Big data: benefits of load cells for assessing and monitoring crane lifts

Published On: January 13 2022

Big data has proved time and time again the benefits of real-time monitoring, whether it’s stresses on a bridge of the spread of strains of a virus! Thanks to constant monitoring, NASA has been able to unfurl the James Webb space telescope whose primary mirror segments are “aligned to one-five-thousandth the thickness of a human hair” – and in temperatures of -240C. NASA use a LOT of load cells when assembling space rockets and moving them too.

Taking steps

So it should be common practice for earth-bound tasks such as hoisting a load using a crane to make the most of real-time monitoring through today’s digital tech. After all, your phone monitors lots of physical data about you; your location, if your device is on or off, the number of steps you take. So why not a very large piece of industrial equipment lifting what could be an extremely valuable load?

Crane operators and big data

According to an article in HOIST magazine, crane operators may still be behind in recognising the potential of digital real time data as relayed by either wired or wireless load cell systems. As the article points out, real time (or at least, regular) load monitoring helps operators:

“Know much more about the load, what it is doing, the way that we are lifting it, the stresses and wear we are putting on our ropes and machinery, and how many more weeks or months or years will go by before we should think about replacing one of the worn-out parts.”

Feed that data to a monitoring device such as a laptop or screen, and operators can access load monitoring data from a safe working distance, or even remotely.

Load cells and lifting: simple, better, best

The simplest device to access data on a load is the clamp-on, which measures the strain on a hoist rope by slightly altering the straight line of the rope. When the load is lifted, the rope becomes taut and straight. The load cell measures the deflection and software can calculate the load. It’s an old-fashioned method but is cheap and quick to install.

Far better is a load link, that is positioned between the rope and the hook. The link itself takes the strain, so you don’t need to recalibrate when you replaces ropes, for example.

As Manuel Cornil of Sensy explains:

“The third option is the load pin … Being directly integrated into the anchor point or upper sheave you lose no lifting height; and again you do not have to recalibrate with a new rope.”

More load cells = more data

Whilst a single rope may have a single load link installed (whether wired or wireless),by incorporating more load cells, the operator can gather much more data. Load cells can be positioned at every point around the lift so operators can check the centre of gravity and spot any instability or uneven loading. That’s exactly what theatre and event lighting riggers do, especially as they need to ensure rigs are safe for people performing underneath them!

Load cells can also check weights before a load is lifted if the load is placed on a network of compression load cells. Again, operators can acquire important data not just about weight but centre of gravity and load distribution. Take this onwards to the ability to monitor load changes over time, and you can assess how heavy a lift may be after a rainstorm or snowfall for example.

Load cells are used to monitor changes in weight and distribution in some fascinating studies, including bee behaviour and water distribution through new environments created by terraforming.

Benefits of big data

For crane and hoist operators, using an array of load cells to gather big data has many benefits, according to Damian Mulcahy of R&M Materials Handling:

“As with any new technology, heightened awareness is essential. Early adopters are experiencing the benefits in field service, reducing downtime, and creating a safer working environment. The only additional costs for them are for the hardware, which is minimal in comparison to the overall cost of the hoist, and the benefits vastly outweigh the investment.”

Load cells for lifting

If you have a project that involves some serious lifting, or want to improve your load monitoring overall, do contact us. We have a large range of load cells and load links in stock, and can design and manufacture to your specific requirements too.