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Homegrown manufacturer puts Australian Made credentials into practice

 

Paul Kerr, General Manager of second generation family business Precisionscreen, talks up the importance of homegrown products as the international supply chain experiences unprecedented constraints.

How has Precisionscreen performed in the global pandemic?

We’ve performed well, we’ve had lots of interest in our Australian Made products. Overall, revenue has been up, and the percentage of our Australian Made product has increased. It’s been a really good story for employing people locally, including trade apprentices.

With the delays in overseas supply chains, we’ve ramped up our bespoke and reverse engineering facilities and our storage of spare parts and component parts, raw steel, seals, rams, all of the sub-componentry we need. 

Our principle has been to satisfy emergency client breakdowns first, at the sacrifice of anything we’re doing ourselves. So if we’re building a machine for our rental fleet, we will sacrifice that build to keep the client running. Having that ongoing manufacturing has enabled us to pull items out of production to satisfy client demands.

A lot of our product is specialised so we’ve had to increase cross-collaboration with key clients, and draw on our manufacturing expertise knowledge. 

We’ve had to put on extra staff and double the amount of hours on procurement because of the nature and difficulty of finding parts. But we’ve done it to manage production and client expectations.

Which of Precisionscreen’s products are most popular in the quarrying industry?

In 2021, we saw significant interest in cone crushers being matched with blue rock, and increased demand for vertical shaft impactors (VSIs) and horizontal shaft impactors. 

I think as quarries and contractors have commenced work on sites that are further away or have less high quality resources closer to metropolitan areas, they have turned to value added and specialised products, ie increasing quality via a VSI, washing to clean aggregates, or pre-coating or OMC or additives with a pugmill, which ties in nicely with our homegrown product. Our client base is adding value to their supply chain, looking at new markets and products, and chasing a high value dollar per input.

In the past three months, as the labour shortage started to bite, there have been inquiries from the quarry, sand and soil markets about larger, 80- to 100-foot (24m to 30m) high end conveyors. As people struggle to find skilled labour, they’re investing in materials handling. So for us, conveyors are a huge change in interest.

We’re also seeing increased demand for pre-coating units and older style semi-mobile plants, as opposed to tracked plants. More local producers are investing in these for works in their expanded local government area rather than contract work. 

Does Precisionscreen offer programs and services beyond its plant and equipment? 

We’re currently developing a first engineering service, in which we can reverse engineer difficult to find components, eg drums, gears, shafts, rams, screens, full screenboxes. That’s across all models, even competitor models. We can remanufacture parts for the supply chain shortage.

If you manage a mobile fleet, getting utilisation uptime is a big concern and the last thing you need is a machine out of train because of insufficient parts. There will likely be a 15-month delay to the availability of critical components – so the best way we can help someone’s fleet is by developing our own reliable, simple and robust products and offering clients the ability to do reverse engineering of components.

What innovations are your products adopting to save time and cost?

Rather than technological innovation, we’ve focused on reliability innovation – developing products we can manage as much as possible within our internal and local supply chains. We’re taking the approach of simplicity without compromise. If this pandemic continues, we want to develop and offer robust machines that clients can run reliably and profitably on an ongoing basis. 

What will be the quarrying industry’s major challenges in the next three years? 

It will be finding skilled labour across industry, particularly blue collar work, drivers, loaders, operators. This shortage has been coming,  it’s forcing all businesses to rethink how they use technology and systemisation to reduce the reliance on skilled labour. We won’t have a shortage on all labour forever but skilled labour will be a problem for up to 10 years.

How can Precisionscreen assist the industry with meeting this challenge?

We will offer specialised knowledge that comes out of manufacturing from the ground up, building internal knowledge with our employees and sharing it with our clients, along with making reliable, user-friendly machines that are simple enough for less skilled workers to operate and robust enough to deal with shutdown scenarios.

We’ll keep driving home Australian Made. My narrative has for a long time been that we should manufacture as much as possible in Australia. I believe from a reliability, skill set and environmental perspective, it’s nonsensical to be fabricating Australian iron ore into wear products in some of the most inefficient manufacturing facilities in the old Eastern European bloc before shipping those products to another facility, and then shipping 40- and 50-tonne machines back to Australia. It’s environmental vandalism! The best thing we can do is make more product locally and bring in critical componentry we need. We’ll be doing the environment and our country a favour, and creating highly skilled job possibilities for young people. 

Precisionscreen is a partner of Australian Made. For more information, visit precisionscreen.com.au

This article appears in the ‘Industry Leaders’ edition of Quarry Magazine from January. 

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