Customisation of compressors aimed at securing standardisation across shovel fleets
Our client runs metallurgical coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, many of which are open cut mines, with a considerable shovel fleet in place. They’re highly reliant on these, along with draglines and trucks. Planning can take months for a major shutdown on one shovel, in which they would replace its air compressors (each shovel is typically powered by two compressors). Sullair, along with centralised project and engineering teams worked to develop electrical specifications and requirements around the Sullair ES8 machines for this particular client. This design element meant that aspects of the machine had to fit within their specifications, to their requirements, with the objective that those upgrades would become standard moving forward.
“All the legwork and running around and standardisation has been done around the specifications to make sure these machines fit rope shovels and their processes internally perfectly.”
Given this goal of standardisation for ongoing upgrades, this process in particular became somewhat of a test case for everyone involved. The work put into this by our client and Sullair teams, would determine how viable it would be to source and combine a number of OEM components, coming from different countries, in the middle of a global pandemic; to then be customised and perfectly meet the specifications of the client, within the time frames required. Also, it was hoped that the process could be replicated multiple times moving forward, in line with major shutdowns of other equipment across multiple open cut sites.
A shutdown of this type happens only once every 7 years, so the procurement process in this instance was rolled out over 12 months, with the goal of everything being ready to implement into a 6 to 8 week time frame, within that planned shutdown period. The complication of the global COVID-19 pandemic made this process extremely challenging, but the Sullair team came away with some valuable learnings that can now be applied to future similar requests and more broadly to the overall global procurement chain.
The lead time – with the major shutdown as the deadline – was challenging, with COVID having a significant impact on shipping lines globally. Motors that were coming out of Brazil for example, then shipped to the States for assembly before being shipped on to Australia, were held up by some months. That was before also factoring in the additional time needed for the electrical adjustments to be made and approvals conducted at the client end. With these delays impacting the overall schedule, it was decided to airfreight the necessary parts to Australia to ensure arrival in time for the planned shutdown. This had its own challenges also due to COVID restrictions, however, was a more viable option than sea freight.
Sullair machines coming out of the states are standard, so with the main modifications being electrical, elements such as the control system had to be upgraded to the Australian champion controller. Once in Brisbane, the machines also required attention from an electrical contractor on arrival to make them mine site compatible, fit for purpose, and also fit for the necessary Australian standards in the marketplace. The electric motor had to be standardised to a WEG branded version, with Sullair’s engineering section ensuring it was approved and fully compliant to Australian standards.
“All the legwork and running around and standardisation has been done around the specifications to make sure these machines fit rope shovels and their processes internally perfectly,” explains Brent Marshall, Sullair sales manager for the Queensland region. “This solution can now be picked up and put into any other mine site as needed”.
Working with the client on all aspects of this brief, from the engineering documentation and the specifications from their drawings, has resulted in the scenario where Sullair can now secure a consistent supply and have control over their supply chain from the US, Sullair can now stock these components as part of their standard inventory for our customers, as well as provide the ongoing service and parts as required.