Technology is rapidly growing as we know it. Cell phones are taking higher quality photos than most cameras did ten years ago, electric cars are constantly improving, and you can turn on your kitchen lights by only using your voice. Almost all fields are seeing rapid advancements, so what does it mean in the lifting industry? The future of the lifting industry is full of opportunities and growth. In this post, we will cover emerging technological advancements and how it can change workers’ daily routines.
The Future of Electric Cranes in the Lifting Industry
We previously discussed Tadano’s electric crane announcement in a Facebook post. Even though eco-friendly equipment began emerging recently, it is still a major opportunity for the lifting industry. By producing less noise and less emissions, workers can complete projects with a tighter deadline. In addition, this can improve working conditions.
An Example of the Benefits
A new restaurant is being built next to an apartment complex in Orlando, Florida. Due to the noise ordinances from the apartments, work can only be completed during business hours. The workers have no choice but to work in direct sunlight with a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
By switching from diesel cranes to electric-powered equipment, the project can occur at night without the workers being at a high risk of dehydration and the sun’s harmful UV rays. The residents of the apartment complex will remain undisturbed.
Something to Consider with Electric Cranes
Certain industries will see more benefits with electric cranes than others. Refineries, power plants, and other fixed plants will benefit from electrical cranes. By having a grid that is easily accessible, the cranes can be plugged in and operate as normal. Construction will most likely continue using diesel-powered cranes, as the cranes frequently travel to different jobsites and locations.
Oscar Esparza, CICB’s Director of Sales, sees the benefits of electric cranes, but does not see them completely replacing diesel-powered cranes. “Unless electrical units are on a long charge, diesel shouldn’t be going anywhere. The cost of transitioning to electric cranes will also be heavy, and the process will be lengthy. Although there is a benefit to areas with noise ordinances, the residential areas affected by loud construction noises are a minor percentage.”
The Future of 3D Lift Planning in the Lifting Industry
Electric cranes are just one element of the lifting industry’s future. Liebherr has developed the Crane Planner 2.0, which is a 3D program that is used for lift planning. This software is high-tech and detailed, which allows a team to ensure they will be able to conduct a safe lift. Load capacities, ground pressures, and the center of gravity can be calculated with the program. Liebherr states in their press release, “each time the configuration, load, or geometry is changed, a new calculation is carried out.”
Although this platform is currently only compatible with Liebherr mobile/crawler cranes and hydraulic rope excavators, it is a breakthrough for the industry. If this software takes off and other crane models utilize it, lift planning will be much more precise and accurate. By virtually walking through each step of the process, accidents and injuries should see a significant decrease.
An Example of the Benefits
A company is lifting a 3,000lb pipe, and is determining the best way to complete the operation, since they will be working around buildings. Even with a concise lift plan, there is always a chance of an accident. By using the 3D technology, the workers can put their plan to the test. If the jib has to be at a certain angle to avoid contact with a building, it is important to make sure the weight of the load can support that angle. The program can simulate the project and ensure it is successful. The probability of accidents, injuries, and property damage is greatly reduced.
One Thing to Consider with 3D Lift Planning
According to OSHA 1910.179 (n)(3)(i), “The load shall be well secured and properly balanced in the sling or lifting device before it is lifted more than a few inches.”
With that being said, the trial-and-error method is more effective than calculations. The 3D lift planning tool absolutely should be used prior to conducting the lift and it will provide a very close calculation, however, riggers should not fully rely on the tool. When the lift is conducted, the load should be lifted slightly off the ground and ensured it is balanced over the center of gravity before continuing.
It is also important for those using the tool to note what is input in the program will affect the output. For example, if a company does not measure the height of the building and only estimates it, the program will not generate the same calculations as if the building was formally measured. The program is an excellent aid but should not be used to replace qualified riggers.
Another opportunity for the future is during the training process. Crane simulators are an excellent starting point for those who are brand new to lifting operations. Although simulator training should never replace in-person, hands-on training, it is a great tool to incorporate.
CICB’s Houston location has a CM Labs Simulator with a variety of effects to enhance training. Although CICB prepares all students to encounter every possible obstacle they can face on the job, there are certain weather elements that are uncommon in southern states.
The simulator allows students to practice crane operation in every possible learning environment, whether it be rain, hail, snow, or high winds. Students are also able to safely practice blind lifts, which is a scenario that can happen in any job site.
Again, we understand the importance of in-person training, but simulator training adds the extra experience for new operators. By combining simulator training to hands-on crane training, the operator will be far more successful and be more prepared for any sort of weather condition or blind lift.
Additional Opportunities for Future of the Lifting Industry
Even though three technological advancements were analyzed, there are dozens of opportunities for the lifting industry. Roborigger was founded in 2015 and has already grown immensely since then. This company creates rigging equipment which eliminates the need for a tagline and allows the load to be controlled. This creates a safer, more precise work environment.
Receiving a minimum of a bachelor's degree is being pushed to younger generations, while trades are just as important. Industry Lift focuses on filling the gap in trade jobs by creating a virtual reality learning environment.
The company states, "Our goal at Industry Lift is to meet the industry needs of filling the job gaps that are being left open as older generations retire by using Virtual and Augmented Reality to attract and entice younger generations to look at career options within trades."
The company is rapidly growing and will be releasing three new games in the near future. They include HVAC, electrical, and plumbing work.
Toyota Forklifts launched a “Smart Environment Sensor” back in 2021, which has already taken off. This technology can detect objects up to 32 feet away, to prevent striking pedestrians or other objects. Older Toyota Forklifts models can be retrofitted for the Smart Environment Sensor. This gives companies the opportunity to upgrade their technology without having to purchase a brand-new forklift.
Is This Really the Future of the Lifting Industry?
After reading this article, take a moment to picture your vision of the lifting industry’s future. Although there is no crystal ball that tells us exactly what the next ten years will look like, the current technological advancements are painting a picture of possibilities. As new inventions are rolled out, there initially may be some kinks that need to be worked out, but with time, it will improve and become commonly used.
Sean Starkey, a CICB Instructor and Inspector, thinks that the lifting industry has a safer future. He notes that “CICB is producing safer operators. I have experience in the crane industry, and safety was not previously pushed as heavily as it is now. Today, safety is crucial for efficiency. Newer operators have been exposed to computers since their childhood, and newer cranes are essentially computers with their high-tech screens.”
No matter what happens, it is inevitable that the industry will continue to flourish and see great improvements.