The Lifting Challenge

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-By John Boley

For moving small loads or heavy equipment up to 150 tonne, NQ Cranes (North Queensland Cranes) has the product for your business. NQ has a large range of overhead cranes, jib cranes, gantry cranes and chain hoists, engineered and designed to individual specifications with certification and compliance approval to the relevant Australian standards.

We found NQ Cranes’ managing director Wayne Pidgeon at his Mackay, Queensland base, in something of a quandary, trying to balance business expansion with finding enough staff to handle new as well as existing business. Industry in this part of the world is experiencing the feared ‘skills shortage’ and competition for good workers is fierce.

But Wayne prefers to look on the brighter side. “Business is good.” Mining is a large part of what NQ does; in oil and gas it works for the subsidiaries, the support structure, and mostly that sector wants explosion-proof equipment. “Up to now we haven’t got involved in that too much although we are certainly looking at going that way.”

Although NQ can supply a wide range of products, the cranes Wayne and his team work with are Street, from the UK, and Donati, from Italy. “We have been supplying these brands since 2004. In our eyes they are the best; we find them a good product. We buy the hoist and the travel drives and often the electrics from street or Donati and we design and manufacture the structure that all these components fit onto.”

Street Crane Company is the UK’s largest manufacturer of electric overhead travelling cranes and a major exporter of hoists, components and controls to crane makers in overseas markets.
Cranes and hoists are available up to 200 tonnes safe working load. Single and double girder gantry, semi Goliath and Goliath cranes are produced. Special cranes and automated crane controls can be engineered to cope with unusual site conditions or load handling and lifting requirements.

Founded in 1946 by ex-Spitfire pilot Peter Street, the company produces more than 400 cranes a year that are used throughout industry for reliable lifting and safe handling.

A new range of electric chain hoists, in capacities from 125 to 5,000 kg, has been launched. Designed for durability and high productivity, the LX electric chain hoist gives precise and safe lifting for a range of industries.

There are chain hoists to meet every need. These include eye suspension models for fixed position lifting, powered or push trolley options, standard height models or hoists configured for low/restricted headroom situations. Options include multiple choices of hoist and travel speed, dual speed hoisting, enhanced environmental protection to IP 55, variable frequency travel drives, upper and lower hoist limit switches. IP54 is the default environmental protection standard and all the chain hoists are suited for temperatures from -20 to +50 degrees C.

Safety is a key consideration. Overload protection is provided by a slipping clutch and models feature high performance disc brakes. Plug and socket electrical connections are an option to simplify final fix installation. Where required the range of lateral travel can be limited by the use of limit switches.

The chain hoist range offers several answers to height limitation. Low headroom hoists have a chain diverter so that the hook rises to the side of the motor gearbox to give an exceptionally low profile. Where headroom or the available operating envelope for the hoist is a more serious issue, hoists can be installed between the beams of a double beam crane to create a greater clear working height. Control options include 48 Volt standard pendant or remote operation by radio device. Control units can be set up for solo operation or to work twin hoists for tandem lifts.

Many cranes and hoists for the oil, gas and chemical industries must be designed and built for special environmental conditions in which particular safety or protective measures are necessary. The presence of flammable gases, vapours, dust or fibre in the atmosphere may present a hazard if there is a risk that electrical apparatus on the crane or hoist might become a source of ignition. The types of flammable substance may be defined by the Gas ‘Group’ and likelihood of the hazard being present the ‘Zone’. Street offers flameproof protection or ‘explosion proof’, which entails purpose built control systems, motors, brakes and other mechanical apparatus.

Other environments may be considered ‘aggressive’ or ‘corrosive’ in that chemical attack on materials or components may be a factor. In such cases the use of certain materials in construction may need to be avoided and mechanical or electrical equipment may need additional protection.

Meanwhile in Italy, the quality of the components, the high technology used in the production of the mechanical parts, in the finishes and in the surface treatments, the constant and checked quality system UNI EN ISO 9001 which covers the company’s entire production, allow Donati Sollevamenti to offer a product range in line with the latest international standards.

In particular, Donati’s drive units for cranes comprise DGT series wheel groups in combination with DGP series offset geared motors. They are built specifically for handling lifting systems on rails, such as, for example, travelling cranes, gantry cranes, wall-mounted cranes, etc. and/or related running trolleys, guaranteeing the precise alignment for moving structures and control over high shifting speeds, while facilitating installation and maintenance. The DGT series wheel groups and DGP series offset geared motors are available in a wide range of capacities and speeds; they are highly reliable modular components capable of responding flexibly and efficiently to the needs for operating safety, cost efficiency and the rapid setup of drive units for cranes by manufacturers of machinery and industrial lifting and handling installations.

Donati endcarriages are designed for handling operations on rails on bridge cranes: at single or two running speed in single girder version with a capacity of up to 20 tonnes and gauge of up to 25 m or in double girder version with capacity of up to 40 tonnes and gauge of up to 27 m.

Donati endcarriages for bridge cranes, designed and built on the principle of modular components assembled together in relation to their specific use, are equipped with drive units comprising DGT series wheel groups which, in combination with DGP series offset geared motors guarantee accurate alignments for moving structures, control over high shifting speeds, while facilitating installation and maintenance.

NQ’s Wayne acknowledges there are other good cranes out there but, he says, that’s not the issue. “What makes a good crane is the effort we put into designing and manufacturing it and the ultimate reliability of the crane. Downtime costs money; a lot of our cranes go into dragline and wash plants; if a dragline fails and the overhead crane doesn’t work there are big issues. It would be interesting to count up how many draglines we service because we have by far the majority of the dragline and mine servicing in central Queensland. Everybody knows NQ. But it’s a very crowded business in this area; we have three major competitors in this town alone.

“I believe our best marketing strategy is to have our technicians in the field and a large range of service. A lot of our repeat business is in replacing overhead cranes that have been in the system for their design life – in Australian standards there is a 10 and a 25 year design life and a lot of the cranes that are going through our workshops now are ones we built 10 years ago or more that are in for either refurbishment or replacement.

“The standards call for periodic maintenance of overhead cranes subject to the usage and we service the units to provide a reliable piece of equipment. Most times we have to remind our customers. We have a service scheduling and programming system where we will contact a client and remind them that their service is due.

“We can remove the crane from site, have it trucked into our workshop, generally it will be here for 2-3 weeks for an overhaul or refurbishment and then it’s trucked back to the site and lifted into position again using mobile cranes. Often we will supply a replacement but with a dragline for instance they often have two cranes installed so they send us one at a time so they still have coverage.”

In reality there’s no set product range, says Wayne. “Every one’s an individual. Every shed is a different size, width, height, so the steel structure is individual nearly every time. We have standardised on cranes for inside draglines.” Summing up, he says “it’s NQ’s job to ensure the customer gets the end product that he needs to complete the job.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

September 26, 2018, 10:01 AM AEST