From crane safety to jobsite management

From crane safety to jobsite management
Published: 30 May 2019 - 1 p.m.
By: Dennis Daniel

French company SMIE has been in the crane anti-collision business for over 40 years, designing and developing digital systems to improve on-site safety and performance.

Since entering into a partnership with UAE-based Kanoo Group four years ago, SMIE anti-collision systems have been managing cranes across the UAE, particularly cranes operating in tight spaces such as the Museum of the Future in Dubai.

One of SMIE’s new projects in Dubai is the management of three Wolffkran cranes at the construction site of a Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) 400/132KV substation near Al Quoz Industrial Area.

The three Wolffkran cranes – two Wolff 6531.8 cross models and a Wolff 7532.12 cross model – are managed by SMIE’s new generation of anti-collision systems, the SMIE ProSite. The installation and operation of SMIE ProSite are handled by Kanoo Cranes and main contractor Larsen and Toubro.

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A Wolffkran crane managed by the SMIE ProSite system at the construction site of a DEWA 400/132KV substation in Dubai.

The two Wolff 6531.8 cross cranes have common jib lengths of 65m and base dimensions of 4.6x4.6m. The final HUH of the cranes will be 29.7m and 38.7m, and their load capacities on the site will be in range of 8.5–3.7t for jib radii of 31.2–65m. The Wolff 7532.12 cross crane, installed on a 6x6m base has a jib length of 70m and will have final HUH of 47.3m. The load capacity of the crane on the site will be in the range of 12–4t for jib radii of 27.7–70m.

The SMIE ProSite system, launched in 2016, has been upgraded with new functions such as centralised visibility of global crane movement in real time, weather and crane activity history, remote bypass of anti-collision function, remote quarantine of out-of-service cranes, simplified management of zoning, and shared planning of crane activity. An LED touch-screen display gives the operator a comprehensive understanding of the working environment. Up to three anti-collision radio networks can be managed on a single system.

SMIE recently introduced an enhanced version of the original software incorporating Wi-Fi communication technologies. This newer version allows for the system to be configured and managed remotely from any connected location, removing the need to climb multiple cranes to make simple parameter changes.

Jean-Charles Delplace, CEO, SMIE, explains the purpose of incorporating Wi-Fi communication and how it can minimise downtime.

“Legacy anti-collision systems use UHF for communication. The amount of data transmitted with UHF is low, but it is transmitted with high precision in real time. UHF has proven to be reliable for more than 25 years. Therefore, we have maintained UHF in our anti-collision system for communication among cranes. We have improved it by incorporating Wi-Fi which provides higher bandwidth for transmitting a larger amount of data,” says Delplace.

“On legacy anti-collision systems that use only UHF, each crane is configured independently to have awareness about the other cranes in its vicinity. The addition of Wi-Fi enables us to configure or change the settings of all cranes, simultaneously. The Wi-Fi network provides the flexibility to set up cranes easily, share data among cranes and take immediate action according to change in jobsite conditions. When a mobile crane arrives on a jobsite, a zone can be set up to avoid collision among the tower and mobile cranes. However, all critical data is transmitted via the UHF network,” he adds.

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Jean-Charles Delplace, CEO, SMIE.

The addition of 3G and 4G enables remote management of the entire jobsite data and not only cranes. For example, if a radio system is introduced on site when a concrete pump arrives, it could cause interference with the cranes' UHF communication frequencies. In such cases, the 3G/4G remote control feature of ProSite enables switching of the radio frequencies remotely, without the need to climb every crane to change frequencies, individually. With Wi-Fi, the frequencies of the cranes can be changed simultaneously on site without climbing any crane. With 3G/4G compatibility, the same operation can be performed remotely, from an office.

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The SMIE ProSite system.

SMIE is extending its technologies and solutions to support not only lift management but the entire building process. The company recently announced its merger with French information technology and services provider Smart Jobsite, which develops BIM solutions to manage construction sites. The merger has resulted in Smart Jobsite taking ownership of SMIE and its subsidiaries. Delplace has been appointed CEO of both organisations, and Jean-Louis Olivier, the founder of SMIE, has been appointed chairman.

Although the group stakeholders will transition to a single body, SMIE will remain a privately-owned company. To remain focussed on their respective markets, SMIE and Smart Jobsite will continue to operate as distinct organisations, each concentrating on its ongoing development of technology-supported solutions.

Smart Jobsite helps plan, manage and report jobsite activity through a mobile app. The company's current offering includes the Smart Shackle load measuring system which provides data directly to a smartphone; IP68 water, dust and shock proof Android Smart Phone with a 4180mAh battery; and NFC and QR code Smart Tag. The merger with Smart Jobsite will enable SMIE to further develop its existing systems and create new products for jobsite management.

“It makes complete sense for our organisations to work together, supporting each other as we aim to achieve a common goal which is to create safer, more efficient, and more productive construction and building sites through the design and implementation of digital solutions. We are testing Smart Jobsite with a select group of customers worldwide, and the feedback has been very positive,” says Delplace.

Real-world testing of lift plans

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One of the first results of this collaboration has been the development of a crane simulator, indicating the future possibilities of integration between SMIE ProSite and Smart Jobsite. The simulator unveiled at the Bauma 2019 expo has five 4K screens and uses a virtual environment that is generated by the Smart Jobsite BIM compliant system. This can allow for real world testing of lift plans, crane layout and even logistic strategies.

Delplace explains: “We have developed a simulator that replicates both crane and jobsite conditions, which will help train crane operators on the complexities of working on crowded jobsites. We are not in business of simulators and our strategy is not gamification of working conditions. Our strength is our understanding of cranes and jobsite conditions. We want to translate this into better operator training,” says Delplace.

“Operators need to be familiarised with their jobsite environments. The integration of BIM data provides trainees with the same jobsite conditions that operators could face while operating real cranes; thus, trainees will not only be able to learn to operate cranes but also become accustomed to real jobsite conditions. This is useful particularly on large jobsites with 15 or more cranes where it is important to familiarise operators with the jobsite environment before allowing them to take control of cranes. They need to know the locations of their pickup points, hazards, environment and risks,” he adds.

A step closer to partial crane automation

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Self-driving cranes operating on sites in the near future could be unlikely, but partial automation is possible according to a series of tests conducted by SMIE in Q1 2019.

Our crane automation tests highlight the significant shift taking place within the building and construction industries from manual processes to automation. Digitally-supported solutions are becoming an increasingly vital aspect of site safety and efficiency, and are expected to completely transform the sector.

SMIE is developing automated crane technology by incorporating new features into ProSite. The technology has demonstrated the potential to assist operators with repetitive lifting and lowering processes.

SMIE anticipates that the expanded features of ProSite will enable crane operators to select a location on the construction site and instruct the equipment to automatically move to that location without the need for manual operation.

“The initial scope of automation is to pick up a load and drop it automatically under the supervision of an operator. The crane is programmed to track two points – the first point for lifting and the other for lowering the load. Similar to anti-collision technology, the crane swings and stops at the pre-programmed points. The crane operator can take control at any stage of the automated process,” says Delplace.

Delplace point out that SMIE will continue to develop crane automation to assist operators and not eliminate their roles.

“We fully believe in supporting crane operators and making their jobs easier. This technology could be another tool for improving working conditions and minimising the high levels of stress that are currently reported by operators. The initial phase demonstrates a first level of functionality purely as an operator aid, and we plan to implement this in ProSite by the end of 2019,” says Delplace.

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