Raising the Bar: Enhancing Crane Lift Safety with Technology #podcast
(upbeat music) - [Voiceover] For your own safety, you are reminded to stand behind the yellow line. (upbeat music) - [Ben Hengst] Welcome to Safety Factor, my name is Ben Hengst. And today, we're talking about how you can make safer lifts on a job site. I'm joined by Tyler Henley, National Account Manager for Specialty Ropes, as well as the Crosby Groups Business Development Managers for Technology Solutions, Wayne Wille and Denny Davis. Thanks for joining guys. - [Wayne Wille] Thanks for having us. - [Denny Davis] Yeah, thank you.
- [Wille] We work in the rigging and lifting industry. I'm a business development manager and I primarily focus on the wireless load cells and wireless camera systems. - [Davis] I am also a business development manager for the Crosby Group focusing on our technology solutions. - [Hengst] So before we start discussing how you can make safer lifts, let's start with what can go wrong? So what are some of the common causes for accidents and injuries when using cranes or doing heavy lifts? - [Wille] Yeah, with on the load cell side, there's probably two major ones. One is people think they know what they're lifting and doing load cells for 25 years, what I find is most people are wrong in the wrong direction. So they think they know, okay, I think it weighs 20,000 and it turns out to weigh almost 30.
So not knowing what they're lifting is obviously, a hazard to the lift. You're going to overload, you could potential damage of product or even injure people. The other one is if you add that load cell, you can make sure everything is properly disconnected, you know, cables, bolts, things like that to make sure you get a safe lift. - [Davis] Yeah, and I would say, just to echo what Wayne said, I mean, overloading I think is a major thing in the industry for really all of our products. Certainly with our straight point load cells, you know, that can be a big problem.
Some of the things that we see with BlokCam, not being able to see the load, right? Not being able to lift and see what's what you're lifting and knowing what's there. So blind lifting can be an issue. Overloading, I think those are some of the big causes.
- [Hengst] And Tyler, what can go wrong on the rope side of things? - [Tyler Henley] I mean, it kind of echoes the same thing that those guys were saying. I mean, if you've got extremely high boom length, you've got extremely large loads and very little visibility, right? So you've got, you know, 3-400 foot a boom section that's going up on a large pick. I mean, it's very hard to know what's happening and it's very easy to make a mistake without the right technology. - [Hengst] So how has technology advanced in recent years to improve crane safety? - [Wille] On the load cell side, you know, we used used to have mechanical systems that look like a dial like you would on a clock that's advanced to digital, which has an onboard display. But then we've also advanced to a wireless system that ran on a 916.5 megahertz in the last 10 years. Straightpoint has actually went to a 2.4 gigahertz system,
which is extremely reliable and will actually transmit up over to over half a mile line of sight. So it's really improved and it's actually awesome to demonstrate, it's a good product. - [Hengst] So for those who don't know, what exactly is a load cell? - [Wille] So a load cell is, in our industry it's looks like a block of steel and it has strain gauges on the inside with some electronics and we power it with some batteries. It's basically a load cell, but in this industry it's called a dynamometer or a crane scale.
In the government, it can actually be called an LID, which stands for Lifting Indicating Device. Yeah, in a nutshell, it's basically a crane scale. - [Henley] So, you know, being related to large cranes and new cranes. I know they have their own load capacity, their load cells built into the machines themselves.
What's the advantage of having a separate load cell for larger cranes? - [Wille] Right, and that's the right question. So there are some differences there. So typically, an onboard load cell in a crane system is typically a pressure transducer mounted at a dead end. So it's not nearly as real as accurate as putting a load cell or a dynamometer below the hook 'cause that's going to give you your best accuracy and your best repeatability. The other thing I like to speak to that is when you put a load cell below the hook, how do you know that that onboard weighing system load cell is accurate? When was it last checked, what's the accuracy? And you can also use a dynamometer to load test or proof test that crane.
So there's many applications for using a dynamometer below the hook. - [Henley] So I know there's been some, like some new developments in the new B30.30 standards in related to the rope and the fitting side of the business. They're requiring right now, there's some wording in the B30 standards as relates to proof testing, fittings after they've been installed in the field, you know, with the correct counterweights and the correct equipment on site, these load cells could be kind of adapted to take care of some of that stuff in the field, correct? - [Wille] Yeah, absolutely.
We do a lot of load testing or proof testing of pad eyes, hoist, cranes, slings, ropes, custom fixturing, spreader beams, all that. Where they use ours to load test and proof test and/or certify. - [Henley] Yeah, and you know, I started the rigging side of the business too, I've always had some curiosity, there's a lot of proof test requirements depending on what industry you're in in the United States, you know, oil and gas has got some different requirements than some of the general purpose or more industrial type rigging, so I've always been curious, are you seeing customers start to kind of proof test their own rigging equipment to provide search for whatever their requirement is for the job site? - [Wille] Yeah. - [Henley] I've always been curious about that, like can it be adapted? Are people going to that level yet? Are they trying to do it themselves to- - [Wille] We're actually still seeing a little of both. I mean, you're going to have some agencies that do their own testing or they can third-party it out. We're actually seeing a lot of people where they'll actually want to rent 'em, right? Because they don't want to buy it, they don't want to have an inventory or have to pay to get it recalibrated.
So a lot of times they'll just rent it for that month, get the job done, and they'll rent it again next year. - [Hengst] So can you discuss some other specific examples of technology that's used in enhanced safety in crane lifts? - [Davis] Yeah, I'll take that from the BlokCam side of things. You know, that's a product that's continuing to evolve. One of the most recent advancements that we did was we came out with what we call a B6 battery, which means there were five other versions prior to this. So we've continually developed better batteries.
The newest B6 battery that we recently launched is a lithium ion battery. So it gives you a longer charging life, faster charge. Typically a battery's going to last 10 to 12 hours and with the lithium ion upgrade now, we're really staying closer to that 12 hour mark. So that's definitely one of the big advancements. And then just, you know, we're constantly looking at ways to improve the radio frequency signal.
We operate on a 5.2 gigahertz radio frequency with the BlokCam system. So we're continually developing electronics inside those to communicate better and just always looking at ways to improve the product. I mean, it's a great product now, but there's always ways and things that you can do to improve it as the technology continues to advance. - [Hengst] So based off of the name BlokCam, I can take a guess at what it is, but for those who don't know, can you explain what BlokCam is a little bit. - [Davis] Yeah, so what I like to say, you know, when I'm talking to people that, you know not in the industry, I like to say it's a very fancy sophisticated camera system that you can mount on a crane block to give the operator a full line of sight below the block or, below the hook to look at the load as it's being connected.
Also, you know, talk about blind lifts to be able to have a bird's eye view really at the hook level of what's going on below it. - [Wille] Yeah, and on the Straightpoint load cell side, I think some of the additional features that we have are in the accessories. So we have a wireless light and alarm that people can use to let them know if they're overloading. We have an analog output system that's wireless, so they can actually take that analog output signal and dump it right into a PLC to out prevent overloads.
And we actually have a base station that has a relay in it so that you can help prevent an overload on a crane, you know, bridge crane or any type of crane that has a, you know, an electrical cutout. - [Hengst] And then what's Mazzella doing? Are we doing anything to help in the safety aspect of things? - [Henley] We're always trying to stay a couple of steps ahead. We've developed some new technology for our rope inspections specifically for mobile cranes and how we're doing inspections for customers and how it ties to our existing system in the company. And we're always trying to kind of push the envelope on the technical side and how we help customers, how we facilitate customers when they do have issues.
- [Hengst] Okay, so how can companies and operators ensure that their cranes are being used safely and making sure they're sticking with the regulations? - [Wille] Yeah, I would say, any company that's very proactive on the safety side would actually encourage their people to have load cells because again, you want to know what you're lifting and to help prevent any overload, 'cause you're going to see a lot of people wearing out ropes and sheaves and things are breaking. But if they have that load cell that's providing that additional safe information, you know, for the operator or whoever's in charge. - [Hengst] How does the load cell help prevent wearing out the sheaves and breaking things? - [Wille] If they don't know what they're lifting? How do you know you're not overloading it, right? So, you know, in the overhead lifting world, you typically have a 5 to 1 safety factor. Well, if people are breaking stuff, they're obviously well over the working load limit, right? And by having that load cell you can see everything that's happening, you know, what's going on so you can stop and prevent that wear out or that failure. - [Davis] I would add to that and just, kind of say, training I think is paramount.
You know, companies that are doing training that are, like Wayne said, proactive, those are the people that are seeing, no accidents or a lot less accidents. So it's always good to be proactive, if they have a good training program, whether that's something they do internally or they bring in outside companies to train their people. I think that's one of the biggest things they can do, you know, risk management as well, right? You know, always understanding what risks are out there and what can be done proactively to avoid those things and keep people safe. - [Henley] I think unfortunately for our industry, a lot of the decision-making is based on mistakes and issues instead of being proactive. So, you know, you would hope that, that people would start making these decisions before they had necessarily have a need for it.
- [Davis] Sure. - [Wille] Yeah, being proactive to help prevent that injury, that fatality, right? You just can't put a dollar amount on that. - [Davis] I mean, you know, Crosby is well-known for providing rigging training and you know, Wayne and I both do more product-based training to bring awareness to the new products that are out there. But you know, to your point, unfortunately sometimes we get brought in after there's an issue and that's always unfortunate because you look at things like that and they could have been avoided if people would've just been a little bit more knowledgeable on the front end. - [Henley] Right. - [Wille] Agreed. - [Hengst] So how can you get companies to try to be more proactive? How do you change that mindset of, "we'll fix it after".
- [Henley] It's content. You know, we live in a world that everybody watches videos and they're always looking for, you know, how do you drive something into somebody and teach them without them necessarily wanting to learn that product. So I think that's a testament to what we're doing on the marketing side. And I think Crosby's on the same line, the more content we put out there, the more people that are going to be aware of some of the products that are available. And you never know what five-second video click is going to click into somebody's brain to make them make a decision on stuff like this. - [Davis] Yeah, I totally agree with that.
I mean, I think it's about, you know, I think a lot of people want to work safe and a lot of it is about product awareness, what is available to them. You know, I've talked to people that have been in lifting and rigging for a number of years, and they've asked, Hey, how long have these products been around? And it's the first time they've seen 'em. And for Straightpoint with load cells, I mean, they've been around since the '70s, so, you know, I've said that to someone before and they were shocked because they just didn't know, they just weren't aware the technology was out there.
So, you know, everybody sees the clip of something going wrong, right? So I think that's one of the ways that, you know, as more people are made aware of those types of things that are out there, there's going to be more of a push to avoid that and not be that five-second clip that we might see on the internet or on the news. - [Hengst] You guys started talking about training. So what is Crosby doing? What is Mazzella doing, like to train workers on the new technology that's out there and how they can use it safely in the field? - [Wille] So Crosby actually has some demo trucks that they travel around with and our salesmen also travel around and do some training. So while they're out doing training, showing the product, but they also do the calculations with the people. Like, okay, if you're doing a straight pick, you see 100% of the load. Now if you start adding angle to those slings, that increases the load.
So they do all the math on a dry erase board and you can sometimes just tell that people are like, you don't know what you're talking about, right? So actually on our demo truck, we actually add the load cells and they start increasing those angles and they get to see it live, wow! That load actually went up, you know, 10, 15%. So now I get it, I see it, you know, 'cause people are visual. So that's one of those things that I like to speak about.
- [Henley] We've taken a little bit different angle in our group and the one thing that we've realized is, application-based training has a tendency to hold attention and keep people interested, you know? Not, you know, this is what the product is, this is how it works, it's more this is how this product relates to your specific industry and this is how you can use it. And I think that transition instead of just talking at people and beginning to talk to people, and speaking their language and explaining it in a way that they can understand is what will drive the technology and will drive the evolution of our industry. - [Wille] Yep, giving 'em real life applications. - [Henley] Absolutely. - [Davis] Agreed. - [Hengst] What about with things like BlokCam? Crane operators, you know, they might see this as a pretty tricky piece of technology, a pretty advanced piece of technology. How do you break through that barrier? - [Davis] Yeah, that's a great question.
And you know, we're doing a lot of things with the operating engineer's union, the national union, we've actually donated several BlokCam systems to the Major Training, their operating engineer's main training facility down in Texas, have been down there several times to show them how to use it, to do some product training. And so really, as they bring in their membership to their training facility, they're showing off the BlokCam technology. And you know, what we have found is, some people are early adopters, some people not so much, but the more and more they get comfortable and familiar with it, they seem to like it. And they like being able to see the load, they feel more a part of it, really, the communication is increased. Not only is it a camera, there is also a microphone on the camera.
So if there's communication down below the hook with the rigging crew, the crane operator can hear that communication and it just helps bring it more into the lift and more a part of it. - [Hengst] How does that change things? Like most people are used to hand signals, things like that. Now they can actually speak to each other. - [Davis] Yeah, and so that's another good point.
It's really not meant to replace any of that existing processes. Hand signals are still critical, obviously, in the crane world, radios, two-way radios as well. It's just really, this is just another tool that the operator has now that, to be able to operate safer, you know, it's one more thing. We've kind of talked about with the camera systems, your backup camera in a car, right? I think I'm on my third car in with a backup camera. First one I had, I was like, you know, it was a smaller screen, I didn't really use it that much. I'm more mirror guy and I still do that.
Second car camera got a little bit better, a little bit bigger, I got a little more comfortable using it. Now I'm on my third vehicle, screen's a little bit bigger. I'm always looking at that camera now because it's just become more accustomed to it. Now I'm still checking my mirrors, I'm still looking in my blind spot because those are the things that you're trained to do, right? And that's just being safe. But I am also using that camera a lot more and I tend to see that with operators.
- [Henley] So would you say that's one of those, might be one of those products that they didn't know they needed it until they get it? - [Davis] Exactly. - [Wille] Exactly. - [Davis] Yeah, and I guess back to your more original question, what are some of the things we're doing, like, the training of that or really just, you know, as bringing that product onto a job site. Wayne and I both do that from time to time and go show the product to people and put it on their crane block for them and set it up, and then they get to see it and use it.
So I think it's just about getting that familiarity with using the product. - [Wille] Yeah, and we've had stories where people have put the BlokCamera system on, try it for a week and then they come back to pick it up and then the operator's like, no, no, don't take that off. I need that, I need that, right? Because it does help provide that safe additional information.
- [Hengst] So where do you think the future's going? Like you just mentioned with a backup camera, how, you know, it was before just a small little camera, it got bigger. Now the cars have sensors to let you know while you're backing up if a car is coming past you, where do you envision the future of safety technology moving towards? - [Wille] Well, I'd have to say obviously, since the Crosby Group has purchased Straightpoint and BlokCam, and we're continually always looking at other avenues, now we need to, you know, start to put together that wishlist so we can start incorporating multiple levels and technology. So we can maybe put a camera with a load cell with an alert system and you know, we even have a wishlist of people wanting to know, okay, is that block's coming down, can we add a laser that it would actually count down? You know, 50 feet, 40 feet, 30 feet, 20 feet. And it would obviously help that cab operator and rely le.., not, I shouldn't say relied less, but it would be that additional information instead of relying on a call out signal. - [Davis] Yeah, I would kind of add to that too.
I mean, we have kind of a technology, I don't want to call it division, but technology group within Crosby that Wayne and I both reside in now. And we do have some other products that are lumped in with that. And we have been involved on some special projects where it's required some custom product or even incorporating some of the same products or some of the different brands of products together where we could combine the technologies into, you know, provide a safer lift for somebody based on their specific application. You know, something that comes to mind, I know last year our guys in the UK with BlokCam, did work with some wind turbines and there were some special applications involved where we were able to combine a couple different technologies into that. So I think that's, you know, if you can think it, you can do it, I think, it's just a matter of getting there. So as we continue to evolve these technologies, I think it's going to just continue to advance.
- [Hengst] Could you speak to a little bit to that, like what technologies you combined together for the wind turbines and how it helped? - [Davis] Yeah, so for, in particular for that we have a brand called Airpes, which is a Spanish company and they make custom lifters and lifting devices. They're very big in the wind erection industry. They make some custom blade lifters as those wind turbines get erected.
So we incorporated a BlokCam camera system, completely customized to fit on the Airpes blade lifter. And they just helped tremendously by being able to combine those two technologies because they were able to see the load, if you will, as they were erecting the wind turbine. So whereas before, they never had that capability. - [Hengst] That's one real world example.
So do you guys have any other real world examples of companies implementing any individual technologies or combining the technologies? - [Wille] Well, I had an application a year ago that was pretty unique and exciting. It was in Canada and they were picking up an oil refinery module and they had to create a custom fixture and they added actually 12 load cells so that they could monitor the load of each pick point. And then we have software that can actually monitor up to 128 load cells all at the same time. So they use that software, they could see all 12 load cells live at the same time and a total or summation.
So the engineer loved it because he was able to tweak in each individual pick point so that it had the correct load when that crane did that single point pick. So it was a pretty neat and exciting application for us. - [Henley] This technology stuff that they're talking about, it's so far advanced, you know, from where a lot of the industry is.
I think it's going to be, in BlokCam especially, I think it's going to be a slower adapter, kind of like Verton - [Davis] Sure, yeah. - [Hengst] So what is the Verton unit, you just mentioned? - [Henley] Yeah, Verton unit is another Crosby innovation product line that they purchased. It's basically, gyroscope technology that you can build into the below the hook lifting equipment to rotate it 360 degrees either way. And you can pitch and catch.
So if you have very high lifts, you can have a guy with a remote on the ground that can pitch it up to the guy on top of the lift and basically maneuver with remote control, really precise lifts. And it removes people on the ground with taglines, which is a safety issue. So it's very interesting. It's a new product. It's a lot of technology.
We're working with Crosby in trying to develop some rental units and get test runs out and really look at how we can get it out in the market, you know, at a low cost for people to see the value, which is, I think where BlokCam needs to do. I think we need to get some trial runs and get some rental units or something. You know, pay for a tech to go out and set it up and then give it to a customer for two weeks and let them use it. And I think that'll drive the business. You got to show that value. - [Wille] Yeah. - [Davis] Yeah,
definitely agree with that. I mean, we've seen that, you know, in the time that we've been involved, Wayne and I have been involved with the BlokCam side, it's definitely in the early stages in North America, it's much more prevalent in the UK and Europe, and you know, to your point earlier, they need to be able to understand that it's worth the value of making that purchase. But the way to get there is continually showing the product and allowing people to work with it and get comfortable with it. So, you know, that's really how, I agree it's going to have to take off that way. It's more of a grassroots effort as I like to say.
- [Wille] Yeah, good call. - [Hengst] So I know all this stuff is still pretty new, but is there any data yet out there on it? Fewer accidents or anything like that? - [Davis] Yeah, I mean, I know we've done some studies on the BlokCam side, I've seen some stuff, you know, just about improved, increased efficiency in lifting and reduced accidents as a result. There is some data out there that we have done some internal studies on that we've published as far as, increased efficiency really.
If you're able to get the job done faster and safer, I mean, that's the ultimate win-win, right? So that's really what we're pushing towards and we've looked at some of that data internally. - [Hengst] So we mostly talked about the safety aspect of things, but how do these help with efficiency? How do they move things along quicker? - [Davis] In particular with BlokCam, you know, being able to for the operator really being able to see the load. I think that the major part comes with the blind lifting applications where they're completely unaware of, they have no visibility to the load and they're simply relying on maybe a two-way radio, with somebody that's on a roof or behind something. So his ability to be able to see that load, he feels a lot more comfortable with it. It brings that operator in more involved with the crew that's actually doing the rigging and you know, if he sees something, he can get on his radio.
And just that improved communication I think is really what helps drive the efficiency numbers. He can see it, he's comfortable and he's going to bring the load up. - [Wille] Yeah, I agree Denny. And on the load cell side, if you have that load zone, you're making a pick, you can feel confident that, okay, what I'm picking up, I'm not overloading my rigging, everything is properly disconnected. So otherwise people will sit there and just kind of inch away, inch away. And I've even heard people say, I just keep lifting till I feel the backend of my crane come off the ground, which is not what you want to hear, right? - [Davis] No.
- [Wille] So having those, that load, cell giving you that information again, just gives that confidence for a safer pick. - [Davis] I mean, the last thing I would say just kind of in closing would be, you know, we've kind of termed an internal phrase for us, know the load with Straightpoint, see the load with BlokCam and orientate the load with Verton. So, you know, those are just all great technologies that we're bringing together that is really designed to be safer and to keep workers safe, so. - [Hengst] All right, thanks guys for joining. So what's the best way that people can get ahold of you? - [Davis] Yeah, I would say really the best way is to, you can go out to our website, thecrosbygroup.com or specifically, we do have straightpoint.com or blokcam.com,
and you can click on a link and you can see Wayne and my contact information. Feel free to reach out to us if you ever want to know more about the products we discussed. - [Wille] Yeah, I agree, Denny, you can reach out to us personally, but obviously, we deal through our distributor network and Mazzella's a great part of that. - [Hengst] All right, thanks guys for joining us. Be sure to visit thecrosbygroup.com and as always,
you can get ahold of myself or Tyler, or any of our other experts at mazzellacompanies.com. Don't forget to pop into our learning center. We have a ton of great information there. Subscribe to Safety Factor wherever you listen to your podcast. You can also watch it on the Lifting and Rigging Channel on YouTube. Thanks for joining.
Stay safe out there.