Quality and innovation keeps chain manufacturing on shore

Local chain manufacturing and distribution of hoists depends on unique solutions and ongoing investment. Manufacturers’ Monthly reports.

With 95 years of heritage in producing chains and hoists in Australia, KITO PWB’s recent history has been about ensuring that its reputation for manufacturing quality can continue into the future.

In 2016, the purchase of PWB Anchor by Japanese hoist manufacturer KITO deepened the already strong relationship between the two companies. Having distributed KITO’s products for 38 years, the last three years have seen KITO PWB extend its capabilities in Australia.

KITO PWB supplies products that have a lifting capacity anywhere from 250kg to 20t and can increase up to 50t if required. After the hoists from KITO arrive in Australia, KITO PWB modifies them so they suit the specific requirements of each customer, thus developing a tailored solution.

“We have the facilities here to modify those hoists depending on the customer’s application,” said Andrew Betts, export and marketing executive at KITO PWB.

“The majority of the time, the hoists arrive from Japan without any chain on them,” said Betts. “We then chain them up in our dedicated assembly shop to our customer’s specific requirements.”

KITO PWB determines the correct solution based on what lifting capacity is required, the maximum weight that the device will bear, and how high the lift can extend. This can vary from half a metre in the context of a processing plant, or 70 metres high in the construction of a wind tower.

“We need to know how far they’re going to lift to know how much of the load chain we’re going to be putting on the unit here in our facility,” clarified Betts.

Other factors to consider for KITO PWB are whether the hoist will be stationary or move along a H beam. To cover this scenario, there are the options of using the hoist in conjunction with a manual or motorised trolley.

With these variables being so core to the successful partnership between KITO PWB and their client, the company has invested in developing new solutions to meet the requirements of chain and hoist manufacture and installation. This led to the development of the SlingMate app, a collaboration between KITO PWB’s own engineers and sales representatives with an external software consultant.

“The SlingMate program is based around the Australian standards that require certain type of chain, certain capacity of chain, certain type of hook and a certain type of master link,” said Betts. “All the requirements of the standard are written into SingMate, so someone can’t make up an incorrect sling.”

Turning to an engineered software-based solution has enabled a simplification of the channels of communication between KITO PWB and customers.

“The client would put in the capacity required and the configuration of what they’re lifting; it might have two location points, it might have four location points. That then varies the number of legs of the slings, for example,” said Betts.

Building in safety stop-gap measures to an app such as SlingMate allows for savings both for KITO PWB and the customer, according to Betts.

“It really helps accelerate the customer’s time in choosing because otherwise they’d have to consult with the standards themselves and consult with an application engineer. That takes a lot of that leg work out of it, because all of those requirements are built in to the program itself. If the configuration they choose is not suited to the capacity they’re trying to lift, then you just simply can’t build it,” said Betts.

Ensuring that the chains and hoists meet these standards and requirements is fundamental to KITO PWB as one step within their overall safety program. Going well above the Australian standard in the manufacture and testing of the chains and testing of the hoists, KITO PWB tests their chains to two and a half times the standard requirement, which is one of the most demanding testing regimes of chain manufacturers in the world, according to Betts.

“We test every single link of every single chain, which is very rigorous quality assurance (QA) testing on our range of chains.”

Developing innovative solutions such as SlingMate is one of the qualities that makes KITO PWB distinct and is part of what keeps the company stable as the only chain manufacturer remaining in Australia. A similar approach to investing in technologies that further put KITO PWB at the forefront of industry was the installation of 885 solar panels on the roof of its Victorian plant in Bundoora.

“The chain manufacturing machines use a lot of power, so for us installing the solar panels was about trying to save some of our power costs, but it’s also equally important in giving us a bit more of a green foot print,” said Betts. “It’s sending a message out to the marketplace that the last chain manufacturer in Australia is here for the long haul.”

In building their chains, KITO PWB use steel from Liberty OneSteel, a steel manufacturer based in Newcastle, which sources iron ore from Australian mines. Investing in the future of KITO PWB and the wider ecosystem of Australian manufacturing is important, not
only for the local staff, but has been enabled through the support of the Japanese owners.

“On top of the $500,000 dollars they’ve allocated for us to spend on the solar panels, there’s another half- a-million to put in a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to increase our efficiency throughout the administration area, the plant and the warehouse,” said Betts.

“They’re spending a lot of money on this site to keep us running and to keep us manufacturing chains in Australia and the assembler of KITO hoists for many years to come.”