Hove was founded in 2000, when the wind power sector was in its infancy. Across Northern Europe, engineering companies were slowly beginning to collaborate on refining the design of this new form of renewable energy. "There was a pioneering spirit," recalls Thomas Cramer, the company's president. There was only one problem: greasing the bearings inside the turbines was proving to be a nightmare.
"Hove was founded after it emerged that engineers working in turbine-maintenance crews were suffering from a lot of muscular injuries," explains Cramer. "It was around that time that we began to see the megawatt-class turbines, which used large bearings. These engineers had to pump in kilos of grease by hand."
This process was not only hard on the arms, but also dependent on the engineers pumping in the correct amount of grease. This carried its own risk to the integrity of the turbine itself: any significant deficit or surplus of lubricant could damage the bearings. Hove was founded in order to develop a way around this, specifically in developing a pump to do all the hard work for them.
"In those days, it was easy to get into these companies," Cramer recalls. "There was more of a pioneering spirit. So, we had our shot at making a pump and, even though we were only a one-man company at the time, we had the machine tested and validated."
Before they knew it, Hove's automated grease pump had become a common accessory among engineering teams in the wind sector. By 2005, the company was partnering with major stakeholders in the industry. "Now, we're on version four of the original pump," says Cramer, referring to the Hove Easy Grease Refiller, which can be operated either directly from the pump, manually or by remote control. "We have had some other products, too," he adds.
The Easy Grease is a type of dosing unit. Mounted in heavy-duty suitcases, this automatic-lubrication pump was designed with the intention of streamlining the maintenance of wind turbines. Sustaining pressures of up to 250bar, the Easy Grease is capable of supplying all greasing points in the nacelle of the turbine quickly and efficiently when paired with a flow divider, a product that Hove also manufactures. The machine also incorporates a ground-failure tester, which guards against the risk of an electric shock injuring the engineer when there's a weak or missing ground connection, as well as a low-viscosity adaptor.
Use of the Easy Grease offers several advantages, not least the reduction of downtime during maintenance; in recent field tests, the product was shown to shorten the time spent on lubrication by up to half. Contamination of the lubricant is also substantially reduced within the unit's closed system, and being fully automatic, there is no need for manual operation and therefore no chance of seeing the kinds of muscular injuries among engineers that were abundant when Hove was founded.
Complementing the Easy Grease are Hove's special lubrication cartridges. "They're collapsible, which means that when they're emptied, they take up much less space [5% of their original capacity] in disposal units," says Cramer. Capable of storing any type of lubricant and coming in three sizes - 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000ml - they are delivered either full or at the precise measurement requested by the customer. Hove also supplies a full hose set to better divide the grease flow and ensure that the correct amount reaches the point of requirement in the turbine.
The company's next project aims to draw on its almost two decades of experience in the wind sector to deliver as close an automated solution as one can get in the lubrication of turbines. "It's called the Hove Smart Lube system," explains Cramer. "It's an innovative lubrication management tool. Where you have a connection between the lubrication points, our cartridges and our pumps, this device will compare all the various readings generated during the greasing process and ensure that everything is done correctly."
Above all, the system will enable maintenance crews to be deployed to turbine locations at the right place, at the right time and with the correct type and amount of grease. "We will go in and check whether this is the right time for lubrication, according to the specifications stored inside the system," explains Lasse Eriksen. As CEO of Konekt and a consultant with Hove, it was Eriksen's company that developed the Smart Lube's data-collection software.
"In the end, what we're providing is end-to-end management of the lubrication process, especially while we're doing tuning, scheduling and managing your team," Eriksen explains, "and if you're using third-party teams, you can also view how they're progressing."
Furthermore, the Smart Lube system gives engineering teams full traceability of all lubrication procedures, including the tracking of stock and basic consumption. Intuitive, easy to set up and capable of working offline, the system is secure, and its scheduling software makes predictive maintenance possible.
"The industry has been lacking the ability to plan lubrication maintenance work," says Cramer. "What maintenance crews need to be able to do is provide the right documentation for having this or that bearing lubricated, and then have it done correctly, on time, with the right amount and type of lubricant."
Hove also works hard to ensure that its products remain viable long after they are purchased. The company has a repair centre not only in Denmark, but also in the US, where it has a flourishing subsidiary. "We furnish our customers with the necessary maintenance expertise to make sure that their pumps are still working sufficiently," continues Cramer. "With our abundant knowledge of pump technology, we can also provide them with guidelines to help solve errors on-site."
This kind of system could only have come about through Hove's commitment to relevant industry solutions. "We've always been a company that refines our products according to feedback from the guys using them," Cramer says. "All of our tools have been made from the technician's point of view, and take all of these things into consideration as a matter of course. That's why we're constantly at work on new platforms, so that we can help to eradicate human error and make everything that bit safer for technicians on-site."