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A SMARTON® crane’s good scalability and reliability improves the performance of the workshop at Renault Sandouville, France.

The Renault Sandouville plant is located near Le Havre, a 2 hour drive from Paris. The factory is part of an important industrial and petrochemical area between the river Seine and a canal.

We are at the J1 South pressing workshop. Here, the car manufacturer Renault produces the pressed parts that constitute the bodywork of the assembled vehicles. On the agenda, cutting and shaping bodywork sides, among other things.

Robert Averel, in charge of manufacturing and producing in the pressing department: “At the exit of the workshop I am managing, we will find all the parts of a car’s bodywork: wings, roofs, body sides, side rails… as well as all the spare parts.”

The final production line displays the brand-new, high-end private vehicles: Espace and Laguna. There you go; the final product is here, or almost.

And what’s going on at the other side (that is, at the workshop entrance)?

A recently introduced process crane unloads the raw materials of the future bodywork from trucks or wagons: majestic steel coils weighing more than twenty tons each. Afterwards, the crane picks up these gleaming coils again in order to supply the pressing lines 200 meters further. The maneuver produces a hushed whistle of peaceful force. This key SMARTON crane has a lifting capacity of 34 tons.

The solution

The J1 South press workshop’s SMARTON crane was launched in January 2011. Jean-Jacques Moléon, Sales Engineer for Process Cranes at the Konecranes branch in Orléans, contributed to the installation launch of a modular lifting solution, customized for the workshop structure.

“The many ways in which SMARTON can be adapted make it possible to select the functions according to the specific needs of the users in Sandouville. Daniel Durieux, my contact at Renault, wanted to block the crane from passing over certain areas in order to reinforce the safety of personnel and machines. For this, the Protected Areas function is the perfect solution. Lasers are designed to prevent the hook from colliding with the footbridge that gives access to the offices,” says Moléon.
Improvement in performance

The SMARTON crane also significantly improves the performance of the workshop: The Sandouville workshop manager obtained the target positioning assistance option in order to service machines faster. Two coil unloading locations were easily set up thanks to the Target Positioning function of SMARTON. For this purpose, the sales engineer worked closely together with his usual contact, Daniel Durieux.
Cars are produced on the assembly line of Renault's Sandouville industry plant.

Renault has always given priority to the safety and the working conditions of its employees. However, the previous crane required a lot of corrective maintenance related to safety and working conditions. In addition, the old running track caused an abnormal wear of the traveling wheels. Currently, the structure of the new SMARTON crane’s cabin fully meets the expectations of Renault’s overhead crane operators and the lasers are designed to prevent any collision of the hook.

What does this mean? When engaged, the function is designed so that the operators cannot make manoeuvres in the direction of the offices. They make full use of the target positioning function above the machines, as well as an automatic return above the truck delivering the coils. The Skew Control function was installed on the crane in order to allow for greater durability: the flange rollers are protected and no longer rub against the traveling wheels.

SMARTON benefits

The project team of Konecranes has worked closely with the representatives of Renault. In a very short period of time, the site was equipped with a SMARTON crane with a remarkably ergonomic cabin. Compared with the previous crane everything is now easier to handle and maintain.

Speaking of which, what are the benefits of SMARTON from the maintenance point of view? Let us ask Renault’s François Marie, who is in charge of it.

“In the first place, all parts to be maintained are accessible. Secondly, all maintenance operators can work safely irrespective of where they are on the crane,” says Marie.

And what is your opinion of the diagnostic screen? “It allows us to quickly intervene at the origin of the failure, but we use it very little.” Why? “Because the crane is almost 100 percent reliable,” Marie adds.

And what about the TRUCONNECT® Remote Monitoring and Reporting function (on the SMARTON range of products since 2010)?

“It allows us to interact on the use of the crane remotely. We have all parameters in an Internet report … without having to fit and read data on the crane!”

That is because it is equipped with a modem, which sends the information to the client, who, this way, has information regarding the usage rates and possible failure risks.

“TRUCONNECT Remote Monitoring and Reporting is ideal for preventative maintenance,” Marie concludes.

Regarding other recent functions, this SMARTON crane is equipped with a regenerative drive: when the crane brakes, the energy is no longer dissipated in the resistances, but channelled into the general energy supply of the building. An eco-efficient way to save energy!

Productivity on the rise

Robert Averel, who has been in charge of production for ten years, joined Renault in 1972 in the maintenance department, where he became a workshop manager. Compared to previously, how much did SMARTON help him improve productivity in the workshop?

“A lot, because the SMARTON crane is truly revolutionary. It behaves very well when handling coils with a load of 15 to 30 tons, which requires great precision, both for taking the steel coils on the truck trailers and for placing the coils in the installations 100 meters from the trucks. There is a great gain in reliability and hence time: when the crane is in position, thanks to the points that have been pre-defined through the target positioning function, it no longer moves,” says Averel.

 A delighted crane operator

Crane Operator Jean-René Rousselin, 58 years old, whose shift is between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., is right next to us. In the beginning, he was a little anxious regarding the new equipment. But now, he can no longer imagine working without it! A nice present for his last working year—after having trained his replacement, he will retire in 2012.

Rousselin nods in agreement.

“Yes, the ergonomics has increased in my new working place. The cabin is closed, soundproof, heated. It was not so in the previous one. The joysticks are within reach, without effort. The camera with zoom function increases visibility behind the coil when I am unloading the truck, which helps a lot. In addition, the seat is comfortable,” says Rousselin.

“I think I gain about five minutes per coil transport because I no longer need to search for the axis, as I had to do on the previous crane, with all the dexterity required.”

Robert Averel reassesses that time downward. “We have made good progress with the SMARTON crane, there is a real gain of about three minutes on the entire cycle, from pick up to unload, which is already good,” he concludes. High five, gentlemen!

We can be sure that Konecranes and Renault, already partners on other production sites (Douai, Tanger…), will continue to collaborate on other industrial projects.