially for large-scale operations,” explains Andeweg.

The standard Eden mobile gantry cranes feature lifting capacities ranging from 15 to 200 tonnes, however, they can be fully-customised to handle loads of up to 1 000 tonnes. “Such large capacity is ideally-suited to bridge building, where large bridge sections are extremely heavy and difficult to move using standard cranes,” Andeweg continues.
Another unique aspect of the cranes is that they can be cabin or remotely-operated. Andeweg says: “Sometimes, operator vision is impeded when working from the cabin. In this case, it is far more effective to operate the machine from another angle using remote control. The cranes also boast advanced condition monitoring systems whereby all data is sent to the manufacturer. This helps to ensure that the cranes are being properly handled, and simplifies the maintenance process.”

The cranes move on either 1,5 m or 2 m diameter wheels fitted with industrial tyres at 10 bar pressure to ensure greater mobility while carrying a load in challenging terrain with inclines of up to 6 degrees. The cranes are also modular, and are therefore shipped in standard 20 ft to 40 ft containers, depending on individual customer specifications. Andeweg highlights that highly-qualified and experienced EMCO technicians assemble the crane as part of the company’s value-added service offering.
“After the client provides precise crane specifications, it takes between 16 and 20 weeks for the machine to be manufactured in Italy, with another five to eight week shipping period, which is competitive. After arriving onsite, it takes around ten days to assemble the machine and to train staff on its operation and dismantlement if it is being repurposed to another site. We also boast a comprehensive network of service technicians, in the event of any failures,” he notes.

Given the truly unique characteristics of the Eden mobile gantry crane range, Andeweg indicates that there is no similar competition in the local market. Although this represents an industry breakthrough, he does admit that it is a challenge to change the industry mind-set to convert from the current available technology in Africa, to a new and unfamiliar one.

“In challenging economic times it is difficult to convince operations to spend capital on new technology. However, the long-term cost advantages of doing so far outweigh the perceived disadvantages. With this in mind, I am optimistic that the cranes will be well-received in heavy industrial manufacturing facilities, where large items of equipment are moved from one point to another, and also in the construction of dams and road and railway bridges across Africa,” he adds.

With considerable investment being placed in power generation, Andeweg believes that this industry holds considerable potential. “Once Medupi and Kusile power plants are fully-operational, the older plants can be shut down for comprehensive maintenance, which involves the moving of generators and components, something the Eden mobile gantry cranes are ideally-suited to.”

Maintaining local roots in international innovation

In addition to its unique international product offering, EMCO has also developed a proudly South African cable-free, battery-powered industrial transfer car. Andeweg points out that traditional electrically-powered industrial transfer cars come standard with 10 m to 20-m-long power cables, rated at between 380 V and 500 V. These are not only restrictive, but are also a safety hazard.

“The cars can only run as far as the cables allow them to, and high-voltage cables running for extended distances across workshop floors can prove to be hazardous obstructions to other tasks taking place under the same roof. The battery-powered EMCO industrial transfer car simultaneously eliminates both of these hazards, while saving on overall energy costs, thanks to the fact that around three hours of charging can result in up to ten hours of car operation,” Andeweg states.

The battery-operated EMCO industrial transfer car also eliminates the risk of using forklifts to move items that they are not designed to move. “Forklift drivers sometimes carry uneven loads at high speed to move items from one factory or storage facility to the next. This creates a tipping risk, which in turn creates a safety hazard to everyone in the near vicinity,” Andeweg comments.

The concept of a battery-powered industrial transfer car is still relatively-new on an international scale, and Andeweg is confident that it will be well-received particularly in South Africa, which has well-established heavy engineering and manufacturing infrastructure.

“The physical structure of the vehicle remains unchanged, and battery sizes range between 12 V and 48 V, depending on the size of the car, which will be manufactured locally. This ensures sustainable job creation, as well as a cost saving of up to ten percent, when compared to standard cars. Bearing this in mind, we have already received a design request from a large manufacturing facility in South Africa. This places us in good stead for future growth,” he concludes.

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