Making lifting safer with innovation
Innovation and digitalisation will make our industry safer and more efficient, pandemic or not, says Robert Desel, CEO at The Crosby Group.
Covid has been, without question, one of the most disruptive events in our history from both a personal and a business perspective. While many of the challenges that Covid presented were new, our response to them has been guided by our core values of safety, reliability, and innovation.
Building on a well-established safety culture
Safety is, and always has been our primary focus, both internally, making sure to keep our employees safe and externally, creating a safer lifting and rigging industry for people around the world.
Internally, we have ramped up our safety commitments, through everything from implementing 5S to reduce the risk of incidents in our factories, to ensuring we follow local regulations for Covid and minimise the risk of infection for our employees. We recently launched a Global Vaccine Support programme, which allows for team members to take time away from work to get vaccinated against Covid-19 without impacting their paycheques.
Externally, we have launched new, online training seminars for our customers, which I will share more about in this article. Pandemic or not, we need to continue to create safer workplaces for people in our industry.
Leveraging technology to increase connectivity
With a 1400 person team spread across almost 30 countries around the world, staying close to the team was a challenge even before Covid. Now with the pandemic impacting everyone in some way and people working remotely, staying connected at all levels of the organisation has become more critical than ever. In 2020, I launched an effort to complement our quarterly all company town hall meetings and engage in small group virtual coffee catch-ups with everyone in the organisation at all levels. These are 30-45 minute informal discussions on video that allow me to answer questions, reinforce our core values and ultimately see how the team is doing and managing through the various challenges we are facing together. I learn a lot from these and we plan to continue this practice regardless of a global pandemic or not.
More and better collaboration with our channel partners
The volatility of demand through 2020 and into 2021 led us to accelerate our efforts in driving greater connectivity and collaboration with our channel partners to plan our production and supply chain. The Crosby Group is committed to our channel strategy, going to market through over 3000 independent distributors around the world. These are the best, most capable rigging shops and distributors serving a wide range of end-users. However, one area that our industry has not advanced as quickly as others is the area of supply chain collaboration. Against the backdrop of the demand volatility in 2020, we increased our engagement with distributors to understand their true end market demand, inventory levels, and forecasts. Combining the collection of data through digital tools as well as formalising non-digital collection processes with advanced analytics, we have been able to plan our supply chain more effectively enabling higher service levels and lower working capital across the value chain. This is one area where 2020 served as a catalyst and we will continue our focus in this area.
Acceleration of digital transformation in lifting
A cornerstone of leading industry best practices has been an unwavering commitment to training. A key focus area for The Crosby Group remains offering easy access to broad expertise and raising awareness of the importance of a well-trained workforce. To continue this mission during Covid times, we quickly deployed additional digital training content and delivery methods, which we will continue to combine with in-person sessions even post pandemic.
While Covid has accelerated our own innovation around supply chain planning and training, we have also used this time to invest in innovative lifting technologies. The Crosby Group has made five significant investments since 2019 with three of those focused on advanced lifting and digital technologies. With a growing platform of technology-centric products and solutions, we recently formed a Technology Solutions business unit, which will enable a heightened focus on developing, producing and deploying integrated lifting technologies to drive safety and efficiency.
Most recently, we acquired BlokCorp Ltd, a UK-based designer and manufacturer of innovative camera and alert systems for tower and mobile cranes. These systems provide crane operators with critical visual and audio capabilities that enable safer and more productive lifting operations. Many of us now heavily rely on backup cameras in our vehicles for improved safety and accident prevention. The Crosby BlokCam systems provide similar functionality giving crane operators increased visibility to their work area around the crane block and any nearby personnel. The difference is that while backup cameras in vehicles have become commonplace, only a small percentage of cranes have a camera system onboard to give operators the sights and sounds they need to operate safer and more efficiently. We are eager to engage our distribution network and end-users to change that situation by deploying Crosby BlokCam’s technologies and solutions.
We also recently completed a significant investment in Verton Technologies. The Australian company develops and produces load orientation solutions that increase safety and efficiency and remove the need for human-held tag lines in lifting applications.
The development of an integrated tool by Verton and MHI Vestas to semi automate components of offshore wind installation, demonstrates the power of digitalisation by increasing safety and productivity not previously available. MHI Vestas range of SMART Turbine products and SMART Dampers combined with Verton’s gyroscopic technology actively reduce fatigue loads on wind turbine towers installation. This example shows it will be possible with the further adoption of sensors and data collection technology included in Verton’s product, combined with more integration into crane operations, to automate many of these construction processes in the future. This will dramatically improve crane operations.
It has been two years since we acquired Straightpoint, based in the UK. Safe lifting is in our DNA and load monitoring is a critical part of that equation. Monitored lifts are inherently safer and we have increased adoption of this best practice on a global scale.
Recently, 16 units of our Crosby Straightpoint 5t Radiolink plus wireless loadcells, with INSIGHT software, were used in the building of ITER tokamak, an experimental machine to harness the energy of fusion in France. We are very proud to be able to deliver world-class load monitoring solutions to an innovative project like this one. A Crosby Straightpoint solution was chosen because the customer did not weigh the equipment beforehand and did not want to overload any of the lifting points of the fragile structure. The customer also used our INSIGHT software to get a real-time overview of their lift.
Crosby Lifting Hardware and Straightpoint technology is also incorporated in our partner Versatile’s data collection platform, CraneView. CraneView is a below-the-hook device that measures thousands of data points to deliver insights specific to each jobsite. These real-time analytics allow site superintendents and safety professionals to make smart decisions that can reduce overtime and crane demobilisation and allow new benchmarks to be set for current and future projects.
Digitalisation is still at an early stage in our industry, and it will be very interesting to follow these new technologies and the adoption of them around the world. One thing is certain – this is only the beginning.
Supporting Rising industries
Several industries have continued to thrive throughout the pandemic, including renewables. We recognize the importance of offshore wind in the renewable energy expansion and so we have engaged with OEMs, contractors, and our channel partners to support these fast-moving projects.
In January 2020, as we were all becoming more and more aware of Covid, we acquired Feubo, a global leader in offshore mooring components for the oil and gas and wind energy markets. This acquisition has greatly expanded our engineering, machining, and testing capabilities and deepened our offering for the offshore wind market. One recent European end-user deployed our Crosby Feubo chain accessories on their floating offshore wind turbine (FOWT) project. The scope of work included the design, manufacturing and testing of long-term mooring shackles. The project was finalised in a very short time and exceeded the customer’s expectations.
We recently launched the HFL Kenter, a new high fatigue life shackle, into the wind energy market under the Crosby Feubo brand. The shackle showcases design improvements on the popular Crosby Feubo NDur Link, an accessory used for temporary and mobile mooring applications such as rigging and anchoring offshore platforms or vessels. The product can connect to a variety of stud link anchor chain or other mooring accessories such as sockets and swivels.
Outside of the Crosby Feubo brand, we regularly provide a broad range of solutions to our wind end-users, including recently delivered turnbuckles for a leading wind turbine OEM to be used at Denmark’s Kriegers Flak wind farm. These turnbuckles were to be used together with wire slings to tighten both sides of tower sections, ensuring they don’t ovalise during transport and storage.
The renewable energy industry demonstrates how The Crosby Group’s broad portfolio, deep expertise, and comprehensive training enable us to serve a diverse range of market and industries. Our product range combines to cover the entire wind energy supply chain, including the plate clamps, pipe hooks and shackles used during monopile fabrication, shackles for topside and subsea lifts, and load cells utilised for inspection of installed equipment.
Renewables has, and will, continue to be a key focus for The Crosby Group in 2021 and beyond complementing our presence in construction, manufacturing, and energy.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Covid brought many new challenges our way. But I feel fortunate to have an amazing team at The Crosby Group to have navigated these challenges with alongside our channel partners, and end-users. We can’t always predict what’s next, but we always remain grounded in our core values and focus on doing our part to make lifting safer and more productive worldwide.