ESTA publishes new guide on mobile crane winch gearbox maintenance

ESTA is appealing to members to reconsider their approach to mobile crane winch gearbox maintenance following publication of the first edition of the association’s new guide which is now available to members.

The document was officially launched at ESTA’s Spring meeting in Paris and is now on ESTA’s website in the Knowledge Base section, alongside a special calculation tool that will help crane owners calculate the remaining hours of usage for the winch based on its usage and the related wear and tear.

Supporters believe the new proposals could both improve safety and – in some cases – save money.

They were 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.

They then consulted more widely across the industry with rental companies, crane manufacturers and four gearbox manufacturers – Zollern, Liebherr Components, Siebenhaar and Rexroth.

Meissner said: “I hope that many people will read our work and take the opportunity to improve the operation and maintenance of their winches. They might as a result, be able to use them for longer periods and reduce costs.

“Our work might also prevent the dumping of oil that can still be used. We do not want to see oil being changed unnecessarily. Simply put, we feel there is a better way of judging the state of the gearbox.”

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 can come down. It has today been taken up by many 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 has produced a maintenance regime that is based on technical analysis, for example by implementing regular oil analyses, that 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.

ESTA is asking members for feedback from members using the document and is planning to report back on the response in a year’s time.

Meissner continued: “We want to open the door so that detailed and considered discussions can take place. I am delighted to say we were made to feel welcome by all parties and had very open and valuable meetings.

“The report and the extra calculation tool will help users estimate the remaining hours of usage for the winch based on its usage and when the theoretical lifetime is used up, then the owner should get support from the manufacturer or exchange it.

ESTA’s next job will be to explain the work and the report’s approach to inspection bodies and regulators to ensure they understand it and to minimise any misunderstandings.

Meissner also believes that this work provides a model for future projects aimed at improving the industry’s safety, efficiency and environmental performance.

“It was important that we started as a small group so that there was a first draft on the table and then we could involve a lot more people.

“In addition, our small group of experts all had different backgrounds and this document was only possible because we brought together various types of expertise.

“For example, the crane and gearbox manufacturers did not have the data. The data is in the hands of the users.

“The key lesson here is that we managed to bring different actors together. This should tell us that if everybody is prepared to share information and they all bring their own expertise to the table, then the whole industry can benefit.”

ESTA stresses that the publication and calculation tool is only for guidance. It is not a regulation or standard and should not be treated as such, and it cannot replace the users’ own knowledge of relevant directives, laws and regulations.