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Thinking outside the box to combat COVID-19, future challenges

 

Ben Lefroy is the Kleemann National Sales Manager for Wirtgen Australia and New Zealand. He reflects on the ways Wirtgen has navigated the pandemic to continue to provide quality products and services for the quarrying industry, and forecasts the challenges that await both Wirtgen and the industry in general. 

How has Wirtgen Australia performed during the COVID-19 global pandemic?

In the past 20 months, Wirtgen Australia has performed reasonably well, particularly in the crushing and screening space. This is largely due to government stimulus and the stock issue that all manufacturers will be currently experiencing.

In general, we can always do better, but it hasn’t negatively impacted the industry as much as initially expected, particularly in quarrying.

A common theme among other suppliers for this feature has been the constraints on supply of stock, and the container shortage. Have you been able to prepare for it in advance?

We made some strategic decisions in March 2020, as things were getting risky, to ramp up our stock. It was a good strategy because we were able to keep a lot of existing and new customers crushing and screening when they weren’t able to purchase their loyal brand. If they urgently need gear for a crushing contract and you have it then that can be a turning point to assist in getting a project up and running.

From a parts point of view, we’ve had to increase our inventory levels to counteract excessive lead times from our suppliers. We are working closely with our customers to support them as required.

Ben Lefroy, the Kleemann National Sales Manager for Wirtgen Australia and New Zealand, trials Wirtgen’s service glasses that enable service teams to remotely see what the customer is examining in their plant and equipment.

Has the pandemic dramatically changed the way Wirtgen Australia conducts business with the Australian quarrying industry? Did the lockdowns, border closures and restrictions on travel impact on the delivery or servicing of machines? Did it mean you were doing more virtual communication?

Absolutely. In the bigger markets on the eastern seaboard, a lot of interaction with our customers has been via email, phone, or videolink of some description, eg Zoom, Teams. We haven’t been able to do site visits, we haven’t been able to take new customers to view machines, we had to get creative to allow people to look at machines.

One of our challenges has been in after sales. Because there were border closures, we had to ramp up our service teams in certain states, with a key focus on crushing and screening. From an after sales perspective, a lot of our technical support is done by telephone or email.

It’s been a challenge but we’ve done about as good a job as anyone could have in that space and we’ve explored other means of assistance and interaction.

For instance, service teams going into remote areas are introducing customers to service glasses to allow us to see what the customer is looking at. We can talk our customers through an inspection, we can ask them to open an electrical cabinet, we can talk through what the components are and how they work, and you can basically put up a schematic on the glasses while you’re looking at the screen. It’s another way of interactive training without being physically present.

What are the most popular mobile crushing and screening products in the quarrying industry today? What are the most popular Kleemann products?

Some of the most popular mobile crusher and screen plants are scalping screens, horizontal screens, jaws and cones. It really depends on the industry. We cover quarrying, mining and recycling, as all our competitors do. Every brand would be foolish to think they have a one-stop shop and the best in every product line but the scalping screens from some of our competitors are good products.

We are now looking to combat that with our new MSS 802 EVO scalping screen. this machine is made in house at Kleemann and can offer the same quality and reliability of our other products lines.

From our side, the MR 130 EVO2 impact crusher and the MC 110 EVO jaw are very popular products. We’re looking forward to the release of the new MC110 EVO2 into the market. We’ve had the first units arrive in Australia – and the first one went out the door for a valued customer in December. This machine has industry-leading features to assist both owner and operator run the equipment with ease.

Both the MCO 90 EVO2 cone crusher and the MC110 EVO2 are second generation machines of previous models, and fitted with an updated version of SPECTIVE, Kleemann’s digital operating concept, so it’s a highly interactive, intuitive system, which makes for ease of operation and simple learning for operators. SPECTIVE Connect is a telematics system on the MCO 90 and the MC 110 that allows you to extract live, real time information off the machine, to understand the status of the machine.

We’ve obviously refined the pre-screens on the jaw. We’ve managed to maintain the transport constraints and keep it very close to the older models. The set-up on the MC 110 is all managed via remote control, that’s with hopper extensions, with hydraulic folding and locking from the ground. The pre-screen has been enhanced on the jaw, meaning better throughput and screening efficiency.

The jaw liners and cone liners have remained the same between the old models and the new. There have been changes to the crushers but they have maintained the liners, which is nice for a customer that is renewing its fleet and they have old stock on the ground. They can reuse their current stock of manganese when changing liners.

An option for customers is a new active overload system on the jaw for non-crushables. It’s a fast opening jaw. As opposed to destroying toggle plates, the system senses an overload and opens up the jaw quickly. Traditionally, where you get an uncrushable piece such as an excavator tooth, there’s always relief systems like toggle plates on the jaw but the active overload system hydraulically opens the jaw and brings it back to its closed side setting.

In addition to the MC 110 EVO2 and the MC 90 EVO2, we’ve received some other new models of machines, including the MSS 802 EVO which is our own Kleemann scalping screen, which will replace the MS 15 Z. They are all available in the Australian market with stock on the ground however some of the products are in limited supply, particularly the MS 1202 and MS 1203 classifying screens.

These larger classifying screens, along with the MSS 952 EVO and MSS 953 EVO, are suitable for aggregate applications, concrete and road aggs. They’re mainly for the quarrying and recycling industries that want to provide a classified product to the market. Our classifying screens can  take a feed of up to 150mm, so it’s more for the refining of smaller aggs and separating out finer materials. We have a MS 1202 working in iron ore and a MS 1203 operating in a quartzite  quarry in NSW, creating concrete and road aggs, so they cover some different things.

To be fair, we all have some specialty products in our portfolios. There are some customers that have the “lollipop” crushing trains with all different brands which is fine and works for them, others like to stick to one colour! That is the customer’s choice.

Wirtgen offers programs, services and advice beyond the installation of key mobile products. What sort of programs and services are accessible and why should quarries use them?

The new Kleemann MC 110 EVO2 at work in a European recycling operation.

We have several handy things. WITOS is a telematics system which monitors machine health and location. You can set up geofence around the quarry and monitor movements of machines when going from jobsite to jobsite. It monitors service performance and gives users notifications when machines are due for service. We offer fixed price servicing programs through our aftermarket programs. We can generally accommodate the customer’s wishes regardless of geographic location or preferred service intervals that fall in line with OEM standards. It could be a service only contract and we could also work maintenance into it. We also offer training on our parts systems via WIDOS, an online version of our parts books. We also have a new parts shop online, so customers can directly place orders for immediate delivery. In-house, we have after sales parts support, with the expertise of an after sales business development manager and a technical products support manager. We offer aggflow assistance to help customers with project set-up/advice or changes to finetune an existing plant regardless of brand.

If they’re combined, all these things make it easier for the customer to operate their plant and allow us to assist them at every opportunity. We don’t see ourselves as just a sales business and from the first point of contact like to be considered a solutions provider. We’re driven by ways to improve our after sales service, eg commissioning and training work, and problem solving technical and application issues with customers. In the past we held face to face customer training and operation, and hopefully we can resume these as things open up.

How advanced is Kleemann in its development of electric power, hybrid or hydraulic engines for its mobile crushing and screening range?

I’d say we’re a market leader in the development and implementation of electric power in mobile crushing and screening plant. We’ve been doing it a long time and now other manufacturers are catching on that it’s environmentally friendly and economical. For over 30 years we’ve been manufacturing diesel/electric mobile crushing and screening plant and have refined it quite well over that time. In more recent years we have also introduced it into our smaller model variants with the same successful results.

We also have the ability for dual power, so not only are our machines diesel-electric-driven, there is the ability to plug in from an external power source meaning you can plug into the grid or one generator power source once your crushing and screening train is set up. Even our hydraulic variants have a HYBRID electric-hydraulic option, the ability to go diesel-hydraulic or electric-hydraulic.

The positive feedback we’re receiving most from our customers is about the savings in fuel consumption and the environmental benefits which producers can on-sell to their customers as well. Our fuel burn equates up to half that on some hydraulic variant models out there, so that means fewer emissions and a reduced carbon footprint which is more important than ever with Kleemann crushers doing their bit to protect the environment.

What other innovations are your products adopting to save on time and cost, conserve energy, and promote safety?

As I mentioned, SPECTIVE helps to make the Kleemann machines simple to operate. An end user can safely walk up to a machine and turn it on, following step-by-step instructions.

A lot of our new products are coming out with SPECTIVE Connect. You have the ability to have an additional screen inside the excavator or the wheel loader, and it gives you all the machine health data and operation parameters at your fingertips. You can even have camera systems down into the jaw box or cone crusher, which gives you an interactive view of the machine’s inner workings from the loader.

Another innovation is the no backing compound required for the liner changes in our cone crushers. This can reduce a changeout time from 18 hours to five hours and you can be back operating again very quickly. It’s the same with our jaw liners, from how they are held into the jaw box with the wedges/check plate retaining methods, these are innovative and make change-outs or liner flips easy for maintenance staff.

With our classifying screens and our new scalper, the screenbox will move away from the fines discharge conveyor, allowing greater access for changing out screen media, providing easy access and no working from heights risk.

We also have noise reduction kits available for our machines. The noise level operates at 85 decibels at 3.3 metres on a new 110 jaw which has improved noise significantly from the older models. To reduce the need to change out filters as often, the machines now have an improved air intake, in the shape of an air snorkel, which folds for transport. While it’s an optional feature, we see the air intake as a benefit and we’d like to bring it in as a standard feature going forward. It doesn’t matter what brand of crusher you have, if you can suck clean air through your engine, that’s a benefit.

Our machines have auxiliary power outlets, which means you can run another machine off it. Depending on the machine or the model variant, you might be able to run a stacker or – on our bigger machines like the MC 120 PRO – have enough power to run a complete MS 953 EVO screen. That’s attractive to customers, effectively being able to run one powerpack over two machines.

The MCO 90 EVO 2 works in tandem with the MC 110 EVO 2.

What do you believe will be major challenges for the Australian extractive industries in the next two to three years?

I would say recruiting skilled labour is the first challenge. With border closures, we haven’t been able to get in skilled labour from overseas, so traditionally we’ve pooled on that resource. I anticipate we are going to get very busy in the next two to three years. There’s been a lot of government stimulus and Victoria and New South Wales will likely be back at pre-pandemic levels of activity in the next six months. A lot of works need to be executed, they all require some form of aggregates, be it road construction or civil construction, and so skilled labour for our customers will be a challenge.

The supply chain is another challenge. We have ramped up our stock to counteract lead times and delays but there’s always the challenge of our suppliers providing to us, particularly when it comes to electrical components.

We’re also offering customers fixed price servicing for 12-month intervals to counteract delays but that won’t last indefinitely because we’re seeing an escalation in pricing. An electrical component that used to cost our factory eight Euros now costs up to 100 Euros. A not quite so significant part on a machine in the past is now crucial to an operation. €100 is not a lot of money but if you start to apply that logic over the whole build of the machine, it’s very costly and out of the manufacturer’s control.

So the skilled workforce and supply chain shortages are the two priorities for us. I don’t think the story will be too different among other suppliers to the industry.

How can Wirtgen Australia best assist its customers with meeting these challenges?

We’re looking at interactive ways to support training methods, we’re increasing stock holdings accordingly to support the after sales parts market, and we’ve looked at multiple foundaries for manganese supply and of course intend on having machinery on the ground to meet the various project demands. We’re always looking at ways and means of improving our service with our customers’ requirements always a major influence.

What’s does the long-term future promise for Kleemann and Wirtgen Australia?

Obviously, we’ll still be selling multiple brands and products. Kleemann is part of our overarching business model, and crushing and screening feeds into our other core products on road construction equipment, be it recycling or the production of raw road aggregates for road construction. We see great opportunities within the crushing and screening space, and it’s at the top of the list as far as getting our products into the market. We believe Kleemann is a prestige, quality product with the right smarts for us to partner with the right customer to get great results.

For more information about the Kleemann mobile range of crushers and screens, visit the Wirtgen Australia website.

This article appears in the January 2022 issue of Quarry.

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