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Electric chain hoist: commodity or valued partner?

Chuck Snook
Product Sales Manager

We can make the argument that for many years an electric chain hoist (ECH) has been thought of as just a commodity based product. You determine the required capacity, add a little wiggle room for future production needs, pick from a select range of speeds, and figure out how you will support it. The biggest decision made, or upgrade purchased, was splurging for the second speed.

With the appropriate maintenance program and proper duty-class provided, the electric chain hoist has simply done its job time after time once the up or down command was depressed by the operator. We settled on a comfortable brand and built up a stock of spares to keep them running and downtime to a minimum. At the end of the product’s life, reorder and repeat.

We did not and maybe do not truly appreciate the ECH’s ability to make a significant contribution to our facilities beyond “just lifting that load.”  For years, we have seen exponential change in machinery technology that has allowed us to improve the health and safety of our employees and keep up with the increasing demands of our production. Chain hoists, however, have stayed relatively the same for decades; therefore, why would we look to this machine as a possible change agent?

Does your organization wish to reduce the risk of injury?
Does your organization wish to have more engaged employees?
Does your organization wish to improve productivity?

Have you ever thought of a chain hoist as the solution to some of these improvement opportunities? Probably not! But we should, and we can.

The electric chain hoist has quietly been reimagined. It now provides a vast number of technological and mechanical enhancements that will provide positive contributions to the needs of our ever-changing environments and ergonomic requirements benefitting our workers and bottom line.

Variable speed drives were introduced to chain hoists several years ago, and the handling of products became faster and smoother. This drive technology assisted with cycle times and operator comfort. Important maintenance data could be recorded and used to troubleshoot or alert you to improper use.  It was a great new beginning for an aging workhorse.

However, more recently, smart features – previously only available on process cranes - have been added to electric chain hoists, taking these units to a new level.

Shock loading.
Using the upper limit switch as an “operating” limit.
Brake adjustments.
Overloads.
Lack of speed.
Too much speed.
Twisted chain links.
Slip clutch adjustments.
Spare parts inventory.
Noise.
Chain Wear.
Lifting too high, lifting too low.
Oil changes.
Gearcase inspections.
Poor ergonomics.

Each of these scenarios can be detrimental to our operations and will increase the risk of injury and production loss. New chain hoist technologies that are available today can address these potential safety and production risks.

Hoists currently on the market are available with new chain and pocket wheel designs that extend life and lower noise pollution emitted by these machines. Maintenance-free transmissions with purpose-built gearing provide this ergonomic benefit and lower overall lifetime costs with no scheduled maintenance for the designed lifetime. Self-adjusting brakes are standard on several models which further decreases maintenance demands and associated costs.

Drive technology now provides us with Smart Features as a standard offering. Some of the features available to our facilities now include Extended Speed Ranges which automatically adjust the speed to maximize safety and productivity based on the loads being handled. Programmable limits will allow you to optimize your lifting envelope to reduce cycle times and at the same time address the issue of improperly using the standard upper limit as a means of stopping the hoist (dangerous!). A programmable limit switch can be an operating limit which provides additional protection to the worker, product, and surrounding area.

New technology has also given us slack chain detection which will reduce the risk of twisted chain, protect sensitive parts being handled with a heavy below the hook attachment, and most importantly, reduce the potential risk of injury when too much chain is inadvertently drawn out by the operator. These risks can and have resulted in the sudden dropping of the load but can be avoided with this new technology. The chain hoist can be equipped with shock load prevention which automatically counteracts this dangerous and destructive event, protecting both the operator and the equipment.

Hours can be displayed, events recorded, electronic overloads can be programmed and PLC’s can be interfaced with this once “simple” workhorse. Overall maintenance is reduced as there is little to no demand on wear items such as the Slip Clutch Assemblies, brakes, and supporting structures. The operator has a much better user experience with comfortable controls, optimized lifting functions, and less risk of injury or damage.

There are many other options and capabilities available on today’s electric chain hoists to assist with the specific requirements of your unique operation. From simple contactor controls to inverter technology with smart features, the chain hoist is no longer just a commodity product but can be a valued partner in reaching your safety and productivity goals.

For more information, please contact [email protected] or your local Konecranes representative.

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