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Supply Chain Woes & How ACECO Plans to Overcome

Supply Chain Woes & How ACECO Plans to Overcome

Beyond all the news segments and online articles, I knew the economy was bad when my beloved Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Chips, broke four dollars. Inflation! What a slap in the face, everywhere from the gas pump to the bread isle­­—prices keep getting higher. The Pandemic waned, but the shelves still aren’t as full as they used to be (I even saw baby formula in a locked cabinet yesterday) and that’s because the problem runs deep. How deep you may ask? I think it’s fair to say that it has grown to affect the global economy, and by it, I mean the supply chain. Though, before we dig deeper into how we got here, what ACECO is doing to keep pace, and maybe brainstorm some ideas to reach a global solution (why not dream big?). Let’s breathe clarity into the term Supply Chain.

A supply chain, no matter the industry, is a nexus of resources, individuals, organizations, and varying technologies, which are utilized in a cyclical manner, to form consumable products out of raw materials. This includes the delivery of source materials to the manufacturers and the navigation/cooperation of distribution channels that brings products to the retailers and eventual customers. More recently, the retail middleman has been cut out, thanks to the convenience of online shopping, yet we have come to realize that convenience came with some unwanted baggage.

Circa May 2020, in comes the pandemic. An unprecedented time that undoubtedly forced an economic slowdown across the globe. Corporations laid people off, just to make ends meet, causing production to slow or stop completely. Though people didn’t stop buying (durable goods such as office furniture, kitchen supplies, and outdoor activities), thanks to the financial boost of stimulus checks and the lockdown. A lot of these durable goods required lumber, steel, and other sturdy materials, from manufacturers who thought that the demand would be lower. But people’s urge for DIY projects and resort-like backyards pushed and pulled the need for such materials. And the docks, beyond backed up, had a lack of employees to process the goods and not enough truck drivers to deliver them—we all remember the ship traffic at LA’s port. This all resulted in an overwhelmed and understaffed supply chain, creating room for prices of everything to inflate. The price of steel, a material ACECO works with every day, rose a staggering 215% during the height of the pandemic, according to an article by Fortune.com.  Around this time last year, the benchmark stock price for hot-rolled steel climbed to $1,825. Prior to the pandemic, it traded in the $500 to $800 range. Today, the price hangs around $849.

Now, citizens and companies are left wondering how to pick up the pieces–but let’s dial it back. To better our environment we must first better ourselves, and at ACECO we are doing everything in our power to make sure our customers don’t feel any pressure. To better understand how ACECO is dealing with the degraded supply chain, I had the pleasure to speak with our purchasing manager, Rebecca Hine.

Q: How long have you been the Purchasing Manager at ACECO?

A: I have been employed at ACECO for 7 years

Q: How would you describe ACECO’s supply chain model and why it works best for our company?

A: Our current system JobScope allows engineering to enter the BOM and allocates the parts that need to be ordered or issued from stock at our two (2) locations.

The system is effective in covering the production needs of material, parts, etc. The system captures the costs of the purchase orders and gathers the totals from accounting, who apply costs to the jobs.

Q: What struggles has ACECO encountered, and which of them ranks highest on our list to solve?

A: We have encountered longer lead times, more challenges with the locating the parts, challenges with the logistics and delays at the port for unloading overseas shipments.

Q: What precautions are we implementing to deal with the supply chain issues?

A: Working closely with engineering when needed to substitute parts to meet ship dates. Shopping around for electrical items due to suppliers not having inventory. Increasing inventory levels where needed to alleviate future delays.

Q: What is American Crane doing to be proactive regarding the strength of our supply chain?

A: Adding additional suppliers, increase inventory, work to maintain relationships with new and existing vendors.  Work with engineering to substitute parts if required to meet customer delivery dates. Work with sales, engineering, and procurement during the design process.

 

One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that our affinity for convenience got the best of us. Sure, unprecedented times shook up the entire system, but the constant guarantee of next-day shipping along with the ease of online shopping put a strain on an already rusty supply chain. The comfort of receiving a product at your door after grazing a finger across a screen, made us forget that we live in a global economy— ACECO pride itself in saying ‘Build in the USA’ and we strive to source materials and parts locally and mostly from the USA—but that’s not a reality for most companies in the US. Regardless, the chain needs to be mended and that starts with transparency—b2b and from business to customer. We all have deadlines to meet and the more we’re able to flex, the less the system will be strained. Beyond that, companies need to look into shortening their cycle, somewhere along the line prices will change, but a locally sourced product that doesn’t require freight could drastically decrease your lead time. Finally, technology. As AI becomes more synonymous in our everyday lives, transparency and security will seem hard to avoid. And as AI weaves its way through every industry, smarter systems and software will be created that can manage our systems more efficiently than we can today. Daunting? Of course, but I’m willing to work with anyone and anything to lower the price of those kettle-cooked chips.

 

 

From Lygra to America: A Journey for the Pursuit of Happiness

Oddvar Norheim next to a duobox crane

 

On the anniversary of our nation’s independence, we are reminded of the framework that makes our nation stand out among the many great nations of the world, particularly the rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Even though we have waivered as a nation throughout the years, the heroes of this land fight to make sure that freedom is felt from sea to shining sea. Therefore, we have been a beacon to the world, “This is where you can make a name for yourself, the land of opportunity where anything is possible,” Lady Liberty says as she gazes upon glistening skyscrapers that stand as testaments to the heights one can reach if they dream big.

Oddvar Norheim was one of those dreamers, born on a small island off the coast of Bergen Norway called Lygra. After receiving his bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering, from Bergan Technical College, in Norway, and serving in the Norwegian NATO army, Oddvar sought to travel to the United States where he built our company, American Crane & Equipment Corporation. He created several patents, such as SafLift™ (a process used to transport nuclear fuel). He fostered a friendly and collaborative environment within his company, where no idea was out of the question and the impossible seemed possible; and in 2010, he visited the White House, to discuss trade policy alongside government officials and President Obama. 

When Oddvar became a U.S. citizen, on May 6, 1987, he was given the opportunity to present a speech to the recipients about why he decided to become an American citizen:

 “I believe that America is the country that gives the most opportunities to its people and that the American dream is still achievable. The traditional spirit of the U.S. society that describes the nation as a democratic land of opportunity in which social, political, economic, and religious freedoms prevail—is alive and well; one man is as good as another and any man can achieve his dreams, if only he will. America took on a difficult task after the second world war when it became the nation to protect the freedoms of the world. Of course, this has given many countries and individuals the opportunity to blame America for everything that is wrong, but the strength and determination of this society continues the fight to achieve peace and freedom—showing the kind of people this country is made up of and the strength of our Constitution and the values we so strongly believe in. The willingness of this country to defend freedom around the world is something we all should be proud of. The beauty of this country is no better described then through the words of Samuel A. Ward when he wrote “America the Beautiful” – spacious skies, majestic mountains, and amber waves of grain. America surely does have it all. And we cannot forget the bountiful American highways and king size American cars. It’s hard to find words to express my feelings today as I become part of this grand society, and there is not one factor that made me decide to become a U.S. citizen, but all the things mentioned above and more.”     

Oddvar saw hope in the aspects of America we often take for granted, and in that hope, he achieved his dreams and was able to forge a legacy grand enough to influence the lives of many and present a future for his kin, before passing in October of 2021. Oddvar saw and came to represent the true essence of what it means to be an American; the idea that no matter where you are from, your beliefs, or background—if you are willing to work hard and out of love, not hate, you can elevate your life and the lives of those around you. That’s why here at ACECO we honor Oddvar’s GRIT and determination every day, committing to foster the growth, empowerment, and safety of the people we work with and the customers that hire us.

At ACECO we value our people and everything they have to contribute; so, on this 4th of July, we ask that you remember to value the people of this nation, because without our differences and melting pot of ideas…America would not be the great nation it is today. 

Cleanrooms and Clean Cranes with ACECO

clean room workers in protective gearPicture this: You’ve just arrived at work. You punch your timecard, put your lunch in the fridge and sip down a coffee that properly scorches your tongue. Next, you pass through an air-locked door. Inside, co-workers are shuffling about as they scramble to wash up and put on their gear; garments such as beard covers, coveralls, face masks, lab coats, gloves, hairnets, and shoe covers. With attire fit for a sci-fi drama, you enter through the second door; the air lock hisses like a spaceship, as you walk through. Welcome, you have just entered a manufacturing clean room. Vital industries such as Medical, Pharmaceutical, Aerospace, Food and beverage, and semiconductor utilize clean room facilities to bring us the crucial products and safety, we sometimes take for granted. So, what classifies a clean room and what does ACECO provide to clients who require them? Let’s find out!

Sensitive products ranging from hotdogs to semiconductors to NASA satellites and Advil, make use of cleanroom manufacturing. A cleanroom is any contained space made to minimize airborne particulates and control other environmental specifications such as pressure, humidity, and temperature. A key component of all clean rooms are High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) and Ultra Low Particulate Air (ULPA) filters; all air that enters a cleanroom environment passes through one of these filters. In conjunction with the filters, two main airflow principles are employed: laminar and unidirectional. According to Thomasnet.com, a leading voice in manufacturing, Laminar air flow refers to air that flows in a straight, unimpeded path. Unidirectional flow is maintained in cleanrooms through the use of laminar airflow hoods that direct air jets downward in a straight path, as well as cleanroom architecture that ensures turbulence is lessened. Depending on the product and specifications of your cleanroom (based on the square footage and allowed numbers of particles in the room,)  you will receive a classification; there are both federal and international standards.

Now that we know what clean rooms are, what industries use them, and a general understanding of how they work, let’s discuss how ACECO provides cranes for these meticulous manufacturers.  Our cleanroom hoists and cranes are engineered to lift and lower materials and goods safely and efficiently without introducing contaminants into the space. We manufacture them in various designs and configurations to suit different situations, such as satellite and semiconductor manufacturing operations. The clean room hoists are available in electric chain wire rope models, and synthetic rope models, while clean room cranes are available in overhead or jib models. Our standard clean room hoist and crane offerings are available with load capacities to suit the application. Additionally, we can design, engineer, and fabricate custom material handling or overhead lifting solutions to meet highly specific or unique customer requirements. We also offer inspection, testing, repair, rebuilding, and upgrading services.

So next time you turn on a piece of technology, bite into a sandwich, or take some medicine, you can appreciate the careful process that goes into manufacturing such an item.

American Crane Awarded Women Owned Business Certification

Manufacturing is akin to an orchestra of people artfully joining together to create a one-of-a-kind experience—sales, engineering, fabricating, purchasing, accounting, and information technology harmonize with other departments—this teamwork then crescendos into an exciting environment, yielding magnificent products that can be shared with our customers. And I am proud to be leading this ensemble, with my sister Stephanie beside me.

I’ve been inspired to encourage others to see the value of this industry. I like to think of American Crane as a garden. And while I nurture our garden, our future, it also nurtures me.

As we make strides towards a prosperous and innovative future, we are proud to announce that we have been certified as both a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and as a Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

One of the major milestones in my life was the decision to work for my father. At the time, I wondered “How fun could manufacturing be?” It’s been more than 18 years since I made one of the best decisions of my life. Through my work with American Crane and Equipment Corporation, I found my passion for manufacturing.  If it hadn’t been for my father, I may not have considered a career in manufacturing. I would have missed out on the most rewarding job I have ever had.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of women-owned businesses has been steadily on the rise, with the most recent figures from 2020 finding that 20.9% (1.2 million) of American companies were owned by women.

More importantly, too often, women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. But there is a significant overlap between what women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. To those wanting to enter our field, join us! There is exciting work to be done and a path that still needs paving for the future generations of women.

Being a certified WBE/WOSB enables our customers in government entities and private industry to formally acknowledge their partnership with American Crane, not only as a leading supplier of innovative overhead handling solutions but also as an indicator of their increased commitment to engaging a diverse supplier base.

Both certifications verify that American Crane is at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by a woman or women. This means one or more women must have unrestricted control of the business, a demonstrated management of day-to-day operations, and a proportionate investment of capital or expertise.

By partnering with a forward-thinking, evolving organization that has valued and prioritized inclusion, diversity, and innovation within our operations for 50 years, our customers—both existing and new—will continue to benefit from our creative solutions.

Want to learn more about our new certifications and how they can benefit your organization? Contact us.

One-Stop Shopping for All Your Crane Component Needs

E-commerce and online shopping exploded during the pandemic to the tune of $4.2 trillion U.S. in 2020. And why not? It’s an easy, convenient way to find virtually anything you need (or don’t need: Chip Fingertip Protectors anyone?).

The trick, of course, is being able to find what you need. That’s not always the easiest thing to do. Take American Crane’s Online Store. It’s been up and running for the better part of a decade and used by many of our customers. Based on their feedback, however, we realized we could foster a better shopping experience by making a few key changes, which we’ve recently implemented.

Accessible via the yellow clickable button at the top of every page on americancrane.com—or by navigating one of two choices (parts and new equipment or custom manufactured equipment) at the bottom of the slider image window on our homepage—you will find our freshly revamped Online Store. It incorporates a variety of enhancements designed to make it much more intuitive and easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. These include new functions for keyword searches for filtering by brand, crane type (jib or gantry), lift height (10, 15, 20, or 30 feet), or by three primary product categories: parts, new equipment, and new old stock/used inventory.

Both the parts and new equipment sections include products from key crane, hoist, and monorail brands, including Duct-O-Wire, Columbus McKinnon and its different product families. Also Listed in the parts section is a huge selection of off-the-shelf replacement and service items for maintenance and repair, organized by category.

By browsing the new old stock/used inventory section, you’ll find ready-to-ship items ranging from electrical and mechanical components to full hoists and below-the-hook devices. We’re also listing refurbished and used equipment here as well, both manufactured by American Crane and by others.

With more than 40,000 separate items listed, the new search and filtering functions are a huge help for those who are searching for something specific. Already have a part number? There’s also an express ordering function that allows you to plug in the specific part—or parts—needed. In case you’re wondering, no, we do not physically stock every part sold via our online store. Many are shipped directly from the manufacturers themselves, often from the distribution center with the closest geographic proximity to your location to minimize shipping time.

For those who need a bit more guidance or have questions as they’re searching for exactly the right component, American Crane’s parts team is available for personal assistance via email at parts@americancrane.com or phone call at 610-385-2950. They can be reached between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday. Existing customers can also sign into the store to access their order history for repeat orders.

Finally, and as always, if you can’t find what you’re looking for in a standard, off-the-shelf model, American Crane can design, engineer, and manufacture virtually any crane or material handling equipment or system required. Our custom overhead lifting equipment is used widely across multiple industries—such as aerospace, nuclear, hazardous, cleanrooms, and more—to lift, lower, and transport critical loads. And we look forward to bringing that expertise to your next project!

We welcome you to check out our new online store as you’re looking for your next overhead material handling part or component. Have additional ideas about how we can make it even better? Contact us.

ACECO Leverages the IoT, to Create Smart Crane Technology

Ever since the rise of personal computers and portable phones in the ’80s, humanity has been on the fast track of innovation; seldomly slowing to take a breath, but as we find space and take time to bask in all we’ve created, among the many algorithms and blue light screens, it seems hard to figure out where we’ll end up—likely a healthy mix between Ready Player One, Orwell’s 1984, and Blade Runner. I guarantee real-life Sci-fi has found its way into your life. Smart technologies have already begun to dominate our lives, just look down at your Apple Watch, or tell your Google Home to play Spotify, shout Alexa and ask her to buy more toilet paper for your stockpile, or toss on your VR headset and instantly travel to a destination on the other side of the globe.

Past the blockbuster drama and sea of LCD screens, it is an inevitable fact that humans become more and more intertwined with technology every day. The machines we use are smarter, faster, and communicate more efficiently. 

American Crane is utilizing those advancements and building upon them in our Innovation Lab to better merge the world of overhead lifting and digital technology. One of our latest cutting-edge solutions: the new ACECO Smart Crane System, leverages the Internet of Things (IoT) to continually collect machine status data for analysis.

What is the IoT? In the simplest terms, it’s an extension of internet and network connections to different sensors and devices embedded within industrial equipment and machinery. And its use is on the rise. According to the most recent MHI Annual Industry Report, IoT solutions are currently deployed by 21% of material handling equipment owners and are poised to be adopted by 80% of them within the next five years. Further, the report found that 45% of those surveyed believe IoT has the potential to disrupt the industry in a positive way or create a competitive advantage among those who use it; 39% say IoT supports ongoing operational improvements.

To support and utilize those findings, our ACECO Smart Crane System is designed and engineered to support real-time, wireless IoT communication with overhead handling equipment. This enhanced data exchange allows overhead handling equipment owners and operators to gain access to a variety of information about their systems, and to benefit from:

 

  • Detailed remote monitoring information about travel, lift, and speeds; load weights; limit states; amperage ranges; and drive fault status.
  • Collection and analysis of long-term, historic usage data for comparison and evaluation of trends in the Cloud.
  • Detection of, and alerts about, unsafe conditions.
  • Alerts to key personnel with event-based notifications via email or text when a pre-determined threshold has been reached.
  • More accurate timing for scheduling predictive and preventive maintenance or repairs based on actual usage.

 

Customizable and scalable, the ACECO Smart Crane System can be provided with a new crane system or retrofitted into existing equipment. Its system architecture interfaces with any crane system equipped with variable frequency drives (VFDs) for motor control and can be integrated into nearly any sensor embedded within the overhead equipment system. It consists of two separate solutions: 

  • SmartCrane loT – This system is artificial intelligence (AI) and extended reality (XR) enabled for remote asset monitoring, improved performance, predictive maintenance and minimization or elimination of downtime through Cloud-based analytics. 
  • MachineHealth loT (MHloT) – Also AI- and XR-enabled, this machine health system monitors currents, vibrations, and temperature for cross-field industry applications. This comprehensive system allows for remote monitoring and Cloud-based predictive analytics to optimize performance, maintenance, and diagnostics.

Data collected by both of American Crane’s IoT solutions can be accessed in a centralized dashboard by both local and remote users via web browser or app. The Cloud-based dashboard offers graphical chart and table views of a broad range of data points. These include determination of Crane Manufacturer’s Association of America (CMAA) usage-based service classification (Class A-F); monitoring and more accurate predictions of component life spans based on speed, run time, and loading; precise scheduling of preventive maintenance and repair based on actual usage; trends in operation and function; and access to crane-specific design documentation, inspection reports, and user manuals.

Additionally, application of the ACECO Smart Crane System is not limited to overhead lifting. It can also be adapted to work with any other material handling equipment utilizing VFDs for motion control and operation. That allows users to gain the same monitoring and preventive maintenance benefits on other machinery within their facilities.

If you’re ready to have a more intelligent system communicate with your overhead lifting equipment, we’d love to make that happen. Connect with us today to learn more and Let’s step into the future together!

Bringing GRIT to MHI’s Board of Governors

Just a couple of months ago, in December 2021, I was honored to be named to the MHI Board of Governors. Established in 1945, MHI is an international trade association that has represented the material handling, logistics, and supply chain industry for more than 75 years. The organization offers education, standards development, networking, and solution sourcing for its members, their customers, and the industry through programming and events — including the MODEX and ProMat tradeshows.

Leading MHI is its appointed Board of Governors. This group consists of the Officers and Board Governors of MHI plus the Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel of the corporation. The Board of Governors serves as the Board of Directors for MHI.

In American Crane’s 50 years of operation, participation in MHI has always been important to our company. As a forward-thinking, innovative company, taking leadership within the material handling field as a whole has been part of our organization’s vision from the beginning.

I was particularly honored to discover that I am only the second woman to ever have been appointed to MHI’s Board of Governors. It’s no secret that the material handling field — like many industries — has long been dominated by men. As a woman who grew up in this industry, I feel that increasing diversity among all levels is critically important to its continued success. For that reason, I was delighted to join MHI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee when it was first formed a year ago.

Creating inclusive and diverse workplaces brings different perspectives together on the same team. That variety of viewpoints and experiences allows companies — and industries — to solve problems more effectively. It’s a perspective we embrace fully at American Crane. It’s been a delight to share our company’s vision with other MHI members as they work to create an environment that fosters the appreciation of all employees’ creative diversity through trust, respect, and openness.

Further, American Crane has proudly served as a long-standing Executive Member of Crane Manufacturer’s Association of America (CMAA). An independent trade association that is affiliated with MHI, CMAA’s vision is to be the most trusted knowledge resource for overhead cranes. It works to achieve that objective through its mission: to deliver technical specifications and resources that promote safety in the design, operation, and maintenance of overhead cranes. CMAA’s engineering specifications are widely recognized as the preferred design standard for overhead traveling cranes, integrated crane systems, and crane components.

My father, Oddvar Norheim — American Crane’s past President and CEO — believed strongly in MHI, and in CMAA’s mission in particular. Not only did he serve a term as CMAA’s President, but he also assisted in the development of those recommended standards and specifications by dedicating several of American Crane’s own engineers to help in their development. Today, that tradition continues as I, too, have been heavily involved in CMAA since I joined American Crane two decades ago. Currently, I serve as CMAA’s President.

My involvement in these industry groups was among the reasons MHI CEO John Paxton cited when announcing my new Board of Governors role. He writes:

Karen provides clear, direct, and results-focused leadership of the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA). She brings her leadership experience as the President and CEO of American Crane and applies that to raise the Overhead Crane industry for all members. Based on her success leading CMAA, Karen was recently elected to the MHI Board of Governors’ where she provides those same leadership skills into the MHI strategic planning process.

In addition, she is a member of the MHI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee. I really enjoy working with Karen. She is a collaborative leader who is direct, to the point, and has a passion for delivering results. Her company mantra is “GRIT Matters,” and she brings that GRIT to the MHI Board. We really appreciate her time as a volunteer supporting several MHI initiatives.

I look forward to continuing to give back to the industry while helping to chart its course for the future as a member of the MHI Board of Governors.

 

When It Comes To Best Practices In Overhead Lifting Safety, Pay Attention To The Details

As with so many things in life, it’s the little things that make a big difference. The same holds true of overhead lifting equipment and its operation: paying attention to the small details can have a big impact on the safety and productivity of a facility.

That’s why the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), an organization dedicated to promoting the standardization of crane design and operation — as well as uniform quality and performance — works hard to meet its mission. That is, to deliver technical specifications and resources that promote safety in the design, operation, and maintenance of overhead cranes.

Even after poring over those specifications, standards, and resources, owners and operators of cranes often still have questions. Many of those questions surround some of the key details that should be taken into consideration when buying, operating, maintaining, and inspecting overhead lifting equipment.

For that reason, CMAA — along with its partners in MHI’s Overhead Alliance, the Hoist Manufacturers Institute (HMI), and the Monorail Manufacturers Association (MMA) —worked together to develop their latest publication, the Overhead Lifting Best Practices Guide. The document was written in collaboration with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Overhead Lifting Best Practices Guide gives owners and operators of overhead lifting equipment a comprehensive, single-source reference about some of the key tools and techniques — including the little details — that contribute to a safer operation. As the current President of CMAA and having worked in the industry myself for 20 years, I have seen the operational safety and productivity benefits that result from following these guidelines and standards. The 18 best-practice topics include:

  • Qualifications of overhead crane and hoist operator to ensure that personnel have been properly trained to safely use the equipment.
  • Fall protection for crane structures, specifically lifelines and harnesses that have been properly designed to prevent or stop the accidental fall of workers and their tools while working at height.
  • Capacity markings on cranes, hoists, and monorails to indicate to an operator the maximum rated load the system was designed to handle.
  • Safety signs — such as decals, labels, placards, cord tags, or other markings — indicate hazards and the safety precautions that should be taken to avoid them.
  • Audible and visible warning alarms that indicate to the operator and other personnel in the area of the crane’s operation that the equipment is in use.
  • Load tests to verify that the equipment will perform all functions (lift, lower, travel the length of the bridge and of the runway) while supporting a test load equal to the maximum rated capacity of the equipment. These are performed at commissioning, after any modifications are made, and during certain inspections.
  • Conductor bar systems, specifically bare uninsulated copper wire conductors positioned along the length of a runway to supply power to overhead equipment, and a fourth, unpowered bar for grounding the system.
  • Conductor bar guards and how to attach and maintain them so that they prevent inadvertent contact of power wires with hoist ropes, block, or load.
  • Upper limit switches are designed to cut off the power automatically at (or near) the maximum limit of travel for a crane motion, such as lift/lower, trolley traverse, or bridge traverse. This prevents damage to the overhead equipment that may result in a load drop.
  • E-stops and safety disconnects, their location, accessibility, and how they are to be used to cut off the power to the overhead handling equipment outside of the regular operating controls in the event of an emergency or loss of control.
  • E-stops for powered, below-the-hook devices that attach a load to the hook, such as vacuum lifters, electro-magnets, and grippers. These E-stops operate independently of the overall crane system, allowing the operator to disengage the power solely for the below-the-hook device if an emergency or malfunction occurs.
  • Runway disconnect switches provide a backup to an E-stop as a second means to disconnect power to the crane if a malfunction or emergency happens.
  • Rail sweeps, mounted in front of the wheels on bridge and trolley end trucks, ensure that any debris or obstructions in the travel path are bumped off the railway. They prevent damage to crane wheels, axles, and bearings, as well as stop objects from passing between the rail and wheels, which could cause a derailment.
  • Trolley and bridge bumpers made of rubber, polyurethane, springs, or a hydraulic device that minimizes the force of an impact when a trolley or bridge reaches the end of its permitted travel or contacts the rail end stops at a high rate of speed. They prevent structural damage to the crane, runway, and building and should be routinely maintained and inspected.
  • Bridge and trolley brakes for slowing, stopping, holding, and controlling motion. Operators should be trained in their proper use. They save wear and tear on the bridge and trolley, as well as prevent a load from running into and damaging equipment or injuring personnel. They should be routinely maintained and inspected.
  • Guards for couplings and line shafts, whether fixed or removable, serve as a safety barrier that prevents access to dangerous areas. Any moving parts of a crane or hoist that might pose a hazard during normal operation must be guarded to prevent injury.
  • End stops limit trolley or crane bridge travel. Typically mounted to a fixed structure, they prevent damage to the equipment and are designed to engage the full surface of a bumper. They should be maintained and inspected regularly.
  • Chain containers capture and store slack hoist chains on the no-load side of the load sheave. Their use is recommended when an excess load chain is likely to interfere with the load or to create a hazard to operations or personnel.

Many of the 18 topics discussed are covered by requirements outside of those from CMAA, HMI, MMA, and OSHA. Pertinent standards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the National Electrical Code (NEC) are also included. Each topic has a list of best practices for how to interpret those requirements, as well as how to implement or follow their directions, to create the safest overhead lifting environment possible.

Overhead Lifting Best Practices Guide is offered as a free download. I encourage you to add a copy to your library of resources. If you have any questions about the topics it covers — or about any other best practices in the safe operation and maintenance of your overhead handling equipment and its numerous safety features and devices — don’t hesitate to connect with American Crane. Our online Resources Library includes a collection of informative eBooks, videos, CAD drawings, photos, and a crane glossary.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact us. We’re happy to help. 

Building Quality: Ensuring the Safety and Productivity of Your Operation

Ensuring the Safety and Productivity of Your OperationEnsuring that every customer’s crane and hoist solution over-delivers on operational safety, productivity, and longevity is the foundation of American Crane’s mission. In fact, the very first pillar of our mission statement is: “We are passionate about delighting our customers. Our mission is to make their lives easier. We do what we commit to do, do it well and do it on-schedule.”

A massive part of that commitment is our dedication to the core value, “Build Quality.” As explained in our values: “What we do, we do well. We strive to provide excellence and value in our products & services.” Every member of our team recognizes that if our products aren’t manufactured to the highest quality standards, the safety and integrity of each customer’s operation is jeopardized.

How We Build Quality into Every Crane We Make

At American Crane, we’ve taken a number of steps to ensure our people, processes, technologies, and equipment meet or exceed the most stringent industry standards and certifications. These include:

Training and Certifications. All of our manufacturing personnel, including machinists, welders, fabricators, and assemblers, are trained and re-trained annually (or more often). Continuous education, sourced internally and through certified third-party instructors, hones and improves their skills while meeting our highest quality standards. Additionally, many members of our welding team are certified by American Crane to both American and Canadian welding standards:

Manufacturing Capabilities. American Crane’s products have always been proudly Built in the USA, primarily to guarantee that each overhead handling solution we manufacturer is over the highest quality. We continuously invest in our own manufacturing capabilities, including state-of-the-art technologies such as:

  • A computer numerical control (CNC) machine shop.
  • In-house electrical panel shop, including the ability to manufacture UL508 certified control panels.

Engineering Capabilities. No two crane and hoist applications or solutions are ever the same. To ensure that every unique overhead lifting system we manufacture exceeds our customers’ expectations, American Crane’s in-house engineering department is equipped with a broad range of design, modeling, and analysis capabilities, including:

  • AutoCad, MathCad, Solidworks, SAP2000, and ANSYS software.
  • Design of machinery and machine components, mechanical systems, control systems, automated systems, and software.
  • Design, analysis and seismic qualification of structures, failure modes and effects, and more.
  • Engineering studies of existing equipment, specification review and development, and conceptual development for unique applications
  • “Smart” crane systems that provide enhanced protection and maintenance data.

Inspection and Testing Capabilities. To verify the safety and integrity of our products before delivery and installation at a customer location, American Crane’s in-house quality assurance group performs a variety of inspections and testing procedures. These include:

Quality Assurance Verifications. American Crane offers several graded quality assurance programs to match each customer’s specific requirements, including those of the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the nuclear industry. These include:

  • Standard Quality Program (SQP-96) is utilized for standard commercial cranes and other material handling equipment and is implemented in accordance with controls identified in the SQP-96 Standard Quality Manual.
  • Augmented Quality Program (ASQP-96) is offered to customers who require additional quality controls than committed to in SQP-96. American Crane provides a cost-effective way to obtain these additional controls without invoking its highest level QAM-96 Quality Assurance Manual (described below). For augmented quality controls, SQP-96 is used to provide baseline commitments. Additional controls required by the customer’s contract will be achieved by invoking additional, applicable procedures (APs). Any APs to be invoked are jointly determined by the VP, Quality & Performance Improvement and the Project Manager and documented in a Fabrication, Inspection, and Test Plan. Where required by contract, the combination of implementing SQP-96 with the appropriate AP procedures the intent of ISO 9001 can be met.
  • Nuclear Quality Assurance Program (QAM-96) is available for contracts requiring a comprehensive, documented quality assurance program. QAM-96 was developed to meet the quality assurance program requirements of 10CRFR50, Appendix B; ASME- NQA-1; and ANSI N45.2. Because this program is intended when safety related cranes or material handling equipment is being procured for nuclear related applications, this program is typically not economical for non-nuclear contracts because of additional required activities and associated costs.

At American Crane, GRIT Equals Quality

The American Crane commitment to Build Quality in every product we make is fully embraced by our entire team, notes the members of our quality assurance team. They include Lester Dice, Broc Emery, and Mike Lamparella.

“Build Quality, for me, means the effort that we all put in at American Crane. The final result really pays dividends,” says Dice. “We do what we say we’re going to do and live up to the expectations of the company and of our customers.”

Emery adds, “Build Quality also means craftsmanship, and caring about what you do. I believe it’s vital to our customers to show that we care about what we’re building and that we produce good work.”

“By following our Build Quality systems, we make American Crane one of the top crane manufacturers in the country,” explains Lamparella, who notes that customers frequently comment on how impressed they are with the final quality of their crane, particularly those with the most challenging and complex requirements.

Safety. Productivity. Longevity. Because we only Build Quality at American Crane, our customers can be assured that every custom overhead crane solution we manufacture will check each of those boxes. It’s just one of the many components of our mantra: GRIT Matters. To learn more about how we put Perseverance, Heart, and InteGRITy into our high-quality products, contact us.

6 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Crane and Hoist for Your Application

Choosing the Right Crane

In a previous post, I discussed some basic details about cranes and hoists, and how they work together. As promised, here are some thoughts about the different factors that should be considered when specifying a crane and hoist combination.

I’ve essentially grown up in the overhead handling industry, so I know how complex and time consuming it can be trying to figure out what equipment will best match an operation’s unique overhead handling needs and budget requirements. There are a lot of manufacturers who make a variety of cranes and hoists to handle different kinds of loads, capacities, frequencies of use, and environmental conditions across different industries. Just figuring out where to begin can be daunting. I get it.

That’s why I recommend considering the following six factors as you begin your crane and hoist investment journey. Understanding and having insight into each of these areas and how they impact the overall specification and buying process will help you to make a more informed decision.

  1. The Load. All crane and hoist manufacturers need to know what you’re lifting, as well as its dimensions, total weight, surface characteristics, uniformity (or not) of shape, material, construction, and fragility. Also, if the load will be wet, dry, dusty, oily, or in some other condition as it’s handled. Further, it’s important to note if more than one type of load needs to be handled by the crane and hoist. Depending on how different each load is from another, more than one combination of overhead lifting and handling solution might be recommended.
  2. The Frequency of Use. How often and at what percentage of its maximum load capacity the crane and hoist will be used — also known as Duty Cycle Requirements — has a significant impact on the service class an application requires. There are six crane and hoist service classes. Specifying equipment engineered to meet the appropriate class for your application will ensure its safety and longevity. Briefly, the six classes are:
  • Class A: Standby or Infrequent Service. These are often applications where precise handling of equipment at slow speeds with long idle periods between lifts occur.
  • Class B: Light Service. Light use, low speed applications, with loads ranging from none to full rated capacity at a rate of two to five lifts per hour averaging 10 feet per lift.
  • Class C: Moderate Service. Loads average 50% of the rated capacity with five to 10 lifts per hour at an average of 15 feet.
  • Class D: Heavy Service. Loads approaching 50% to 65% of rated capacity are handled constantly and at high speeds, with 10 to 20 lifts per hour at an average of 15 feet.
  • Class E: Severe Service. Near continuous use with 20 or more lifts per hour at or near 100% of the rated capacity, often in harsh environments.
  • Class F: Continuous Severe Service. Continuous use in harsh conditions at near 100% of the rated capacity. These cranes may be custom designed for high reliability in critical operations.
  1. The Required Speed. How quickly the crane must travel and hoist must lift and lower in order to keep up with production processes is critical to ensuring overall operational efficiency. A system that is too fast or too slow can compromise safety.
  2. The Operating Environment. Cranes and hoists are used both indoors and outside; either environment can have its own specific challenges including temperature, hazardous conditions, dust, heat, humidity, liquids, oils, fibers, corrosive chemicals, and more. Depending on the application, a custom crane and hoist combination may be recommended to increase reliability and service life.
  3. The Expected Longevity. Routine maintenance is a must for all cranes and hoists to ensure they operate safely and reliably throughout their entire lifespan. How often (or not) an operation wants the equipment to run between servicing, to replace key components, or to replace the entire system is an important consideration when designing and specifying a crane and hoist.
  4. The Budget. While it can be tempting to pick the crane and hoist combination priced the lowest of all options, chances are that system will not be engineered to meet the actual requirements of the application. A properly engineered system likely will not be the least expensive, but it has a better chance of operating for a longer period of time with fewer operational issues, less downtime, and a higher degree of safety. Further, there are costs associated with all capital equipment investments beyond the initial purchase price. Be sure to account for installation, spare parts, maintenance agreements, service contracts, and desired level of field service team responsiveness to issues when totaling up the costs of the equipment.

Other Resources to Help You Specify the Right Crane and Hoist

Beyond the considerations outlined above, there are a variety of buyer’s guide resources available. These are intended to help novice and experienced buyers of overhead lifting systems better evaluate their options and determine the optimal crane and hoist solution for their application.

The definitive resource is published by the Crane Manufacturers Association of America (CMAA), an independent trade association affiliated with MHI. CMAA’s member companies are the world’s top providers of overhead traveling crane equipment and related products. As the leading advocates for the safe application and operation of overhead handling equipment, CMAA develops, publishes, and routinely reviews and updates design safety standards and specifications for a variety of crane systems and components. (Fun fact: I happen to be currently serving as the association’s President).

The CMAA Buyer’s Guide — available as a free download in American Crane’s online Resource Center in the eBooks section — is actually a collection of four documents:

  • Below-the-Hook Lifting Device contains a series of questions to be answered about the loads the device will handle (weight, dimensions, symmetry, fragility, material, surface conditions, and more); operating conditions; description of current handling process; and more.
  • Top Running & Under Running Single Girder Electric Traveling Cranes Utilizing Under Running Trolley Hoists includes key design and engineering questions to ask when vetting potential suppliers about their manufacturing processes specific to CMAA Specification 74; an inquiry data sheet which includes a series of questions about the space in which the crane and hoist will operate; operating conditions; desired speeds; load(s) to be handled; and more. It also includes an overview of crane service classifications to help buyers identify the actual conditions in which the crane and hoist will operate, and a series of recommended bridge, trolley, and hoist speeds based on the system’s total load capacity.
  • Top Running & Gantry Type Multiple Girder Electric Overhead Traveling Cranes features the same inquiry points in the Single Girder version, only specific to CMAA Specification 70.
  • The Buyer’s Guide Companion pertains to both the Single and Multiple Girder Buyer’s Guides. It offers detailed explanations of why it is important to ask potential suppliers each question about adherence to CMAA Specifications 74 and 70, and how those answers may impact the safety, function, operation, and lifespan of the selected crane and hoist combination.

Additionally, at American Crane, we’ve developed two separate publications that supplement CMAA’s guides: How to Choose the Right Crane: A Crane Buyer’s Guide and How to Choose the Right Hoist: A Hoist Buyer’s Guide. Both of these documents are also free downloads located in the eBooks section of our online Resource Center. Whereas the CMAA documents are more engineering focused, our publications offer a broader, less technical perspective on key crane and hoist selection considerations, as well as an overview of the types of solutions available.

Finally, I urge you to leverage the knowledge of an experienced crane and hoist equipment professional, including suppliers, manufacturers, and vendors. While publications are a great resource, nothing compares to partnering with a company that has the breadth of expertise in designing and engineering a broad range of crane and hoist solutions. American Crane’s experts are always available to help you better evaluate your overhead handling options, as well as determine the optimal solution for your needs. Connect with a project specialist today.