Monorail Systems / Workstation Cranes

  • Monorails are a continuous run of fixed, overhead track on which trolleys travel while carrying loads.

  • Used for ergonomic reasons to help workers perform tasks with less risk of injury, workstation cranes handle loads weighing up to 4,000 pounds.

For materials that are too bulky or heavy to move through a process or facility with lift trucks or fixed, floor-mounted conveyors monorails and workstation cranes move and position loads. They maximize the vertical space in a facility by transporting loads overhead.

Their travel is directed by an operator, either manually or with a wired pendant station or wireless controls. These direct their horizontal, vertical or lateral load movements.

Monorails and workstation cranes are typically used to support manufacturing activities. Monorails typically transport loads from one process to the next. Workstation cranes are usually dedicated to a specific location to support a load during a specific step.

Monorail systems and workstation cranes come in a variety of styles and are used with a number of attachments to facilitate load lift, including:

  • Monorails: A continuous run of fixed, overhead track on which carriers or trolleys—equipped with trolley hoists to lift, lower and suspend the load—travel. A series of carriers in a row is called a trolley conveyor. Hand trolleys are propelled manually; alternately, trolley movement can be by pneumatic- or electric-powered tractor drive, as is the case with an automated electrified monorail. Two types of track options exist:

    • Enclosed track - A rectangular tube-shaped track formed with a continuous slot running lengthwise along the underside of the section. Trolleys travel on the interior bottom flange of the track section.
    • Patented track - A composite track section fabricated to form an inverted “T” section that acts as the running flange for the trolley wheels.
  • Overhead conveyor: Similar to monorails, overhead conveyors consist of a continuous chain running beneath a continuous, stationary, flanged rail. Equally spaced, individual carriers are permanently suspended from, and pulled by, the chain. Power and free conveyor operates the same way, except the carriers can be mechanically disengaged for independent maneuvers.
  • Workstation crane: Generally used for ergonomic reasons to help workers perform tasks with less risk of injury, these cranes handle loads from 150 to 4,000 pounds. They allow workers to move materials by hand by pushing the load with the assistance of a vertical lifting device such as a hoist or other attachment. The three primary types include:

    • Jib crane – Wall- or floor-mounted, jib cranes rotate off an axis and can move a load in a circular area, either 180° or 360°. A variety of types are available, depending on the mounting requirement to support the application:

    • Bridge crane – For loading and unloading in assembly operations, these cranes are mounted overhead to a building’s columns, trusses or frames, or via a free- standing system of columns. They cover a rectangular area, moving a load side to side and backward and forward. The lifting and horizontal movement device is mounted on a bridge beam of one or more horizontal girders which are supported at either end by trucks. The end trucks are attached at right angles to the girders and move on fixed runways.
    • Gantry crane – Also called floor-supported or free-standing, the bridge for these cranes is supported on two or more legs running on fixed rails in the facility floor, or on wheels. A variety of types are available, depending on the configuration of the facility:

    • End effectors or below the hook equipment: A variety of different, application-specific, attachments can be added to the trolley or hoist to handle the lifting or positioning of different loads. These include:

      • C hook A device that enables the lifting of a coil by through the insertion of a hook into the coil’s inner diameter. A motorized hook rotator powers the rotation of the hook attached to the bottom block of a hoist for additional load control.
      • Gripping lifters use either friction or indentation-causing pressure to hold a load. Tong grabs or clamps utilize a scissor-type action to grip a load. Coil grabs grasp the outer diameter of a coil via tongs or gripping mechanisms to lift or turn it.
      • Mechanical lifters are composed of two or more rigid parts that move in tandem when manually actuated to secure the load.
      • Vacuum lifters utilize an electric-powered extraction pump and sealed pads to create a vacuum to attach the lifter to an object.
      • Sheet lifters use two claws to grab a load of sheet metal or wood by wrapping around the edges. A lip on the lower portion of the claws prevents the sheet from falling out of the lifter.
      • Pallet lifters use forks to lift pallets from underneath.
      • Magnets lift, carry or release flat or round ferrous objects with or without an electrical power supply.
      • Slings or strap hoists made of nylon, polyester, wire rope or chain lift materials that are too large and bulky to be transported any other way, such as steel coils or sheets.
      • Drum turners turn over drums for filling and emptying.

Monorail systems and workstation cranes are used in a variety of areas to support processing and handling throughout a facility:

  • Assembly: Moving products through production processes
  • Positioning: Securing a component for additional work
  • Transportation: Loading finished products onto open trailers or railcars
  • Staging: Holding work-in-process for additional production processes
  • Storage: Transporting heavy items to and from storage areas
  • Warehousing: Moving large, heavy products to and from docks

Monorail systems and workstation cranes provide a variety of benefits:

  • Adaptable – Because they can operate on any plant floor surface, and can be modified to accommodate changing needs, they provide flexibility to an operation
  • Customizable – Can be customized with below the hook attachments, end effectors or specialized tooling to handle a diverse variety of products and loads
  • Ergonomics – By doing the heavy lifting, monorail systems and workstation cranes take strain off operators, reducing fatigue and lowering the risk of injury
  • Faster direct paths – Monorail systems and workstation cranes take product up and over obstacles, instead of navigating back and forth through aisles
  • Load control - Radio remote controls and independent traveling pushbutton pendants allow for a better view while keeping the operator away from the load and any associated danger
  • Lower maintenance costs – Incorporating the latest technologies and offered in a variety of usage and capacity ratings, monorail systems and workstation cranes require less maintenance compared to other lifting devices
  • Positioning – Highly automated systems maneuver with the precision of one thousandth of the rated speed to an exact location
  • Reduce labor expenses – A single monorail system or workstation crane cover a large work area and can replace more manual operations
  • Reduction in product damage – By allowing for smooth, direct-path transportation over obstacles—with soft start features, multiple speed options and a variety of end effectors to interface with and secure the load—products are handled gently to minimize damage

Monorail systems and workstation cranes assist in the lifting, positioning and movement of large, heavy loads throughout a facility in a variety of industries, including:

  • Automotive
  • Chemicals
  • Commercial printing
  • Manufacturing
  • Newspaper
  • Paper
  • Steel
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how monorail systems and workstation cranes are used in different industries and applications. Additional case studies can be found here.