Remote operation systems enhance jobsites
11 June 2021
Remote control products are designed with a range of features and functions.
Remote control operation is now a mainstay in the crane, rigging and specialized transportation sector. Radio remote control systems control everything from tower cranes to all variety of mobile cranes as well as SPMT systems, trailers and dollies.
To discuss these applications, ACT talked to Ryan Stortz, regional sales manager with HBC-radiomatic. With extensive sales engineering experience, Stortz is an expert in determining what types of systems are needed and the features and benefits of them.
How are remote control systems making crane jobsites safer?
Radio remote controls allow the operator to position themselves with the optimal viewpoint of the crane, load and operating environment. They remove the potential of the operator working in hazardous or dangerous environments and locations. In addition, they enable the direct communication between the crane operator and the jobsite operation personnel while reducing miscommunication, misinterpretation of hand signals and assumptions of the crane operation in relation to the environment.
“The broad capability of today’s radio remote controls can typically offer the same amount of control as if the operator were in the cab or at the control station.”
Ryan Stortz, Regional Sales Manager, HBC-radiomatic
By means of a radio remote control, the operator is able to inspect rigging, check load conditions and constantly monitor the work environment for weather or sudden operational changes. HBC-radiomatic’s state-of-the-art products can provide complete crane or equipment feedback to the radio remote control for the operator. Feedback options include high resolution displays, LEDs, haptic or audible alerts. Safety initiatives that are driving all industries have increased the demand for the use of radio remote controls.
More recent developments, such as HBC-radiomatic’s merlin TUC (Transmitter User Card) and data logging devices, can control operator access and monitor machine and operator activities.
What types of cranes lend themselves to remote operation? Tower cranes? Telescopic crawlers? Rough terrain cranes? Others?
All types of cranes or equipment lend themselves to remote operation. If the equipment is electrically or electro-hydraulically controlled, radio remote control systems can be implemented via several standard interfaces, including variable voltage/current/PWM, relay or high-side-switch outputs or bus interfaces such as CANopen, CANopen Safety, Profibus, RS232/485, Profinet, SAE J1939, UART, IQAN, DeviceNet and Ethernet/IP.
HBC-radiomatic’s products control a variety of cranes from overhead cranes to tower cranes, self-erecting cranes, mobile truck cranes, all-terrain cranes and even rough terrain cranes. They also control transporters, trailers, dollies, lift trucks and heavy construction equipment.
Remote control systems are being used in a very broad range of industries, including mining, manufacturing, oil and gas, entertainment, utilities, construction, agriculture, transportation, automation and logistics.
Remote controlled rigging of cranes has become more prevalent. What are some of the applications in this scenario? Deploying and leveling outriggers? Counterweight set up and disassembly? Lighting options? Jib and boom deployment?
Radio remote control products are available with an extremely wide range of features and functions. Thus, all these applications – including deploying outriggers, setup/disassembly of the crane, equipment, lighting and jib/boom deployment can be radio remote controlled. The broad capability of today’s radio remote controls can offer the same amount of control as if the operator were in the cab or at the control station.
The operator can be provided the same machine feedback via display screen graphics, LEDs, audible or haptic feedback. For instance, with the HBC-radiomatic photon feature, you can even view live video feedback from remote cameras. This significantly increases productivity at the setup/take down by minimizing personnel.
At the same time, it expedites the process, and makes the task at hand safer.
For some of the same reasons considered for making the jobsite safer, radio remote controls allow the operator to have the optimal vantage point of the crane and operation, to reduce miscommunication for the process and constantly monitor the operating environment.
What are users looking for in a remote-control system?
Safe radio remote controls are of the utmost priority. Operators, equipment and work safety are at the core of design of HBC-radiomatic’s products and technologies. Durability and reliability are tied at a close second on the priority list and contribute to safe operation.
The operator needs to be on the jobsite to perform the work at hand and they need their equipment to always be reliably ready. Rugged radio remote controls are ideally suitable for various environments, weather conditions and very demanding tasks. Operators need to be able to rely on durable, high-quality products which react safely and dependably in all cases.
In addition, customers and operators ask for a system that will be serviceable and supported by the manufacturer. For instance, with our worldwide service network, we offer quick and competent personal service around the globe, wherever our customers are.
Another very important question is customization. Some customers need tailor-made products that perfectly fit their needs both for the operator and from the operation/equipment perspective. Most OEMs have their own unique way of designing their control layout. Our radio remote control systems complement this layout to provide consistency for the operator.
What are some tips for assessing a remote-control system?
The general operating environment of the crane or equipment typically dictates whether remote controlled operation is feasible, efficient and/or safe. At the core is the radio technology. Due to the various operating environments, the frequency management of these systems is critical when evaluating remote control systems. HBC-radiomatic offers a wide range of high-performing frequency management technologies that ensure the safe and efficient operation in the most diverse and demanding environments.
Another important point is the capability to engineer the type of system that provides the optimum balance to the operator, equipment and the operation. This ranges from type of transmitter, how it is designed and configured to maintain consistency from the cab or control station, and to the everyday demand of the task and environment.
Are there challenges with teaching operators and riggers to use remote control systems? What type of training is involved?
As with any change, there is always a learning curve when adapting to a radio remote control system. The extent of this curve is dependent on the careful selection of radio control solutions to ensure they are designed to match the movement of the operator with the application.
Training should focus on slow and steady progress in a controlled environment, and the types of training will depend on the complexity of the application and the environment. Training options are often subject to the criteria defined by the employer, the manufacturer and/or government regulation.
HBC-radiomatic offers safety options to assist with the training of new operators on various pieces of equipment. Operator-specific system and feature access can be implemented via smart access cards to ensure the available control options fit to the experience and skill level of the operator (operating speeds or functionality can be limited or restricted).