SmartCheck ensures maximum crane availability for port operator

Schaeffler (UK) Ltdvisit website


By installing condition monitoring systems on its gantry cranes, port operator RheinCargo is now able to detect any damage to crane hoisting gear early, therefore eliminating any costly, unplanned downtime.

SmartCheck ensures maximum crane availability for port operatorRheinCargo GmbH & Co. KG is one of Europe’s leading logistics companies and Germany’s second largest port operator. The company has seven public ports on the River Rhine, including the Niehl l cargo handling port on the Western bank of the river in the Niehl district of Cologne.

Due to their high utilisation levels, the 13 gantry cranes at the Niehl l cargo handling port are critical pieces of machinery. The hoisting gear trolley is used to transfer containers from land to road transport vehicles and ships; 24/7 availability of the cranes is therefore required. Any unplanned downtime of the transportation machines will cause major, costly delays to the entire operation. The crane operator was therefore keen to obtain early warnings of any potential damage to the gantry cranes’ components.

Schaeffler installed two of its FAG SmartCheck devices on each of the hoisting gear trolley’s two cable drums – one on the motor and one on the gearbox. FAG SmartCheck is a very compact device that can be used to monitor vibration and temperature, as well as a range of other machine and process-specific parameters such as pressure and flow rate. By monitoring these parameters, users are provided with a broad basis of information in real time, which enables the accurate assessment of machine condition. Due to its patented self-learning (Teach-In) mode, the device’s alarm thresholds are adjusted automatically. After set up and commissioning, the unit operates autonomously. The relevant machine parameters are measured and saved continuously in the system, creating a substantial database of historical data over time.

At the Niehl l cargo handling port, as well as monitoring vibration, the FAG SmartCheck devices also measure the speed and direction of rotation of the cable drum motors and gearboxes. This additional information is essential as measurement times are short and the gearboxes have a reversing mode. The data provided by the FAG SmartCheck devices enables comprehensive analyses of the measurement data.

Local visualisation of alarms

Schaeffler also installed an FAG SmartLamp in the port’s machine control room. This device provides local visualisation of the alarm status of each SmartCheck device. In the event of an alarm condition, the FAG SmartLamp LED lamp flashes red in order to warn operators of the onset of damage to any bearings or gear teeth. The device also automatically forwards the alarm status to a control station via a LAN connection. RheinCargo also plans to integrate the FAG measuring systems to its existing Ethernet network, making it easier to obtain information about potential damage. This will allow operators to monitor the crane system’s condition from their own control stations, as well as enabling Schaeffler to perform remote condition monitoring.

An FAG SmartConnectBox power supply unit from Schaeffler was also installed in the control room. This enables easy distribution of power supply inputs and outputs to the four FAG SmartCheck devices. Rather than running separate cables from the four FAG SmartCheck devices to a speed sensor, this system provides a cleaner, more elegant system, particularly when monitoring the condition of large rotating machines such as electric motors and gearboxes.

By installing FAG SmartCheck devices, the crane operator is kept informed at all times about the condition of the bearings and gearboxes installed in the hoisting gear. The onset of damage is detected early, enabling the planning of repairs or maintenance, which significantly reduces unplanned downtime.

Estimated costs of unplanned crane downtime:

  • Cost of repairing the motor:£10,000
  • Crane downtime: £5000
  • Total downtime costs: £15,000

Potential savings from installing FAG SmartCheck:

  • Investment cost for monitoring the hoisting gear with FAG SmartCheck: £5000
  • Savings achieved due to early detection of initial damage (less the investment costs for FAG SmartCheck): £10,000
  • Savings from early detection of all subsequent damage: £15,000
  • With three cranes being monitored and assuming that there are two occurrences of damage per crane per year, estimated annual savings of approximately £75,000 are achieved

Customer projects that demonstrate definitive cost savings are known as Global Technology Solutions. These case studies show how Schaeffler customers have benefited from its global expertise as well as the local knowledge provided by Schaeffler Technology Centers within the Global Technology Network. For more Global Technology Solutions please visit:

For more information on FAG SmartCheck, please email or visit

© Copyright 2006-14 Damte Ltd.