Liebherr stays on track

05 Dec 2007

European crane manufacturer Liebherr had designed and supplied RMG cranes for over 30 years before developing its first RTG design in 1998.

Even today, it remains an important producer of RMGs, having recently supplied two to the O'Connor Group at Widnes in the UK, two to Uniport in Holland (which are also now located at Widnes), four to MTL at Dublin in Ireland, three to Belfast and two to the Hanno terminal in Rotterdam.

Technical sales engineer Paul Bolger notes that, in the early days, Liebherr also manufactured a considerable number of smaller container handling cranes for use at railway stations throughout Ireland. In addition, the company's range encompasses a number of wide span cranes up to 72 metre outreach for the German market, as well as ship-to-shore wide span cranes which have the dual purpose of handling feeder/panamax size vessels and stack management. Liebherr has also recently secured a contract with the Freightliner Group in the UK for replacement of some of their older RMG cranes at intermodal terminals.

"The Liebherr RMG design has proven to be exceptionally reliable; feedback from clients indicate greater than 99% availability," says Mr Bolger.

He says that this high level of reliability is achieved by operators following the strict maintenance schedule set out for components in the company's manuals, while manufacturers' part numbers are also supplied to assist them carrying out this work. In more recent cranes, Liebherr has also built this maintenance scheduling system into its crane management software.

In the vast majority of cranes supplied by the company, the client's own personnel carry out maintenance, having received specialist on-site training from Liebherr at the time of crane handover or during one of the company's in-house training courses. These training programmes are provided on a regular basis free-of-charge to clients as first time training or refresher courses.

"We would normally recommend that clients use predictive maintenance techniques, such as oil analysis, and regular scheduled monitoring of set parameters in order to predict major service intervals rather than component change out based on the number of hours used," says Mr Bolger, in describing how best to schedule overall RMG maintenance.

Significantly, he states that, as with all equipment, the key to maintaining high machine availability is firstly to purchase good quality equipment fitted with first class sub-components. Following commissioning, the implementation of an effective preventative maintenance program, which will address the majority of issues before they happen, rather than adopting a 'fire-fighting' approach, is by far the best way forward.

"The Liebherr design philosophy has always been to consider the requirements of the end user, as well as keeping overall maintenance requirements in strict focus. Our designs have been developed and finely tuned over the past 40 years to ensure that a Liebherr machine is exceptionally reliable and that in the event of maintenance, full access is provided," says Mr Bolger.

He observes that, it has been well proven over the years that an electrically-driven RMG has better reliability and requires less maintenance than an RTG, since the major serviceable item on the RTG is the diesel engine. Mr Bolger adds that Liebherr's experience has quite clearly shown that fewer man hours and materials are required to maintain an RMG than an RTG. The lifetime of an RMG should therefore always exceed that of an RTG.

Finally, asked whether the rails used by RMGs should be seen as a major cost, Mr Bolger points out that rail alignment and wear should be monitored on a regular basis, because RMG's often travel at up to three times the speed of conventional ship-to-shore cranes on rails. Yet another plus point for the seemingly unfairly maligned RMGs.

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