ESTA working on proposed new mobile crane winch gearbox maintenance regime

ESTA is working on proposals to enhance existing maintenance regimes for mobile crane winch gearboxes that supporters believe could both improve safety and – in some cases – save money.

The requirement to calculate the remaining life of a winch was initially introduced in Germany in the 1990s – a crucial safety consideration because if the gearbox fails the crane’s load comes down. It has since then 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.

Klaus Meissner, ESTA’s Subject Matter Expert Cranes, said: “We are trying to come up with a maintenance regime that is based on technical analysis, for example by implementing increased regular oil analysis 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.”

He said: “There are not many accidents, but when there are, they can be serious. We feel that with a different and more effective maintenance regime some of these could have been avoided.”

The proposal of this improved maintenance regime is the result of a close collaboration between Klaus Meissner and Mammoet Asset Manager Hermen Kamp and the project has the support of both the mobile crane and specialist gearbox manufacturers.

If all goes to plan, the end product will be an ESTA guidance document, published with the support of FEM – the European Materials Handling Federation – and the gearbox companies.

Meissner stressed: “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.”

He added: “This is also an example of how the industry can be improved when you bring together the manufacturers and the end users who have the all-important real-time usage data.”