Coal mining equipment multinational Eickhoff is using South Africa as a base from which to ramp up its penetration of the global market for continuous mining machines.
Eickhoff MD Reinhard Jahn tells Mining Weekly Online in a video interview that the company has chosen South Africa for the introduction of its continuous miner prototypes because of the country’s widespread use of the room-and-pillar coal mining method.
“Our product has gone from being a good prototype to being a great production machine in only one model upgrade,” says Jahn, who adds that the first prototype is still enjoying 98% uptime.
Eickhoff, a family-owned business that was established in 1864 in the heart of the German coal-mining industry, has 15 wholly owned subsidiary companies in nine countries.
Eickhoff South Africa currently has eight continuous miners in production mode in small South African coal mines in Bethal, Middleburg, Piet Retief and Dundee, and offers full maintenance contracts (FMCs) with each machine, for which there are rental agreements.
Jahn finds that the combination of robust machines with FMCs goes down particularly well with smaller coal mining contractors and emerging black economic empowerment (BEE) coal miners, because it provides operational cost predictability.
However, FMCs do necessitate the employment of large numbers of trained field service personnel, who have to be on hand to respond quickly to customer needs.
Currently, more than a third of Eickhoff’s 100 South African employees are dedicated to maintenance and repair at a fixed monthly fee, which is made partially variable by the rate of production, and the company has established on-site offices and consignment stores at all the mines that it serves.
The offering is proving highly marketable as it places the responsibility for equipment availability on Eickhoff’s shoulders, and allows the coal miners to focus their full attention on mining.
Of course, in supporting its machines at the coalface during this developmental stage, Eickhoff benefits from direct access to quality information on the performance of its emerging range of continuous miners, and is able to latch on to the areas of potential improvement.
“We implement improvements at our cost, and we share the advantages with our customers,” Jahn adds.
Eickhoff is currently eyeing Botswana and Mozambique for expansion opportunities.
The first batch of partly completed continuous miners came from Germany for final completion at the company’s factory in Wadeville, Germiston, where it carries out specialised parts manufacture and where it has a machine rebuild facility.
Besides Eickhoff South Africa’s concentration on the manufacture of underground coal mining machines for room-and-pillar mining, the local company, which is “fully committed” to broad-based BEE compliance, also supplies mining gearboxes.
The group’s power transmission division manufactures wind turbine gearboxes up to 5 MW and planetary gearboxes for all applications.
Internationally, the 1700-employee group is also well known for it manufacture of shearers for longwall coal mining and will supply more than 50 shearers to the world market in 2011.
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