4 Ways to Harness Industry 4.0 in Your Overhead Crane Operations

Industry 4.0 is taking shape in the manufacturing sector in the form of equipment automations and modernization, manufacturing customizations and data communications.

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Since its inception in 2011, Industry 4.0 has been widely accepted as a strategic approach to improving throughput, efficiency, and labor productivity throughout the manufacturing industry. At its core, Industry 4.0 technologies capture data and information on current processes and practices to locate areas for optimizing operations. Industry 4.0 is taking shape in the manufacturing sector in the form of equipment automations and modernization, manufacturing customizations and data communications.

Manufacturing facilities are only just scratching the surface of Industry 4.0 by deploying certain technologies and adopting specific practices within overhead crane operations. To harness the full power of Industry 4.0 and remain competitive across the industry, facility managers and OEMs must have an understanding of the changing manufacturing landscape.

Let’s take a look at a few ways managers and OEMs can use Industry 4.0 to their advantage within overhead crane operations, ultimately increasing productivity and profitability.

1. Capture the Data to Inform

The first step in the process of utilizing Industry 4.0 within overhead crane operations is to understand what is needed to boost the productivity and efficiency of your equipment. What is the capacity of your overhead crane? What is the standard usage for your crane? What is your crane’s classification?

Because overhead cranes are installed as part of a facility’s infrastructure, it’s common for managers to overlook the equipment when considering retrofits and upgrades. This can prove to be troublesome when managers are considering automations and modernizations because, without access to performance data related to an overhead crane, they cannot specify where the bottlenecks are or locate areas to increase throughput and efficiency.

Once you understand the function of your cranes and begin collecting data, you can directly design your facility's operations around your cranes’ applications. To do this, you might begin to introduce data communication channels across your overhead crane inventory. Advanced sensor technologies, including load moment indicators, anti-collision systems, and zone monitoring, are examples of common data communication channels for overhead cranes. These systems provide real-time data on load capacity, stability, and potential hazards, ensuring safer operations. They also allow managers to understand where to optimize operations and reduce downtime, which we’ll discuss next.

2. Locate Efficiencies Within Operations

Once you understand the use case for your overhead cranes and can obtain various datasets tied to their performance, you can increase efficiency across operations. One way to do this is by forming predictive maintenance plans. Predictive maintenance enables proactive maintenance scheduling, reducing the risk of breakdowns, accidents, and downtime.

By leveraging operational data, crane operators can detect maintenance issues before they escalate into safety hazards. Investing in predictive maintenance plans can also save money. In fact, a recent study on predictive maintenance showed savings between 18% and 25% in maintenance expenditures.

3. Drive Towards Uptime

Downtime is one of the main reasons facility managers have historically been slower to consider and adopt Industry 4.0 technologies, including crane modernizations, upgrades and automations. This is because installing these technologies requires operations to temporarily pause, but it’s important to understand that investing in these upgrades upfront will end up saving your business money in the long run.

Understanding where your overhead cranes may be lacking in efficiency is beneficial so you can correct those inefficiencies and begin driving and maintaining uptime. Downtime is a pivotal factor within manufacturing operations when it comes to hindering profitability, as a recent survey showed that 98% of respondents noted that one hour of downtime would cost them over $100,000 in revenue.

4. Invest in Continued Innovations

Making the business case for continued investment to align your overhead crane equipment with Industry 4.0 technologies is only possible if you have the data to communicate its benefits. Once you can visualize where the hold-ups are happening and account for them, you can make sure those dips in efficiency do not reoccur.

Overhead cranes are a significant investment, which makes it even more important to understand where your operations are lacking in efficiency to extend your crane’s lifetime. Neglected equipment can lead to injuries or breakdowns, furthering the duration of operational downtime. However, with regular maintenance checkups and incorporating preventative measures, managers and operators can ensure the safety of their equipment and personnel while also increasing a facility’s operational efficiency.

What’s Next for Industry 4.0?

Understanding Industry 4.0 and harnessing its capabilities in manufacturing is increasingly essential for overhead crane operators for various reasons. From enhancing operational efficiency with real-time data to improved safety, predictive maintenance and reduced downtime, technological advancement in the space has benefits that far outweigh the costs.

While the benefits have been documented and spelled out, the overhead crane space still has a lot of room for growth when it comes to harnessing the full power and potential of Industry 4.0. Facilities are still considering which technologies and practices they deem beneficial for operations, and some are deciding whether it’s the right time to overhaul operations. As manufacturing businesses continue to make these decisions, it’s apparent there’s still more to come in the realm of Industry 4.0 technologies and trends – but we’re all better served if we maintain an openness to these advancements.