With the mining industry’s intensifying focus on managing the lifecycle cost of its equipment, the nature of the repair and maintenance model has evolved well beyond process equipment companies going onto site to change out a component and then pulling back. Today these suppliers have become an integral part of the decision-making process driving an operation’s maintenance discipline.
“Our whole maintenance philosophy has changed, together with the scope of our product offering,” Garth Jones, general manager services at Multotec, says. “The nature of the business has moved on from being purely a repair and maintenance service to working closely with the customer to achieve management aims for the operation.
“A lot of innovation is driven through this close relationship, in which the customer’s long term objectives are the common goal. Opportunities for process improvement on a customer site frequently become apparent and new product trials can be conducted in a very controlled, authentic mining environment. Where these trials lead to innovation, we’re often able to pass on best practice to other customers to help improve their own processes.”
Jones adds that in order to sustain this close association with its customers, Multotec has established an extensive network of service centres in close proximity to customer operations, assuring rapid reaction times and a 24 hour presence for the products that require this level of support. In several cases, service centres have actually been established on customer sites, where personnel are dedicated solely to supporting the Multotec equipment in service at a specific operation. Sales activities, training, repair work and maintenance contracts are executed out of these centres and each carries a certain amount of stock to support the particular requirements of its local customers, making these services as cost-effective as possible.
The most recent Multotec service centre to be established is located in Mokapane, Limpopo Province, effectively expanding the company’s services in the Eastern Limb/Steelpoort area. The new centre has a fully-fledged administration and sales office, workshop and storage area. Four service teams have been deployed to operate from this facility.
“Our approach is to conduct first and second line repairs at the service centres and, when required, to call in the OEM’s in the Multotec Group to do major third line repairs,” he says. “Our headquarters in Spartan, Gauteng, is within a six hour reach of 90% of our South African customers, ensuring a fast turnaround.”
Process engineers are also linked to the service centres, with some of these specialists permanently based at certain centres. However, most personnel are recruited locally creating employment and supporting the local economy. Each service centre team is able to support the entire portfolio of Multotec products, but there is specialisation that takes into account products installed in a particular customer base.
Multotec’s innovative Hawkeye Internet-based predictive software tool is increasingly coming into play in the company’s maintenance contracts, in line with customers’ need to achieve maximum uptime. Hawkeye promotes optimum condition monitoring, providing accurate reporting on product lifecycles and replacement rates, allowing service centre personnel to predict service intervals, which also optimises inventories of consumables. Being web-based, the programme allows customers to log into their company data and draw accurate, real-time information on these products.
All field service personnel are technically trained and certified through Multotec’s comprehensive training centre in Spartan and training is also made available to customers. Technical staff are exposed to a high level of safety training and this is supported by regular independent audits. Multotec extends its safety practices to cover the drivers and vehicles that transport its maintenance teams to and from client sites.
Rhodes Nelson, managing director of Multotec Manufacturing, comments that having service centres close to their operations gives customers peace of mind.
“Our customers know they have access to experienced people and consumables within a very short time,” he says. “This service is integrated into their own teams blending in with their own maintenance philosophies, and this is the value add we bring to the marketplace. A dynamic business model like this is not always about having the biggest facility – it’s about understanding customers’ operational needs and being able to support these appropriately, cost effectively and safely.”