Cedar Falls, Iowa-based AFE Crane has installed a custom hoist and crane system comprised of over 1,000 ft. of monorail track and 20 custom hoists in the manufacturing facility of an outdoor lighting manufacturer.
AFE Crane is a strategic distributor of ACCO Material Handling Solutions LLC, a manufacturer of material handling products and part of The Crosby Group. They were approached with a requirement to move large light stands through an assembly process. The resulting installation included 20 custom, wire rope, air-operated hoists with double sister hooks with the light stand assemblies resting on these sister hooks. Shuttle cranes were the preferred solution due to their smaller footprint and fit with the end user’s production layout.
Musco Lighting, of Muscatile, Iowa, wanted to increase production and needed to create another monorail system similar to the one that AFE Crane provided in the 1990s, which had performed well over many years. Again, AFE Crane designed and detailed the monorail, built the shuttle cranes and the hoists. ACCO provided all of the patented track components including monorail, curves, switches, hangers and trolleys. Manufacturing and installation spanned a four-month period.
The system installed at Musco consists of 1,240 ft. of ACCO Louden monorail Supertrack, integrated with 11 switches and four custom shuttle crane stations. The installation is 18 ft.-high and covers 24,000 sq. ft. within a new 63,000 sq. ft. expansion bay that replaces a previous system and expands the manufacturing operation from two production lines to four.
Light stands are the top section of Musco’s light poles. The stands have cross arms that serve as mounts for the light fixtures during final assembly in the field. Musco hangs these stands on the trolley hooks which then go down the line to various work stations. Additional assembly, wiring, and factory aiming of the light fixtures takes place at these stations. Sizes vary from 3 ft. by 5 ft. to 22 ft. by 10 ft. sections, and they weigh between 50 and 500 lbs.
Rich McInnis, applications engineer at AFE Crane, said: “Switches are like a train track switch. If you switch to the left you will take the rail path to the left instead of continuing straight. The shuttle cranes move the hoist trolley and the rail a few feet perpendicular to the monorail so that the hoist trolley is off the main monorail path and the other hoist trolleys can pass on the primary monorail path. The hoist trolley that is shuttled to the side can later be shuttled back onto the main monorail path. Usually a crane hook has just one hook palm for a load to rest on; a sister hook has two hook palms directly across from each other.”
The system is designed so that all hoist trolleys can be fully loaded and run bumper-to-bumper. The trolleys have extended bumpers that protect the loads from hitting. It is a simple system from an operator’s standpoint and only basic lifting safety training was required. Between 15 to 30 assembly workers are utilized at a given time depending on volume. During the busy season in the summer, Musco completes 75 to 100 sections each day.
Kurt Hinrichsen, facilities project manager at Musco Lighting, said: “We are very happy with the installation. A lot of planning took place up-front between us, AFE Crane, the architect, and the building manufacturer. The system structure was designed and built into the building structure, which took a lot of coordination. Even with some last-minute changes, everything turned out great when it came to everything fitting up between the system and the building. This was probably one of the most challenging parts of the project in the planning stages but turned out to be one of the smoothest elements when it came to construction and installation. A two-person crew put this up in just a couple of weeks.”
Notably, each station has an air hose pendant that is plugged into hoses dropping down from the hoist trolleys in order to operate the hoists at that station. When the hoist trolley moves to the next station these air pendant controls are disconnected. Safety baffles descend when the shuttle is in operation to prevent hoist trolleys from running off the monorail.
Hinrichsen added: “We have many shapes and sizes of product and this system allows us to be flexible. Trolleys and hooks work great for all our different sizes of products that run on the line. Switches help us take the trolley with the product on it and take it off the main line to do our assembly while other product can continue to pass through.”