Digital transformations and technology is becoming more and more part of our daily lives; both from a personal aspect (how it’s defining and impacting our relationships and how we communicate with each other) and in our professional careers and the industries we are working in. The construction industry and the crane market are not immune to these advancements.
The birth of the modern construction equipment that we use today have not been around for very long and the key developments can be traced back to 1965 where the modern hydraulic systems were first put into use in the market which had a direct impact on heavy construction equipment.
According to a report by ForConstructionPros.com, “During the 1970s and 1980s, major innovations in machine configuration and powertrain were introduced,” says Chuck Sahm, automation & enterprise solutions theme manager, Caterpillar. “The track-type tractor elevated sprocket design and differential steering were two examples. The sprockets were elevated to protect them and other drivetrain components from ground-imposed loads and the modular design significantly reduced the time required to remove and install major components. The differential steering system allowed power turns while keeping both tracks working and enabling the machine to turn on a dime.”
Yet again, technology is impacting the heavy machinery industry once more, but this time from different angles. In this article we are looking into the impact of technological advancements and digital trends in machinery software to improve efficiency.
According to Construction Plant News, “The European construction equipment industry is an example of technology leadership. Increasingly, our machines are ‘digitised’ and there is no escape from that.” That was the main message from CECE President Bernd Holz, addressing the CECE Congress in Prague, Czech Republic, an event which saw close to two hundred leaders from the construction equipment industry in Europe come together, as well as technical experts, sales managers, trade press and international trade association representatives.
The Committee or European Construction Equipment (CECE) represents the interests of national construction equipment manufacturer associations in 13 European countries, including Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Russia and Turkey. The sector counts around 1200 companies that employ about 300,000 people directly and indirectly.
In recent years, one of the key focuses of CECE has been on how technology is transforming the construction industry.
Construction is all about building things as efficiently and safely as possible. Technology can help. Equipping a project with smart devices can transmit dynamic data on project’s progress, surrounding and performance that can be used by project directors to help with real time decision making and strategic planning. Since the technological advancements in construction machinery is so vast, we will look into some specific examples:
Better communication between Man and Machine.
Taking the example of Manitowoc,its latest CraneSTAR Diag is a remote diagnostic tool that primarily results in time saving for troubleshooting for top-slewing cranes equipped with V3 or CCS devices. According to Manitowoc website it “offers a user-friendly interface, full graphic display, ergonomic controls, a jog dial for easier navigation and data input, and parts commonality across Grove, Manitowoc and Potain product lines enhancing operator familiarization and serviceability”.
CraneSTAR gives you up-to-date crane fleet information, no matter where you or your cranes are located. You can monitor locations and working conditions; plan maintenance and lifting schedules; and maximize your company’s efficiency, productivity and profitability.
To simply understand how this system works, we will look into an issue to a specific scenario:
The customer on the construction site, the crane care support (the dispatcher) and the workshop (the after sales technician) are at 3 different locations. If there is an issue with the tower crane on the construction site (for example, automatic greasing is at a low level), the job site manager on the construction site notifies the crane care dispatcher in the crane care support office and in order to monitor and investigate this issue, the dispatcher can remotely connect to the crane in real time. This connection allows the dispatcher to make a pre-diagnosis and is able to find a solution without setting foot on the construction site. Depending on the issue, if the part needs to be replaced, the dispatcher can connect with a specialist in the workshop to have the parts sent to the construction site. This solution will result in:
- Significantly increasing the availability of cranes to be used at the construction site,
- Improving the job site productivity,
- Optimizes communication between stakeholders,
- More importantly, it saves time.
Real-time data collection and supervision.
Drones have made headlines in the news recently from the regulations in using them to how accessible they are for both recreational and professional purposes. Dronethusiat website has pointed out some great uses for construction drones, which we have listed here for you:
- Planning: a drone can give you a bird’s eye view on the construction site and allow you to see the details more visibly
- Use of drones in surveying
- Analyzing the date from the site: Models such as high-resolution 3D types use browser-based technology, so users can simply share by sending a link, and the client can then log in, view the data, and export it to any local entities if they need.
- Showcasing the construction work progress
- Monitoring job sites
- Inspecting Structures
- Better safety records: you can easily have access to dangerous locations and hard to reach areas
- Keeping the project on-track, on-budget: If parts of the project are not progressing as planned, or safety policies are not being followed, or resource allocation is not being optimized then these factors could directly affect the time and the cost of a project. With the use of a drone these can simply be reviewed in real time.
Improved planning and minimizing human error.
Autodesk, a leading software company defines BIM (Building Information Modeling) as an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently planned, designed, constructed, and managed for buildings and infrastructure.
Scan2cad website has summarized the benefits of BIM as:
- A more optimized collaboration between the project’s stakeholders
- Better visualization of the project design
- Cost effectiveness
- Definition of each step of the project
- Improved productivity
- Supports energy efficiency
- Better co-ordination
Enforcing safety and protecting resources.
RFID sensors for construction equipment allow a site manager to know precisely where a machine is in use. They also deliver a warning to other laborers on site if they are in danger of walking into the path of moving machinery, for instance. Similarly, anti-collision for tower cranes allow them to communicate wirelessly with each to avoid any clash. Site managers can study through such sensors when a machine is being used and when it is idle hence, what is the optimal location and work radius for each machine, allowing for better planning and resource distribution. Instead of wasting capitals with idle machinery, equipment could be use more efficiently and human error is reduced.
Will technology replace human capital?
To stretch the conversation further, let us imagine to what extent technology can impact the construction machinery industry. For Tower Cranes, a heated question at the ITC conference in London organized by KHL in 2017 was: Can Tower Cranes ever run without operators?
A simple answer to this question would be yes! Just like many other automation, robotic and artificial intelligence advancements that most people didn’t believe at the time, it could be accepted that one day even tower cranes will run without operators.
In the past decade, AI seems to be integrating to all industries from their marketing, customer services to internal operations. Tesla cars which have made a strong presence for themselves globally are a perfect example of how an AI system can operate a mobile machine that has been controlled and managed by a person/operator since it was first invented. Dubai is considering driver-less cars and tests for driver-less pods are under way. So, it is not very difficult to believe that one day cranes will also run without an operator. Therefore, the question now is, how is AI impacting the construction industry?
In general terms, Artificial intelligence is a term for describing when a machine mimics human cognitive functions, like problem-solving, learning and pattern recognition or at times operating machinery. AI is basically making machines do what humans can do. Therefore, when an AI system is fed more data, it can make decisions on its next steps based on this data.
The world’s first fully functional 3D printed building inaugurated in Dubai in 2016 was done using AI. Dubai Municipality claims that by 2030 “25% of the city’s new buildings will be printed in an attempt to reduce construction costs and shorten delivery time frames”, as part of the government’s 3D Printing Strategy. Data generated and captured in construction projects is growing. This includes data generated from images captured from mobile devices, drone videos, security sensors, building information modelling (BIM), AUTOCAD drawings, etc. The challenge that we’re facing now is how to make the best use of all this data in a way that is optimized. We are in the era of big data and software companies that are looking to cater to the construction company are on a rise. The “drawback” to AI is that, with the emergence of AI, many traditional jobs in the construction industry can be replaced. So an industry that has always depended heavily on manpower could now be replacing man with machine.
Automation solutions and automated machines are not all that AI has to offer and they are part of the bigger AI movement in the construction sector. Back in the days of the first hydraulic machine, people had the same trepidation. However, with change came new opportunities. Specialists believe that the same thing is happening with the debut of artificial intelligence. The use of AI will be slow and steady but by the time automation and machines are applied into construction, new jobs will have been generated to supplement and complement them.
According to Aproplan website, “For CEO Steve Muck of Brayman Construction Corporation, he believes that the American labor shortage in the construction sector can be saved with a robotics-based solution. According to him, the past ten years has been difficult when it comes to finding workers. With their robotics solution of rebar-tying, it has saved lots of time while reducing injuries workers get while manually tying rebars.”
Potain Takes Center Stage At Intermat Paris 2018
Potain is taking center stage at the tradeshow, which is being held at the Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center between April 23 and 28, 2018. The prominence of Potain is fitting, as this year marks the company’s 90th anniversary. This has presented a perfect opportunity to look back at Potain’s history while looking forward to its new generation of tower cranes.
“Potain is a name that is synonymous with the tower crane industry and is a vital part of the success of Manitowoc,” said Aaron Ravenscroft, executive vice president of Manitowoc. “This year, under the anniversary theme ‘Achieving Your Vision,’ attendees will see how we are celebrating the long success of the company and the vision of its founder, Faustin Potain, who started the business in 1928.
“Faustin introduced the values of customer proximity, innovation and performance. Those values led to the brand’s success over the decades and are still very much alive today. Being in France, where the brand was born, makes Intermat the perfect place to celebrate this milestone, together with our customers and partners who are part of the success of Potain,” Ravenscroft continued.
Potain will be celebrating its 90th year with a “birthday” event at its booth on Wednesday, April 25, at 3:00 p.m. Visitors can expect a look back at Potain’s history, cake, music and a festive atmosphere to commemorate the occasion.
To affirm Potain’s commitment to its customers, Manitowoc is displaying two models from the Hup self-erecting crane range — a Hup 32-27 and a Hup 40-30 — and an MDT 389 CCS topless top-slewing tower crane. All three cranes were developed with significant customer input and participation. The cranes reflect the technologies and features that the lifting market needs most and they were developed with much more velocity to market than previous generations of cranes.
The Hup self-erecting crane range contains some of Potain’s most remarkable models of recent years. Having been out for just over a year, the cranes’ versatility and ease-of-use have already made them an international hit. The cranes have a maximum capacity of 4 t and a rear-slewing radius of only 2.25 m for the Hup 32-27, enabling them to be positioned closer to buildings — a major benefit when working in tight urban areas or job sites with restricted working quarters.
Despite being taller than the Igo 36, one of its predecessor models, the Hup cranes occupy the same footprint, making them ideal for space-restricted job sites. Three raised positions of the luffing jib, at 10°, 20° or 30° for the Hup 32-27, in addition to horizontal, provide unprecedented options for a self-erecting crane. With two height options for their telescopic masts and an exclusive new radio remote control with Potain’s Smart Set Up software, operators can maximize their efficiency to levels previously unseen.
The MDT 389 is the largest topless crane from the Potain lineup to feature the company’s Crane Control System (CCS), which is also available on all MDT and MD Potain top-slewing tower cranes and Grove mobile cranes. This user-friendly operating system offers owners the highest levels of comfort, flexibility and ergonomic control, and it reduces installation time compared to previous models. There are two versions of the Potain MDT 389, one with a 12 t maximum capacity and the other with a 16 t maximum capacity. Both have up to 75 m of jib available, and the 12 t version can lift 3.4 t at its jib end, while the 16 t version can handle 3.3 t.
The MDT CCS Topless concept enables complex, multi-crane installations, and the assembly, erection, transport and maintenance phases are shorter than previous generations of tower cranes. All of these features lead to a better return on investment for crane owners, and CCS has been proven to increase efficiency on the job site.
“With the recent updates in Potain design and production, we are confident that these cranes will improve efficiencies and expand lifting capabilities to a level not yet seen in Europe, all at a lower total cost of ownership for our customers,” Ravenscroft said. “We can’t wait to see such cranes benefit the development of the Grand Paris project, a 30 billion EURO infrastructure project that aims to transform Paris into a 21st Century city, confirming its rank among international megacities.”
New Potain components
Manitowoc is showcasing key new innovations at Intermat, the first of which is the 75 HPL winch. The 75 HPL is suitable for all top slewing cranes. It comes in four versions, from 10 to 16 t capacity, making it adaptable to most work sites. Its increased hoisting speeds enable quick load handling and shorter hoisting cycles, resulting in increased productivity for customers. Temperature monitoring of the motor and reduction gear helps to increase service life, and for CCS cranes this can be displayed on the display inside the cab. What’s more, the new winch architecture makes components easy to access, giving quick access for servicing and checking reduction gear oil levels. Other features include a lower level of vibration and reduced noise levels, an optimized power network that automatically adapts to the electrical network, and smooth and precise operation thanks to new service break controls.
The second new product feature previewed at Intermat is the Potain Cab-IN, the company’s inside mast operator lift. Developed for Potain top slewing cranes in partnership with GEDA, an industrial elevator and construction lift manufacturer, the Potain Cab-IN allows for fast and easy travel to and from the cab, fits inside all K-mast systems and is compatible with all Potain bases/chassis. It also boosts cost efficiency, as it does not incur additional transportation costs or require extra storage space on the yard. The Potain Cab-IN will be released in late 2018 and meets French regulations that are set to be implemented in January 2019, as well as in the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, where regulations require lifts on cranes from certain heights.
Furthermore, Manitowoc is highlighting its remote crane diagnostic system, CraneSTAR Diag, at Intermat. CraneSTAR Diag is part of a new generation of remote maintenance support from Manitowoc. The powerful telematic device is available on all Potain CCS and MCT cranes, and offered as an option on Hup cranes. Remote access to the crane’s operating and maintenance information reduces maintenance time allocation and potential downtime on site.
“Continuous improvement is deeply embedded in our culture, based on the principles of The Manitowoc Way,” concluded Ravenscroft. “We are now moving into a new phase of our growth, where customer engagement, new product development and aftermarket support will help us build on our leadership position. We have already been busy bringing new products and innovations to the market with the velocity that customers expect, and we plan to continue to do so for many more years to come.”