Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Data Mining Leads to Intelligent Handling of Bulk Freight by Maritime Cranes

New Technology Results in Optimisation of Port Equipment
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – CHINA – Following on from our last article demonstrating an ‘intelligent’ hook for safer lifting comes news from one of the world’s most influential maritime crane builders of a piece of technology destined to transform the bulk handling of freight by utilising cutting edge data mining to ensure optimum loads of every single lift. Liebherr Maritime Cranes predicts its new SmartGrip system will be ‘game changing’ bringing numerous advantages when handling loose fill cargo including higher performance and zero overloads.

Part of the skill of loading these awkward consignments is judging just how much a crane grab can handle and the development of SmartGrip is based on recent turnover analyses in various ports around the world. The data showed that, on average, only 70% of the grab capacity is used with many factors influencing as to why the grab is not operated at full capacity, including suboptimal grabbing angle and varying material density.

For crane operators the estimation of the material density and the right grabbing angle can present a real challenge and obviously with the safest course for the operator being to underestimate combined with judgement of angle errors the result is inevitably less turnover for the ports concerned. Liebherr are convinced that the new product eliminates the associated problems and optimises grab filling rates.

In a comprehensive field study, Liebherr collected real data of different crane models which were equipped with a wide range of grabs to handle different materials. Additionally, numerous crane operators ensured a broad spectrum of skill-levels during data collection and, thanks to in-depth analyses, Liebherr says it has deduced the ideal grab filling model by means of data mining. In operation, the self-learning system automatically adjusts its behaviour by recognising bulk density, compression and granularity as well as current frame conditions like depth of impression or type of grab.

The system only requires a maximum of seven cycles to utilise the full capacity of the grab as load cycle by load cycle, SmartGrip automatically optimises filling to maximum capability taking grab size and outreach into account. Right from the second load cycle, SmartGrip ensures that the grab filling rate is above that average of 70%. Changing materials and varying density are main challenges for the crane operator in bulk operation and furthermore, density also depends on depth of impression which means that even when working on the same hatch, handling situation may change.

If the driver needs to fill the grab manually, he may overload the crane when pulling the lifting attachment out of sticky material whilst frequent overloads lead to a notably shorter lifetime of the crane, additionally, these overloads are also time-consuming as the crane is automatically switched off if there is too much pull on the grab. SmartGrip controls the filling of the grab to suit the load curve of the crane which leads to perfect crane utilisation without overloading. Thus, SmartGrip also automatically works as overload prevention system resulting in an extended lifetime of the crane, saving fuel and time.

Bulk material handling comprises a number of challenges. To maximise productivity, the grab has to be filled to the limit, which means the driver has to fine-tune grab filling by opening and closing the grab as well as hoisting and lowering. This is both stress for the operator and time-consuming. When SmartGrip is activated, the operator can completely rely on the system for an accurate determination of the material density and optimal grabbing angle in a very short time. The automatic and optimised grab filling means less stress for the crane operator who can then focus more on other important issues like safety.

Achieved turnover depends on many issues, including available infrastructure, driver skills and materials handled, SmartGrip optimises various parameters and allows for improved performance. In view of the average grab filling rate of 70%, the technology obviously offers a potential of up to 30% more turnover whilst additionally, turnover variance is significantly reduced, leading to more efficiency in operation. Field studies showed that even up to 40% turnover increase are realistic if the grab filling rate is below average and the system also partly closes the gap between high-skilled and less-skilled drivers, as some important parts of bulk handling are automatically optimised by the system.

Another striking feature offered by SmartGrip is the possibility to manually set target loads. If a crane operator needs to load a 40 tonne capacity truck, for instance, he can advise SmartGrip to fill the grab with 40 tonnes thus simplifying the task of the crane operator. Often the variable nature of different types of bulk freight being handled by a multimodal terminal means their unique characteristics require an assortment of grab types. These cost more in terms of acquisition plus time to exchange the equipment and the room on site set aside for storage. Due to intelligent grabbing, the number of necessary grabs is significantly reduced as the system automatically adapts the grab filling rate to the material handled and the size of the grab.

SmartGrip, which can be fitted retrospectively to existing crane models, is the latest of several innovations to assist in the handling of bulk materials by Liebherr which include Cycoptronic®, TeachIn, Pactronic® and also the LiSIM maritime crane simulators for professional crane operator training, and the group has stated that this policy of continuous improvement and innovation is a path it intends to follow as one of its core principles.

In other crane related news Konecranes has completed the acquisition of the remaining shares of Jiangsu Three Horses Crane Manufacture Co. Ltd. and now owns 100% of the company following an initial acquirement of a 65% majority stake in November 2009. SANMA is based in Jingjiang, about two hours drive northwest of Shanghai and is a nationwide supplier of its wire rope hoists in China and as a crane supplier especially in Jiangsu and the neighbouring provinces.