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Changeover time halved

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In upgrading one of its calciner plants, Worsley Alumina – a joint venture with resources and mining giant BHP Billiton – set tenderers a daunting challenge: a major modification to an existing circular monorail crane had to be completed in only eight weeks.

The conventional time for a project like this is 16 weeks, but unless the eight week deadline was met the company stood to lose as much as $50,000 an hour in lost production.

The changes to the custom-built crane were necessary to give the hoist extended reach so that it could better service the vital calciner plant; the final stage in the processing of bauxite to alumina.

Konecranes quickly provided drawings and specifications for the work together with a written quotation but only by tapping into Konecranes’ international network could Worsley’s time constraints be met.

John Jackman, chief of WA Sales for KCI Konecranes, got in touch with Harri Makkonen, the head of Konecranes component factory in Finland to explain the problem.

“Within hours, Finland confirmed it could meet our tight delivery schedule provided that the fabricated components could be flown the 13,000 kilometres from Helsinki to Perth,” Jackman said.

“They could even fit a newly-required overload warning system.”

(Under Section 10 of BHP Billiton’s FRCP regulations all cranes must be fitted with three-stage, “traffic light” style overload warning devices. This was the first time that Konecranes had factory-fitted such a device but the Finnish plant not only managed to complete the installation in time but also was able to produce a video so that the customer could see the lights operating.)

Impressed by their ability to meet the unusually tight deadline and special requirements, Worsley’s project manager, Dean Huizinga, awarded Konecranes the contract.

Before the ultimate design was finalised, John Jackman and Konecranes’ project manager in Sydney, Ron Wilson, drew up a plan that provided key indicators that the project was on track and that the delivery deadline would be met.

“Even when the client asked for a late change to the wheel centre specifications we were able to cope easily by altering the end carriages in Konecranes’ Perth workshop. Then we assembled the components from Finland and gave the crane a test run before delivering to site on 12 April.”

Installation took only a week and on 19 April, when the refurbished crane was scheduled to make its all-important first lift after the total shutdown of the calciner plant, it was successfully commissioned right on time.

Dean Huizinga said Konecranes clearly demonstrated a dedication to the works and understood the urgency for the delivery of the crane.

The upgrading of Worsley Alumina’s calciner plant was during one of the unit’s planned long shutdowns.

There is a $900-million expansion program to increase the refinery’s output from 3.7Mt/a to 4.4Mt/a. Worsley, which is near Collie in the south western corner of Western Australia, has been producing alumina from local bauxite deposits since 1984.

A total of $1 billion was spent on the last major upgrade of the facility in 2000.

The managing director of KCI Konecranes Australasia and chief executive for South Asia Pacific, Edward Yakos, said that the Worsley project clearly illustrated the value of an international network to major crane owners.

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