Over the last few years, the manufacturing sector for smaller-load handling cranes of under a ton has been experiencing some extremely dynamic development. The vacuum and handling technology specialist Schmalz was one of the first manufacturers to launch a fully developed system of lightweight aluminium crane systems back in 2006. Distributed in sub-Saharan Africa by Hytec Group Company Tectra Automation, Schmalz systems are driving the supply of highly responsive and ergonomic manually controlled systems to market.
Loads weighing under a ton are handled in practically every logistics process, and lightweight crane systems have a huge number of application areas, where fast handling speeds and an increasing pressure of supply are demanding facilities to increase their handling efficiency.
In warehouses and forwarders, where the goods moved are predominantly toward the lower end of the lifting capacity range, the need here is for manually operated crane systems for rapid handling. Responsive lifting aids are also indispensable in production and assembly processes. ‘Schmalz lifting solutions cover the entire range. We see major potential for aluminium crane systems in the automobile industry, for instance, which is considered a pioneer in ergonomic workplace designs,’ explains Malan Bosman, products manager – Pneumatics, Tectra Automation.
Workplace ergonomics are becoming more and more important to both employees and companies, with health and safety constantly growing in importance. In logistics facilities in particular, where workers have traditionally been exposed to heavy loads requiring fast and frequent movement, ergonomic goods handling is seen as paramount in reducing the physical demands of traditional handling and in providing health-oriented facilities. Ergonomics don’t just improve worker safety, by reducing worker fatigue they increase productivity and motivation.
Cranes – and especially aluminium cranes, which are easy to operate yet highly robust – are playing a vital role here. Bosman elaborates, ‘The effort required to move the load using aluminium cranes is only around half as much as comparable steel systems. We achieve this responsiveness by finding the optimum mass-load ratio through individually tailored crane solutions.’
The full ergonomics of the system go beyond just their improved weight, with each system component being optimised for maximum ergonomic efficiency. First the transport trolley was put under the microscope. ‘The geometry was previously determined mainly by manufacturing technology, and required a roll diameter of 50 mm. We altered the design and now use wider rolls with a larger diameter, which makes it easier to set loads in motion – a lower breakaway force – and is easier to move,’ Bosman continues. There is also less wear, because the mileage per wheel is lower.
After intensive tests, Schmalz also changed the aluminium profile of its systems. The vertical support in the upper hollow chamber means that the new version can withstand a much greater load. ‘It is better able to absorb vertical forces both downward and upward and does not sag as much,’ says Bosman.
In many cases, users can select a smaller profile or increase the suspension distance. The system costs are reduced in both instances. The modular ceiling suspension system makes it easy to connect crane systems to existing building structures. Furthermore, Schmalz says the flexible modular system provides a whole range of opportunities to satisfy individual requirements.
The Schmalz range of vacuum lifting and handling systems and cranes is available in sub-Saharan Africa exclusively through Tectra Automation, a Hytec Group Company.