The Grove CONNECT remote-monitoring software is already revolutionizing the way crane owners, technicians, and other stakeholders gain valuable machine insights. Looking Up talked to four people instrumental in its success to find out more.
Dirk Wolfsteller, Martin Ollermann, Markus Paulini, and Patrick Stelter
Available on all new GMK models, Grove CONNECT is an easy-to-use platform working across smartphones, tablets, and laptops that facilitates advanced fleet management, boosts sustainability, streamlines service, and maintenance, and improves connectivity to cranes. Thanks to the availability of real-time information, it also promotes optimized troubleshooting by allowing remote technicians to quickly understand the status of a crane before they even pack their tools.
Dirk Wolfsteller, vice president of aftermarket for Grove in Europe
Patrick Stelter, parts and service product & marketing manager for Grove
Markus Paulini, manager telematics mobile cranes, Manitowoc
Martin Oellermann, manager engineering - Software Control Systems
Q. What has been the response from customers and industry since the Grove CONNECT announcement at bauma?
DW: Some of our competitors unveiled digital fleet-management solutions, but we took things one step further, focusing on a new system that transforms the troubleshooting process, adding customer value and maximizing uptime. So customer feedback was extremely positive. With Grove CONNECT they know exactly what’s going on with their cranes. Most importantly, crane operators & service technicians love it, and they are one of the most important stakeholders. The industry was impressed with the maturity and functionality of Grove CONNECT, not showcasing something that could be, but presenting something real. Our open approach and flexibility to incorporate customer feedback was also received extremely positively.
Q. Why is it important for customers to look at Grove CONNECT? What benefits will it bring to their fleet management?
PS: We give owners the same insights as operators receive. There’s immediate feedback on the crane’s performance, when the maintenance is due, and more. Unlike when reporting issues over the phone, there’s much less room for confusion. It means service technicians can confirm any issue upfront, avoiding wasted time on the jobsite or in the parts depot. Grove CONNECT is now standard on all new all-terrain cranes fitted with CCS. It’s free of charge during the warranty period, and then offered on a subscription basis.
Q. What are Grove CONNECT’s biggest innovations, or differentiators from competitors?
MP: I think the biggest innovation is flexibility. Users can manage a single crane, or a whole fleet. It spans across countries and can be used by both customers and dealers, while covering both their needs. After a crane’s warranty expires, it can sometimes be difficult to know what it’s been doing, but with Grove CONNECT everything is recorded. When you consider that many cranes have a 25-year lifespan, that’s going to be a really useful function in future that will also build stronger trust.
MO: For me, a big innovation is the open platform that Grove CONNECT was built on. Grove CONNECT works as a standalone system but it’s been designed to enable much stronger collaboration in future between Grove and its customers via API (Application Planning Interface).
Q. So how many systems are at work in the field now?
PS: When we officially launched at bauma in October 2022, there were roughly 400 Potain tower cranes and 150 Grove mobile cranes using the system, including those we’d been field-testing over the previous two years. Now, we have well over 750 Potain tower cranes and 350 Grove all-terrain cranes equipped with Potain CONNECT or Grove CONNECT.
Q. How did you design it to be future-proofed?
PS: To build the best possible system, we started with our most complex Grove products, which are our all-terrain cranes. We knew that once we built a system capable of working for those, it could then be more easily adapted for other product families such as our Grove GRT rough-terrain cranes.
MO: From the software perspective, we selected premium partners and solutions to ensure better longevity. We are using Microsoft’s Azure platform to support scalability and optimize working with third-party suppliers and consultants. This allows us to scale up the back-end and ensures we already have the capability to support hundreds of thousands of cranes, even at this early stage. Our modular design allows us to replace only discrete parts of the system if necessary. For example, if we need to support 5G cellular networks in the future, we only need to exchange the modem modules on the crane’s Grove CONNECT interface to enable continued operation.
Q. How did the development of Grove CONNECT and Potain CONNECT come about?
MP: Our Grove team from the factory in Wilhelmshaven, Germany worked very closely with our Potain colleagues from France. Each team had its own experts, software departments, field experience, and more. So we designed unique user experiences for mobile and tower cranes, because they are so different. But at the same time, our users of both cranes have the same needs. So we were able to combine that and come up with a common platform, but with Grove CONNECT tuned to the all-terrain product line and Potain CONNECT tuned to tower cranes.
Q. What were some of the biggest challenges in the development of Grove CONNECT?
MO: Our most challenging goal was to replicate the familiar look and feel of the CCS displays in Grove CONNECT — even going as far as replicating some display panels in the Grove CONNECT webpage. This took a lot of planning and development, but we’re really pleased with the result.
DW: From an uptake point of view, changing customers’ mindsets is another challenge; getting technicians to work in new ways, and consulting Grove CONNECT first so there’s better understanding of the parts needed before heading to the jobsite. But once customers fully understand the value, it sticks. Our Swiss dealer Stirnimann is a great example. The company is like a ‘super user’ – and uses Grove CONNECT as part of their routine, creating value for end customers and Stirnimann itself. In fact, Stirnimann is now a daily user of Grove CONNECT.
Q. What does the future of Grove CONNECT look like?
PS: We’re in contact with our colleagues in the U.S. and have discussed what we want to achieve, when and how. Rough-terrain and truck cranes aren’t too dissimilar to GMK designs due to our CCS architecture, so it’s primarily a software development, with crane-specific menus and visual adaptations. For our customers we are also in the process of developing a kind of utilization report that enables precise invoicing and increases transparency for operations at jobsites. We can see this having a lot of appeal for rental companies. Other functionalities, such as delivering formal reporting of wind speed data can help customers and operators on the jobsite prove current conditions, to enable better collaboration with their customers.