ESTA meets gearbox manufacturers in bid to improve maintenance regimes

Successful meetings have been held with four mobile crane winch gearbox manufacturers since the start of the year as ESTA’s expert group finalises its proposals for new and enhanced maintenance regimes in time for publication in April.

Supporters believe the new proposals could both improve safety and – in some cases – save money. They are being drafted by a small group led by ESTA’s crane expert Klaus Meissner along with Mammoet’s Hermen Kamp and Gerrit van Hove from Sarens.

Klaus Meissner said: “Gerrit, Hermen and myself visited four gearbox manufacturers in Germany – Zollern, Liebherr Components, Siebenhaar and Rexroth.

“I am delighted to say we were made to feel welcome and had very open and valuable discussions. The information collected will be used to improve the current draft document which will then be sent out for the next round of comments.”

The requirement to calculate the remaining life of a winch was initially introduced in Germany in the 1990s – it is a crucial safety consideration because if the crane winch gearbox fails the crane’s load comes down. It has since then been taken up by several other countries.

The current regime involves a major overhaul after ten years to check that the winch gearbox is still in good condition, but many experts argue that the ten-year threshold is an arbitrary deadline and does not reflect the equipment’s actual usage.

ESTA’s expert group is trying to come up with a maintenance regime that is based on technical analysis, for example by implementing regular oil analyses, and will provide detailed information for other inspections.

This might both improve safety by catching unexpected problems earlier and, in some cases, might save money by prolonging the use of the winches beyond current time frames and preventing unnecessary oil changes.

Meissner added: “Simply put, we feel there is a better way of judging the state of the gearbox and that such a move would improve safety, increase the lifetime of gearboxes in some cases of light usage and reduce the required number of oil changes.

“So far everyone is supporting us and definitely sharing our objectives! We are still on track to present the paper at the ESTA spring meeting in Paris on April 25.”