PROLONGED economic pressure has led to a definite shift in the mining environment, whereby major mining houses are reducing the amount of money being spent on new capital projects in favour of a stronger focus on operating expenses and efficiencies.
So says Dave Athey, Weir Minerals Africa Regional MD for Middle East and Africa, who adds that this has resulted in increasing emphasis on boosting operating efficiencies and operational output.
“More than ever, local mines now need best performing equipment including best in class wear components,” he says. “This is one of the areas in which we’ve excelled, driven by a robust commitment to lowering the Total Cost of Ownership (TOC.) This commitment underpins the design of all our equipment with a focus on issues around engineering, hydraulics and the cost of materials, as well as how quickly and easily components can be changed out, repaired and maintained.”
“Over the past five years, we’ve also put a lot of effort into developing a superior installed service base that is virtually on the doorstep of our major customer hubs in all the major mining countries of Africa. This has created a genuine competitive edge for our company.”
In addition, Athey says product development has received substantial attention within the organisation. In the past two years Weir Minerals Africa has introduced new pump ranges, namely the SLR and WBH slurry pumps and MCR mill circuit pumps.
Weir Minerals Africa produces a large proportion of these products in-house importing only items such as electric motors, bearings and natural rubber resulting in about 95% local content. The company has its own manufacturing facilities and also outsources certain items to local third party manufacturing facilities.
Quality is a central philosophy at Weir Minerals Africa and its 2013 quality strategy has brought about a fundamental shift from quality control to quality assurance. While quality control calls for an inspection at the end of a process, quality assurance focuses on redesigning the elements of a process in order to ensure that the quality of the product is 100% when it reaches the customer.
In terms of supply chain enhancements, the company is reaping first-rate rewards from a two year campaign implemented to transform its relationship with its main suppliers from simply transactional associations into fully fledged strategic partnerships.
“Our objective has been to assist and motivate our suppliers to manufacture products that are increasingly more cost effective and in line with our quality standards,” Wim van Vliet, Weir Minerals Africa’s supply chain director, says. “Feeding out of this are improved on-time deliveries and stock management."
“From a broad perspective, being a Best In Practice supplier isn’t just about being low cost at source,” van Vliet says. “Very often the cost is negligible compared to the impact of extended lead times and poor on-time delivery. Any sort of downtime far outweighs the cost of components or parts. Therefore, in addition to trying to reduce the overall cost of our products to these customers, we’re committed to ensuring that parts are available when they are needed.
“This commitment has allowed us to improve our overall lead times across Africa to the point that our on-time deliveries currently average about 90% — which is world class.”