New proposals on winch gearbox maintenance on track for Paris publication

ESTA’s work to develop new proposals to enhance existing maintenance regimes for mobile crane winch gearboxes is still on track for publication next Spring.

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

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 gearbox fails the crane’s load comes down. It has since then taken up by several other countries.

The ESTA working group has presented its first draft to the mobile crane manufacturers through FEM – the European materials handling federation. Gearbox manufacturers have been involved by videoconferences, have received the draft also and will be visited for face-to-face talks early in the New Year.

Klaus Meissner said: “We are making quick progress. We are a small team with great experience from users and in crane design. Our target is to have the first version for publishing ready to present to the ESTA Spring Meeting in Paris.

“Prior to publication, we have circulated the proposals for comment and reaction amongst the crane and gearbox manufacturers. We also have asked some of our members in the crane industry to do a ‘litmus test’ – that is to say to look at historical accidents and assess whether our proposed measures would have prevented the incidents from taking place.”

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.

Announcing the launch of the project in October, Meissner said at the time: “We are trying to come up with a maintenance regime that is based on technical analysis, for example by implementing 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.

“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.”