Afrigrit, an Emalahleni, Mpumalanga family-owned business, was established in 1996, initially specialising in the production of sandblasting sand from slag, a constant by-product of the steel industry. The slag is sourced from Ferrometals, one of the largest individual ferrochrome plants in the world which produces charge chrome for steel markets.
Over the years, the company has expanded its scope, to include the recovery of chrome from slag and eventually production of aggregates for a range of industries, including road construction, brick manufacturers and concrete producers, among others.
Metallurgical oxide slag has stone-like properties and thus its major applications are in the civil engineering field. Due to the high cost of natural stone and the rising emphasis on sustainable construction, the construction industry is using these aggregates as a viable alternative.
To execute its mandate, Afrigrit has erected a processing plant at the Ferrometals dump to process the slag. Part of the plant recovers the rich material, which is transported to Afrigrit’s premises to produce sandblasting sand. The other part of the plant recovers chrome for Ferrometals and also produces varied sizes of aggregates for the local market.
Speaking to Quarrying Africa, Marius Pick, logistics manager at Afrigrit, says maintaining optimal equipment availability is key to ensuring continuity in achieving production targets. Therefore, reliability and consistently available equipment is non-negotiable. This is exactly what a fleet of LiuGong wheel loaders, supplied and supported by Burgers Equipment & Spares, is offering at this 24/7 operation.
Afgririt bought its first LiuGong wheel loader in 2008, and never looked back. In fact, the company has standardised its loading fleet with the LiuGong CLG856H model, with a total of eight currently running in its fleet. The decision, says Pick, has paid dividends, with these machines providing availability of about 80%, working around the clock.
“We run a 24/7 operation throughout the year, even during the December period. Uptime is especially important for us and the decision to standardise our fleet with LiuGong wheel loaders has paid dividends. In addition to 80% availability, both the capital and running costs are competitive, which is very much in line with our expectations,” says Pick.
Of note is that two of the current eight loaders have already clocked in excess of 30 000 hours, translating into about 4 300 hours a year or 360 hours a month. This feat speaks directly not only to the durability and reliability of the machines, but more importantly to the stringent 250-hour service intervals that has been maintained since their acquisition in 2017. The two machines are expected to continue operating reliably well into the future.
“Being proactive in our heavy equipment maintenance schedule has helped prevent expensive downtime and to extend equipment life. Our machines are serviced by the dealer, Burgers Equipment & Spares, at OEM-recommended maintenance intervals of 250 hours. This means that each machine is serviced at least once a month,” says Pick. “In addition to routine maintenance, the machines are subjected to a 2 000-hour major service.”
The 250-hour routine maintenance also allows Burgers technicians to spot potential problems before they escalate into major failures. Corrective actions are taken immediately to ensure reliability and performance of machines.
While the stringent service strategy is keeping machines in great working shape, Pick points out that this is only achievable when parts availability and dealer support are non-issues. This is where Burgers Equipment & Spares has excelled, even going the extra mile to meet Afrigrit’s needs.
“Parts availability and good response times from Burgers Equipment & Spares are key to the success of our operations. Burgers is very much on top of its game. We have never had issues regarding spares availability since we have dealt with them,” he says. To further ensure maximum equipment uptime, Afgririt also keeps critical spares on site, such as water pumps and prop shafts, among others.
Machine in detail
One of the major factors in the decision to purchase LiuGong loaders was the price point, says Pick. He says that the LiuGong offering is competitively priced, yet boasts a range of tried and tested components that make it a competitive offering in arduous mining conditions.
The LiuGong CLG856H wheel loader is a 17-tonne (t) machine with a 5-t lifting capacity and comes standard with a 3 m³ bucket. The machine is equipped with a ROPS & FOPS cab, ZF transmission and ZF limited slip differentials.
“The powertrain, for example, comprises a 6LTAA9.3L Cummins engine, Kawasaki pumps and a ZF drivetrain. These are not foreign to us; these are components we understand and trust, and are well equipped to service them,” says Pick.
With efficiency in mind, the LiuGong wheel loader is powered by the latest fuel-efficient Cummins engine, delivering a net power rating of 160 kW (215 hp) at 2 000 rpm. For operational efficiency, the engine uses a precise, high pressure common-rail fuel injection system, turbo charger (VGT) and air- to-air intercooler, along with electronic engine controls to deliver optimal performance in every cycle in every shift.
A special focus on the well-being of operators not only ensures high productivity, but also equipment longevity. “Operator welfare is particularly important to us. We always ensure that air conditioners are in good working condition,” says Pick. The LiuGong CLG856H comes with an advanced climate control system with eight all-round vents, five selection modes and 6 kW of cooling capacity, creating the perfect working environment whatever the weather.
Afgririt’s machines are equipped with mine-spec LED lights, which produce stronger light, and the lifetime is much longer than the standard halogen. This comes in handy for a 24/7 application where downtime related to any light-changing exercise is unacceptable.