AFE Crane, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, has installed a custom hoist and crane system at an outdoor lighting manufacturer’s manufacturing facility consisting of over 1,000 feet of monorail and 20 custom hoists.
AFE Crane is a strategic distributor of ACCO Material Handling Solutions LLC, a manufacturer of material handling products and part of the Crosby Group. You were approached with the requirement to move large light stands through an assembly process. The resulting installation included 20 custom air-powered wire rope hoists with twin sister hooks, with the light stand assemblies resting on those sister hooks. Shuttle cranes were the preferred solution due to their smaller footprint and adaptability to the end user’s production layout.
Musco Lighting, of Muscatile, Iowa, wanted to increase production and needed to develop another monorail system that was similar to that provided by AFE Crane in the 1990s and had performed well for many years. Here, too, AFE Crane designed and detailed the monorail, built the shuttle cranes and the hoists. ACCO supplied all of the patented track components, including monorail, curves, switches, hangers and wagons. Manufacturing and installation took four months.
The system installed at Musco consists of 1,240 feet of ACCO Louden Monorail Supertrack, integrated with 11 switches and four custom shuttle crane stations. The installation is 18 feet tall and encompasses 24,000 square feet in a new 63,000 square foot expansion shaft that replaces a previous system and expands manufacturing operations from two to four production lines.
Light stands are the upper part of Musco’s light poles. The stands have cross arms that serve as brackets for the lights during final assembly on site. Musco hangs these stands on the cart hooks, which then lead to various workplaces. Additional assembly, wiring and factory alignment of the luminaires takes place at these stations. Sizes vary from 3 feet by 5 feet to 22 feet by 10 feet and weigh anywhere from 50 to 500 pounds.
Rich McInnis, Applications Engineer at AFE Crane, said, “Switches are like changing tracks. If you switch to the left, instead of going straight on, take the railroad to the left. The shuttle cranes move the lift truck and rail a few feet perpendicular to the monorail so that the lift truck deviates from the main monorail path and the other lift trucks can pass the primary monorail path. The laterally moving pallet truck can later be brought back onto the main path of the monorail. Usually a crane hook has only one hook palm on which a load can rest. A sister hook has two hook palms directly opposite. “
The system is designed so that all pallet trucks are fully loaded and can travel from bumper to bumper. The wagons have extended bumpers that protect the loads from impact. It is a simple system from the operator’s point of view and only basic lifting safety training was required. Depending on the volume, between 15 and 30 assembly workers are deployed at a given point in time. During the peak summer season, Musco does 75 to 100 sections a day.
Kurt Hinrichsen, Project Manager for Facilities at Musco Lighting, said: “We are very happy with the installation. A lot was planned in advance between us, AFE Crane, the architect and the construction company. The system structure was designed and built into the building structure, which required a lot of coordination. Even with some last minute changes, everything turned out great when it came to anything that fits between the system and the building. This was probably one of the most challenging parts of the project in the planning phase, but it turned out to be one of the smoothest elements in the design and installation. A two-person crew did it in just a few weeks. “
In particular, each station has an air hose trailer that is plugged into hoses that fall from the hoists to operate the hoists at that station. When the pallet truck travels to the next station, these air shuttle controls are disconnected. Safety baffles are lowered while the shuttle is in operation to prevent lift trucks from driving off the monorail.
Hinrichsen added, “We have many shapes and sizes of products and this system allows us to be flexible. Trolleys and hooks are great for all of our different product sizes that run on the line. Switches help us take the cart with the product on it and take it off the main line to do our assembly while other products can continue to pass through. “