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Overhead Manufacturing Systems and Ergonomics

As technology continues to improve, overhead handling solutions have grown more ergonomic, customized and safe—all factors that improve productivity and equipment longevity. While the basic function of overhead handling equipment remains the same—to raise, hold and lower items—the integration of intelligent electronics has led to improved value, such as enhanced ergonomic features and sophisticated performance reporting capacity.

Today’s “smart” cranes provide a number of benefits to operators and the businesses that use them, such as:

  • Improved safety features
  • Ease of operation
  • Self-diagnostics
  • Ability to provide information to operators
  • Ease in reconfiguring workstations
  • Portability
  • Improved ergonomics

An Emphasis on Safety

Discussions of safety invariably turn to issues of ergonomics; one of the most significant advantages delivered by modern overhead handling systems is that of reducing, or even eliminating, the need for manual lifting. Today’s handling systems are flexible, customizable to the task at hand and easy to operate. This makes it simple for workers to use overhead systems to lift even small items, ending the need for repetitive manual lifting.

Modern overhead handling systems are designed with operator comfort and ease-of-use in mind. Features such as pick point fixtures and custom lifters allow operators to secure loads safely and quickly. In the past, an operator had to manually find a sling or other appropriate rigging in order to lift a load; in contrast, technological advances allow an operator to simply choose the correct size and rating of rigging directly from the control panel, which eliminates the need to place hands near any pinch points. Not only does this process save time, it also increases workplace safety.

Other safety-first upgrades include wireless controls. These innovations allow users to operate overhead handling systems remotely, so they can remain clear of moving equipment. Variable speed drives, also known as variable frequency drives (VFDs), also improve safety conditions. When used in conjunction with pressure-sensitive controls, VFDs provide operators with more responsive controls, which translates into finer precision and greater speed. Anti-sway mechanisms also improve safety by reducing load swing and minimizing the risk of damage to both lifting equipment and the product being lifted.

Greater Productivity with Innovative Overhead Handling Systems

Along with improved ergonomics and safety, today’s overhead handling systems boost productivity in the workplace while lowering costs. Unlike older models that relied on single- or two-speed drives that gave operators two choices (on or off), modern systems’ VFDs reduce the need for continuous stops and starts. This prolongs the life of the equipment and saves the company money.

Productivity is enhanced by “smart,” semi-automated systems that accurately track a load’s progress. Automatic deceleration and positioning cut work time and increase cost-effectiveness. According to Modern Materials Handling magazine, automated systems can reduce cycles by 50 percent. In addition, automation cuts down the learning curve, making it easier for new operators to quickly gain skills.

Intelligent cranes provide useful data that can be used to improve performance and productivity. Overhead handling systems collect data such as:

  • Run time
  • Load information
  • Time of day
  • Out-of-sync processes
  • Starts and stops

When fed into an asset management system, this information can be used to identify and fix issues, schedule maintenance and evaluate productivity.

With increased customization options, enhanced ergonomics, leaner equipment that’s portable rather than fixed, and smart data solutions, today’s overhead handling systems are truly easier and safer to use, all while increasing productivity.