Crane winch gearbox maintenance guide out now

ESTA hoist winch guideline front cover ESTA’s new guide for looking after winches on mobile cranes advocates maintenance according to the amount of work done rather than its age. Photo: ESTA

Instead of simple time-based maintenance, scheduling it according to the amount of work done is a better approach. That is according to European abnormal transport and mobile crane association ESTA which has just published a new guide on the subject.

ESTA is asking owners of mobile cranes to reconsider their approach to winch gearbox maintenance. The call follows publication of the first edition of the association’s guide on the subject which is now available to members.

The new guide is available on ESTA’s website in the Knowledge Base section. It sits alongside a calculation tool to help crane owners calculate remaining hours of use based on its usage and the related wear and tear.

Supporters believe the new proposals could both improve safety and even save money, ESTA said.

Expert writers

White Liebherr winch drum with cutaway to show the motor and gears inside the drum Cutaway of part of a Liebherr hoist winch showing the motor and planetary gear drive neatly placed inside the winch drum. Photo: Liebherr Components

The guide was written by a small crane industry group led by the association’s crane expert Klaus Meissner. It included Hermen Kamp at Mammoet and Gerrit van Hove from Sarens.

Armed with a first draft of the guide they then consulted more widely across the industry. Rental companies, crane manufacturers and four gearbox manufacturers – Zollern, Liebherr Components, Siebenhaar and Rexroth – were all involved.

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.”

How much life is left?

Cutaway view of Zollern winch with internal gearbox Zollern winch cutaway view showing the gear drive inside the drum. Photo: Zollern

The requirement to calculate the remaining life of a winch was initially introduced in Germany in the 1990s. It is a vital 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.

As it stands a major overhaul is required after ten years to check the condistion of the winch gearbox. 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 can improve safety by catching unexpected problems earlier. It might also save money by extending the use of the winches beyond current time frames.

The association is seeking feedback from crane owners with a view to reporting back on the response after a year. “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,” Meissner said.

“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,” Meissner continued.

The association’s next job is to make sure industry inspectors and regulators understand the report’s approach and minimise any misunderstandings.

A model for the future

Meissner plans to build on this, using it as a model for future projects in the drive for improving safety, efficiency and environmental performance in the crane industry.

“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 pointed out that the new guide and the calculation tool are 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,” the association said.

More information and to log to get the new guide:

Siebenhaar hoist winch with hydraulic motor on one end and the rest of the mechanism on the other end Siebenhaar hoist winch with the hydraulic motor on the near end and the rest of the mechanism mounted externally on the other end of the drum. Photo: Siebenhaar

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