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Call of the wide
Wide cranes allow for improved material handling, writes Sandeep Sukhija.



The one constant in any factory is the movement of material. Regardless of what is stored in a shed, the material eventually will have to be transported. Material handling can consume up to 70 percent of operational time in a plant. The material is, more often than not, transported by a crane which is a permanent fixture of the factory and is built according to the dimensions of the shed.
Traditionally, factory owners construct sheds up to 20 metres wide, not because this is convenient, but because conventional cranes can only be made of that width. The lesser the width of the shed, the greater the material handling resources required.
A larger shed of 40 or 50 metres wide offers numerous advantages. It uses less material and, consequently, less labour, because there are no walls in the centre. Once completed, there is no obstruction to the free movement of material. The factory can be ergonomically designed to optimise human well-being and performance; and manpower can be effectively and efficiently deployed. Improved material handling improves overall productivity, and increases profits in the long-run.
However, a large shed requires a wide crane to be installed and, until now, that was not easily doable. Manufacturing and erecting a wide crane calls for an altogether different kind of engineering expertise.
The sections that roll out of steel mills have a maximum length of 12 metres. To make a wide girder, these 12 metre lengths have to be connected and jointed in a particular method and sequence.
This requires deep knowledge and experience. If the manufacturing methodology is not followed to the T, the entire girder will end up – bent out of shape – as a bow. This is more easily said than done.

New hydraulic elevator improves performance
An elevator or a lift is a cabin suspended from wire ropes with the machinery on the top. The machinery is usually housed in a machine room on the top of the building. When the lift malfunctions, it requires a technician to climb to the top storey of the building and access the machine room. Such lifts, even when designed to carry cargo, typically have a maximum capacity of 1-2 tonnes.
The hydraulic power system causes a considerable saving of energy. The piston is powered to push the lift up. For downward movement, all that needs to be done is open a valve and let gravity take over; the downward flow of the oil carries the lift cage along with it. Unlike a mechanical lift where there is constant noise of the gears in motion, these lifts are sound-free.

The author is the CEO, S Crane Engineering Works.

Improved material handling improves overall productivity, and increases profits in the long-run. However, manufacturing and erecting a wide crane calls for an altogether different kind of engineering expertise.
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