Sunday, 9 February 2020

BROMMA SPREADS DIGITAL EFFICIENCIES TO THE INDUSTRY


Bromma is a leading provider of container frames on a global basis. AJ Keyes understands the company’s continued focus on its digital journey
“Approximately 40%-50% of a crane’s downtime is spreader related,” states Lars Meurling, Vice President EMEA & Marketing for Stockholm-based Bromma, adding, “The spreader is critical to the whole container operation, but we believe that operational information and development should come directly from the spreader, not just the crane.”

Mr. Meurling speaks on behalf of a company that certainly understands its business. For more than 50 years, Bromma has successfully delivered container crane spreaders to more than 500 terminals in over 90 countries across six continents. Indeed, as the company’s executive confirms, “more than 14,000 crane spreaders and rotators” have been placed into service and Bromma currently manufacturers up to 2,000 (of all types of) spreaders each year.

According to Mr. Meurling, the first half of 2019 has been good in terms of orders secured for the company, which is now part of Cargotec, adding that there has been a “significant improvement of both sales and order intake,” especially in Europe and throughout the Americas. He further stated that the focus of the company remains “very global.” 

This claim is reinforced by confirmed activity for equipment supplied/ordered in the Q1-Q3 2019 period, which he adds shows a “very diverse country mix.” Taking this explanation into account, Table 1 provides a summary of Bromma’s global port partners, based on terminal, port and country locations. There is even an interesting move to supporting rail terminal operations, with equipment being supplied to two of North America’s Class 1 railroad operators, Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern, for use in respective inland intermodal facilities.

Moving forward, Mr. Meurling is confident about future demand for spreaders across the industry, irrespective of the possible forthcoming threat of economic downturn that several large-scale parts of the world may soon be facing. 

“The optimum life-length of a spreader is normally 10-12 years of use. We saw a very big uptake in purchases in the strong economic period between 2006 to 2008, when many ports and terminals invested heavily in new infrastructure, cranes and equipment. That means that these items are now ready to be replaced and so for the next 18-24 months we are likely to see good sales potential.


He added that planning is the key from a port or terminal perspective with spreaders. “There is an optimum time to replace them, but it is important to plan when this will be. That is part of our role, to help gain the best optimisation before replacement.”

After global port capacity growth of 2.7% for 2018 and 2.6% for 2019, Bromma is predicting 2020 will have added a further 3.3% of container TEU capacity worldwide, with 2021 seeing 2.1% more. Thereafter, capacity will see smaller increases in 2022 and 2023, of 1.2% and 0.3%, respectively. “Obviously there will be regional variations,” acknowledges Mr. Meurling, but he adds, “There is no doubt that there is likely to be a need for between 40-60 million TEU of additional capacity over this short-term period.” For a company specialising in providing equipment that is totally integral to the handling of containers at ports and terminals on a global basis, this extra capacity must represent a big target.

Yet while the spreader replacement market, and supply of this equipment to new facilities, remains highly-important to Bromma, the company is also committed to enhancing its service offering provided to all global partners. In fact, this is precisely where its “Digital Journey” will continue.

Joakim Heijbel, Director, Digitalization and Processes, explains that Bromma began its journey in 2011 and continues to move forward, with one specific area now taking an integral position in all activities. “Data is the hot topic but we cannot just talk on a theoretical level, we need to show the possibilities of what can be done and how it benefits our global partners,” he explains.

One key item of focus, development and delivery from Bromma relates to its “Intelligent Spreader” initiative. “This is a new tool we recently launched and it is taking us in what we call an “intelligence direction.” The technology itself was not ready before, but now it is. After all, a spreader is more than just a big piece of steel, it is a high-tech piece of equipment working in an advanced system,” outlines Mr. Heijbel.

There are two good examples of how Bromma is introducing technology to spreaders relating to the “Intelligent Spreader” concept. These are its Spreader Monitoring System which primarily focuses on the most efficient use of data and Bromma Hawkeye which greatly improves visual feedback on the spreader in use.

In more detail, the Spreader Monitoring System provides an instant view of the health of every spreader operating in the entire fleet, providing immediate notifications of warnings and errors of the equipment. Moreover, each warning also then provides a list of recommended actions to rectify the problem.

The benefits here are related to better maintenance planning and access to more (real-time) performance data that allows fine-tuning to achieve more efficient use of the equipment. Mr. Heijbel explains further. “This is where we provide an equipment health overview. We can remotely monitor, from Stockholm, how the spreader is performing. If we see it is green, then it is healthy and there is a very low risk to a stoppage. If the spreader is shown as yellow, then we know that the health of the item is declining. Once we get to red, then it is likely to breakdown or flags-up that a stoppage is likely.”

However, it is not just monitoring the health of the Bromma spreader that is being undertaken. The data being collected enables the total moves, total running hours and percentage of healthy life left are all made available for users. Plus, over time, the equipment’s age and hours in use can be identified and related to the port or terminal operator.

“We have up to 80 different sensors on a ship-to-shore crane spreader,” confirms Mr. Heijbel, before adding, “Although this is really just the start. The next step is to implement other things like artificial intelligence to help us gain even more feedback and information and look to provide recommended solutions.”

Bromma Hawkeye is a platform that enables different kinds of camera configurations to be installed on any spreader, as a way of helping to customise it for different user requirements.

For example, there is a video function whereby cameras generate viewing streams that the operator can view on its chosen display monitor plus additional Optical Character Recognition to reinforce the quality of the images. Most importantly, to ensure that the Hawkeye platform can operate on any spreader in any environment, the design and validation has been focused on the harsh environment of an STS crane spreader.

Moving forward, Joakim Heijbel is clear about what Bromma wants to achieve. “We want to become predictive and to understand what help spreaders need in advance to deliver optimum efficiency of operation.”
Bromma is already on the way to achieving its goal. Through use of its applications, the health of a spreader can be monitored so that it is known in advance whether maintenance is required and when. 

As both Mr. Meurling and Mr. Heijbel both confirm, no longer is the process to wait for the spreader to break down and then an engineer should be dispatched to ascertain what the problem is. Instead, Bromma “wants to know what is wrong with its spreader before it is physically looked at.”

So, while Bromma clearly has several key initiatives to continue to pursue, especially relating to greater use of technology, what are other factors that contribute to its success? Lars Meurling believes that there is a simple answer to this question. “We build trust with our clients and they trust us. We have open discussions and the first thing we always ask is, how can we improve?”



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