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The importance of a good maintenance and inspection program to extend the life of your overhead cranes

Scott Bort
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Whiting Services

cranecutoutHaving safe and reliable cranes is no big mystery. The key to extending the life of your cranes is to have a regularly scheduled, professional preventive maintenance and inspection program in place. Proper maintenance is the easiest, and most important, way to keep your equipment operating properly. But more and more so, companies just don’t want to spend the extra time and money to implement these programs.

It is extremely rare to have mechanical failures on your equipment without any kind of warning signs or symptoms beforehand.  There are several reasons why failures happen. In some cases, the cranes are being inspected to OSHA standard but the frequency of the inspection isn’t sufficient enough to accommodate the duty cycle of the crane. In other cases, the failed item simply wasn’t included as part of the inspection contract agreement and therefore, simply wasn’t checked.  So why would a company invest so much time and money into such a critical piece of equipment, only to let it fail and cause bigger problems later down the road?

Most cranes come with an O.E.M. owner’s manual. Typical manuals offer manufacturer recommendations as to the frequency in which the major components of the crane should be inspected and/or maintained. Unfortunately, sometimes companies fail to design a standard inspection / preventative maintenance program that will follow these recommended guidelines.

All too often, customers believe that any inspection will suffice, and that simply having an annual OSHA inspection will increase the reliability of their equipment. From a safety standpoint, it is extremely important to meet the OSHA requirements for an inspection, but this is typically only a minimum requirement geared towards meeting those regulated safety guidelines. Standard OSHA inspections rarely come close to meeting the O.E.M. preventative maintenance and inspection recommendations for maintaining equipment. In many cases, inspections are awarded to a supplier on a fixed price basis, usually to the lowest bidder. While this type of inspection may meet OSHA’s minimum requirements, it is unlikely that customers will receive a professional service that is catered to their equipment’s specific needs.

When contemplating an inspection and/or preventative maintenance plan, it is important to identify what you are looking for in a program and to ask your supplier specific questions, prior to awarding a contract. Does the supplier have a good reputation in the industry? Will they make adjustments as they go and be accommodating to your schedules and needs?  Will they perform all standard maintenance needs during each visit, such as fluid changes, greasing of bearings, runway checks and other regular maintenance tasks? Do they meet OSHA and O.E.M. recommendations? As an end user, the answer to these questions are important to you.

When evaluating service providers, ask yourself what your current supplier is doing for you now and what they could be doing better.  Chances are that they could be doing more but are simply doing what is required to meet the criteria within their contract. In a tight economy, many decisions are made based strictly on low price, without a full examination of the value that could be received. A program that is focused on meeting only the minimum requirements and that is awarded to the lowest bidder is probably not the best solution for extending the life of your equipment.

Oftentimes, there are cranes within a facility that are used much more than others. When this is the case, these cranes will require more attention. Consideration should always be given to the frequency of the program on a crane by crane basis, and not with a “one size fits all” approach. Before requesting bids for equipment maintenance, ensure that you are aware of your specific needs, as all inspections and service providers are not created equal. If extending the life of your cranes is important to you, the cost of a professional inspection program, catered exactly to your specific needs, will be a very worthwhile return on your investment.

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