Almost a decade ago a dry stack storage facility for boats was built in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This facility introduced a new concept, i.e., the use of an overhead crane to lift and locate the boats. It required the construction of a canal, linking the ocean to the interior of the facility, allowing boats to enter to be lifted from the water by a cradle, which was attached to the crane by cables, to be located in the racking. Unfortunately, the sway generated by the movement of the crane required slower movements and the use of tension cables to automate. This introduced a maintenance problem, as the cables were prone to breakage, sometimes damaging other equipment or boats when they failed. Efforts to correct the problems were unsuccessful, and it was decided to operate the crane manually in areas where the automation proved unreliable. This approach slowed the storage process significantly, leading to major back-ups and the deckhands having to routinely work three to five hours overtime, particularly at the end of the day on weekends.
Trutegra was approached to survey the system and determine whether it was possible to improve the automation on the crane, specifically by the use of their No-Sway technology. Trutegra completed the survey and proposed an upgrade to the hardware that was presently installed. New controllers and new hardware were installed together with Trutegra’s proprietary No-Sway technology. A touch screen interface was provided to allow the selection of a boat that is to be retrieved or is for storage in a specific location without human involvement. The incorporation of the No-Sway technology allowed the system to run faster without the load swaying or contacting either adjacent boats or the walls of the building. The cycle time was dramatically reduced and much of the overtime experienced during the manual operation was eliminated.
The success of the modifications introduced by Trutegra has allowed the company to resurrect earlier plans for expansion and to begin work on sister sites. Trutegra’s technology for automation of the crane will be incorporated into the new sites. The new facilities will be fully automated with No-Sway Technology from day one and will allow the boats to be more densely packed since tolerances are now tighter and the stacks are higher. This allows more boats to be stored per square foot of waterfront property, which is a significant advantage considering the cost of such property in Florida. Challenges with the project became evident when the engineers had to be more cautious and methodical in the testing and implementation phases, recognizing the value of the boats that were being stored. Commissioning of the system was also very different/difficult from that experienced at industrial sites, particularly the absence of restricted areas and safe zones for personnel. Frequently, during the commissioning, boat owners would often be present watching the tuning and tweaking processes that are required in this final phase.