Fast, precise and low risk – these are some of the distinctive benefits of automation. In recent years, MHE-Demag has seen an increase in the demand for semi or fully automatic solutions in South East Asia. Semi or fully automatic cranes are found in applications where there is a high degree of repetitive movements in a process or when there is a desire to increase the production efficiency. Crane automation is often sought after for inventory management as well as process improvements. Besides that, it is a solution to replace operators in the material handling process for reasons such as employee welfare and safety, cost reduction etc.
Tarik Alkhalil, Regional Director, MHE-Demag, said “In the past few years, we have seen increasing numbers of companies exploring automation. Initially starting with MNC’s which follow best practices adopted in other parts of the world and more recently with private companies who experience a level of automation in other parts of their business. On top of these trends, as the cost of labour increases, employers are duty bound to consider alternatives and look for safer and more efficient practices.”
“Crane automation is not new to this region; some of the most complex cranes that MHE-Demag has supplied are automatic cranes for high density Paper Roll Storage (Thailand) and Waste to Energy Cranes (Taiwan) which have been successfully operating for several years”, added Tarik.
One of the common questions raised by the potential crane users is regarding the new skills required to operate a semi or automatic crane. In fact, the skills required are application specific. In the simplest form, the crane operation will still be using the normal interface, such as pendant or radio controller but the system will manage the movements. At the other end of the spectrum, the crane operation may be located in a control room completely remote from the crane and monitoring of the crane activity is executed without any intervention.
Common practice and protocols are put in place to ensure system safety. The safety controls are designed to operate in conjunction with any software and in the event of a software malfunction, the control systems will ensure no unsafe conditions will occur. “The software is developed in-house by our team of experts. There is a SOP for supporting breakdowns, software bug fixes and any software enhancements the customer may require. There is a hierarchy of back up starting with the local technicians, country experts, regional experts and for the most complex systems, the ultimate support comes from our Principals. In most cases, software issues or enhancements are dealt with remotely via the customers’ own network access or via GSM/UMTS (remote mobile communications) network,” Tarik said.
Among some of the highly specialised cranes recently secured by MHE-Demag are several semi-automatic cranes for Waste to Energy projects in Malaysia and Thailand. Two Indonesian companies are investing in automatic Hot Charge Cranes for integration into their existing calcine production processes. One Vietnamese vehicle producer is investing in high tech solutions for the storage and retrieval of the press tools utilising automatic Press Shop Cranes. A market leading logistics company in Singapore spearheading a brand new concept to manage the storage and retrieval of empty shipping containers with half a dozen high-tech automatic cranes. According to Tarik, automation will become a standard offering from MHE-Demag in applications ranging from simple destination control to fully automated material handling systems.