With the industry facing the toughest market environments in recent years, the African quarrying sector is reinventing itself to achieve maximum growth and sustainability. Among the most significant trends in recent times, says Masekwameng, is the cost-sensitive nature of the aggregates market.
In a tough business cycle, it is clear that construction material suppliers are holding their purse strings tight and are being much more conservative in their spending.
“The industry is grappling with low demand due to a lack of significant infrastructure spending and the incessant tough economic times. This has provoked changes in how the aggregates sector approaches its procurement decisions. The market has become increasingly cost-sensitive, with a big drive to reduce capital expenditure (capex),” explains Masekwameng.
Due to this cost-sensitivity, Weir Minerals has in recent times seen a move towards smaller sized plants that require less capex. “The aggregates market is typically driven by two and three-stage crushing plants ranging from 100-250 tonnes per hour (tph),” she says.
Apart from cost, the market is also time-sensitive, with aggregate producers demanding quick lead times and flexibility. Consequently, the market is moving away from traditional stationary plants to semi-modular solutions that can be supplied and commissioned rapidly.
“At Weir Minerals, we have answered the call with our standard Trio range of crushing and screening equipment that speaks directly to the need for 100-250 tph plants,” she says. “Trio is a well-established brand within the quarrying industry globally. We offer a robust and reliable range of Trio crushers (jaw, cone and impact crushers), as well as a standard range of screens, feeders and washers. These are complemented by conveyors and skids to offer full modular plant solutions to our quarry customers,” says Masekwameng.
To respond to the call for quick lead times, Weir Minerals Africa keeps Trio crushers and screens for the 100-250 tph plant range available ex stock at its local warehouses. The designs and drawings for the complementary conveyors and skids are readily available, allowing for fabrication and delivery within 6-8 weeks.
“We tackle the need for easier mobility through semi-mobile skid-mounted plants. Our conveyors and skid structures are mounted on low ground pressure footings/skids and are self-contained (the internal structural loads are contained by the structure). The structures therefore do not require extensive conventional spread-footing foundations, but only minimal floating raft-type foundations with anchor bolts. This results in reduced costs related to civil works, while offering greater flexibility should the plant need to be relocated to a different quarrying site,” explains Masekwameng.
More importantly, Weir Minerals’ skids are pre-assembled in purpose-built workshops which follow strict Safety Health Environment and Quality (SHEQ) guidelines, ensuring maximum safety and peace of mind for clients and their operational teams working on site.
The Weir Minerals Trio team – consisting of qualified design and process engineers, as well as service support technicians – gives particular due diligence to the design of these modular solutions, with priority to safe operation, ease of operation and maintenance of products.
To run efficient and profitable operations, aggregate producers in Africa demand maximum plant uptime, with unplanned downtime out of the question, says Masekwameng. They are therefore looking to partner with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that can ensure them maximum uptime, efficiency and profitability.
“We support the need for uptime through Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and our experienced service technicians. SLAs are our commitment to the customer’s uptime, giving them that peace of mind that their best interests are always top of our priorities as the original equipment manufacturer,” she says.
Weir Minerals Africa further uses its extensive branch network across Africa to ensure quick provision of spares and technical support. Whether a customer operates in Kathu, South Africa or Kitwe in the Zambia, the company has a branch with qualified personnel to ensure equipment is maintained and running at all times. Weir Minerals has invested heavily in its stockholding and branches around the continent to ensure their capabilities remain in sync with customer requirements.
“The moment a client buys a plant from us, we make sure that there is close interaction between them and the branch team located close to their operation. We also ensure that the branch is geared to support the customer and their particular needs,” she adds.
Masekwameng notes that Weir Minerals has a good or in-depth understanding of the innovation imperative in the aggregates industry. The quarrying industry is increasingly seeing value in digital solutions such as the Synertrex intelligent platform, which gives them visual access to actual costs of operating a piece of equipment, data to develop strategic improvements to their operations and the opportunity to performance benchmark every part of their operations.
Masekwameng says there is a complete mindset shift. There is a growing need for digital integration and Internet of Things (IoT) is the answer. Today, aggregate producers invest in digital technologies to enable them to make informed decisions, which ensures greater uptime, efficiency and productivity.
“Our Synertrex intelligent platform can be fitted to our Trio range of crushing and screening equipment, thus providing a smart analytics platform that is easily integrated into customers’ existing systems. This means that health and performance analytics are conveyed through a digital interface, making sure our clients have all the indicators delivered to their devices with accuracy and in real time,” says Masekwameng.