Manufacturer support - Steve Skinner reports on a better deal for contractors

By Steve Skinner15 February 2010

Metso has been commissioned by Norsk Stein to supply a complete fine crushing and screening system,

Metso has been commissioned by Norsk Stein to supply a complete fine crushing and screening system, valued at at € 27 million (US$ 39 million), for the Jelsa quarry near Stavanger, Norway.

Many manufacturers of crushing and screening equipment have invested in new production methods and facilities. Steve Skinner reports on the positive affect this will have on equipment and how the downturn means contractors can now expect closer manufacturer support too.

Towards the end of 2008, a number of manufacturers announced the opening of new factories just as the global economy nose-dived. Austria's Rubble Master was just one of these, and CEO Gerald Hanisch said, "The international economic crisis caught us at the worst possible moment imaginable - a time when we were growing rapidly and making ground-breaking investments.

The company reports that financing is a major issue. However, it believes there are several recycling markets that are on the up because of new national legislation being implemented to drive recycling rates up. These include Russia and various South American countries, with others to come in the future.

Wirtgen's Kleemann also moved into a new 26000 m2 factory in Göppingen, Germany in 2009 and already the manufacturer is predicting a possible +40% increase in productivity over what was achievable from its earlier splintered facilities.

"By consolidating the entire production process we've taken a crucial step towards optimisation of processes and material flows," said Michael German, Kleemann assembly manager. "The short distances from pre-production to final assembly now make the assembly process far more efficient and the flow assembly process across four lines should enable us to triple our annual production volume."

As of 1 January, the four Wirtgen Group subsidiaries in Germany all started selling Kleemann products. General sales manager at Kleemann, Markus Wörner said, "Wirtgen's four main facilities replaced our German dealers, allowing us to reach a larger customer base in our home market. At the same time, the sale of Kleemann products has commenced in Italy, Turkey and South America via the Wirtgen Group's sales network."

Another significant factory opening in 2009 was that of Sandvik's new facility in China. When commenting on the impact of the opening, Sandvik's business development manager in the construction segment, Arvid Svensson said, "The Asian region is already one of the largest construction regions in the world. Population growth combined with urbanisation is an important driver. Material is recycled there today but in much less percentage than in Europe. However, we estimate that once it takes off, growth will be high."

He was quick to refute that the Chinese facility's capabilities will have an impact on Sandvik's other production facilities in Europe, saying, "The Chinese factory is aimed at producing Sandvik quality machines of different types for the fast growing Asian region. The range today is limited but will probably be expanded as sales increase. Our factories in Europe are aimed at supplying the European market that has also grown long term but at a slower pace."

Hartl Anlagenbau also opened a new 12000 m2 factory in St Valentine, Austria with the first Powercrusher PC2 rolling off the production line in January last year.

Marketing manager Nathalie Palmetshofer said, "The new facility allows us to produce up to 400 units per year. The most modern technology, paired with long term know-how and highly qualified personnel means we can produce the highest quality units at an optimal price."

The new facility enables Hartl Anlagenbau, like Kleemann, to powdercoat components instead of wet spray painting them, which the company says enables it to produce unparalleled surface quality. The factory also features a specially constructed 'test box' in which every machine is subjected to a test run, where operation and quality are checked to ensure uniformity in quality control.

"One of the major advantages of the new factory is that production can be optimised to such a level that the principle of 'just in time' delivery can be achieved. We believe lean manufacturing will play a significant role in the way the company plans, produces and delivers Powercrusher units in the future," said Mrs Palmetshofer.

Development

Mr Svensson believes the economic climate means value for money is more critical for contractors than it perhaps was a couple of years ago. "The QJ340, QJ330 and the LU440 are our most popular machines - they all provide excellent value for their price. But our customers also often mention that they are looking for ease of transport and low running costs."

Komatsu corporate spokesman, Tooru Hishiyama confirmed this view on customer demands. "We are constantly being tasked with providing improvements in economic efficiency such as low fuel consumption and high production capacity. But that is not all customers are after - they are also looking for improvements in quality and reliability. And of course, Komatsu assumes the environment, safety and IT are also key drivers and we're working to improve in these areas as well."

Productivity is a key driver according to global sales director for Screen Machine Industries, Thomas Barry. "The desire for ever more significant advancements in productivity (value), reliability and safety are always at the forefront of research and development initiatives," he said.

Micro answers

The micro end of the spectrum is a little different. Digbits' sales manager Marcus Clay told iC, "Price and mobility - specifically towability - currently seem to trump output in the minds of our customers.

"The ability to deal with a wide range of materials - always a strong point of Digbits' Bavtrack model - remains. The performance requirements seem less prevalent in customers' minds. Requests for large machines (design studies for which we had been running) have completely dried up. Our new machine reflects this and, predictably, the price element is tackled through simplicity."

Veronica Guerra at MB Crusher believes the founding family's heritage in construction ideally places the company to support contractors through the current challenging times. "The reason why Guido Azzolin and his brothers created the MB Crusher bucket is because their father was working in his own construction company and they therefore understood the need to crush material to save money. The challenge for contractors presently is exactly the same."

Ms Guerra told iC, "Our worldwide reach is a crucial strength. Contractors from across the globe have heard of our crusher buckets. Due to the convenience of price and performance, we have been able to avoid the financial crisis to the extent that we will be introducing a new technological development at the Bauma exhibition.

Other advances at MB Crusher include the release of its new BF90.3 crusher bucket featuring an inlet mouth width of 900 mm and a jaw adjustment of between 20 mm and 120 mm.

In support of its customers, the company has also inaugurated its MB service department. "With this specialist department we are now in a position in which a technical expert can fly anywhere in the world to solve any technical problems our high volume customers might be experiencing," said Ms Guerra.

In 2009 Allu launched its D series range of screening buckets for excavators of between 16 tonnes and 45 tonnes and for large wheeled loaders.

The six strong range can screen down to 15 mm and up to 100 mm. Director of Allu UK, David Maclynn told iC, "A significant advantage of the D series is that it can process matter that other screens might not be able to handle such as wet and sticky materials.

"We are trying to enable our customers to process materials on-site that they previously would not have been able to process. Contractors need to be more efficient in the current climate, so for Allu it's about providing solutions to increase efficiency."

Mr Maclynn explained that the prime target for the D series is pipeline contractors as they will be able to process and reuse all excavated material on-site, thus reducing the need for virgin material, reducing the export of waste material and reducing the need and cost of landfill.

"The D series forces the material through the screen, so it has advantages over gravity systems," he told iC. "Because it is so well suited to screening wet materials prior to the main crusher, it complements traditional crushing systems.

Timely bonus

A noticeable up-side for contractors in 2010 is an industry wide impetus from manufacturers to offer more, both in terms of equipment and support. Senior vice president at Metso Minerals, responsible for service, Simon Pelletier told iC, "In the past a customer would buy equipment and then ask about service.

"Now, customers are much more interested in long term contracts to tie-in their supplier to support them with process and application expertise and lifetime mechanical support."

Metso Minerals has introduced a range of Equipment Protection Plans, through which the company offers customers extended warranties on all the major components.

"We have a similar system to the 'Power by Hour' initiative introduced by Rolls Royce for the aerospace industry, under which customers are invoiced for the use of the engines when they use them. We are working with customers and they are only invoiced for the maintenance, parts and service support for their equipment based on the amount of time they use that equipment," said Mr Pelletier.

Enhanced service packages are just the tip of the iceberg. "Our sales organisation can spend a lot of time with customers looking at the future operations and what the best set-up is for that specific operation, not only in terms of tonnage, but also in terms of set-up for logistics and service," he said.

"A fundamental at Metso is that we send our service engineers to sites to analyse the application. We take profile measurements of used liners and weigh them to ensure maximum saleable product is being produced through the lifetime of the liner.

"Carrying out this type of analysis is key to establishing the optimum solution for any given application," Mr Pelletier said.

CEO of South Africa's Pilot Crushtec, Sandro Scherf told iC, "The shaping of stone and creating good aggregate has been our bread and butter from day one. We started off with our VSI 1990, which was designed to give stone a good cubic shape and in recent times we've revamped our entire range to incorporate new systems to make operation and maintenance easier.

"We have also developed hybrid equipment that can run off electricity where it's available and diesel where it's not. Many mobile crushers just run on diesel, so this is a big advantage for our customers," he said.

A VSI crusher normally has large power requirements so in developing hybrid technology a decision needs to be made regards running the machine hydraulically or electrically.

Mr Scherf told iC, "I believe we may even end-up with a standard version and then electric and electric/hydraulic versions depending on what suits the client best. It would make life difficult for us, but we may have to produce the variations to meet customer demand and legislative controls," he said.

Relationship

There is a positive move within the industry to ensure, in the first instance, that contractors invest in the most suitable equipment for their application and then receive the highest levels of on-going support.

Many manufacturers have moved production to larger state-of-the-art facilities and this will enhance capacity once the market picks up.

As Mr Maclynn told iC, "We're now supplying companies that two or three years ago didn't have time to consider screening buckets. Contractors are fine tuning and streamlining their businesses and manufacturers need to provide solutions to enable them to increase efficiency."

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