The boom in the mining industry has seen equipment suppliers struggling to meet demand worldwide, and Australia is no exception.
Liebherr Australia general manager of sales, marketing and after service sales Leo Kaloglou says the company's factories worldwide are working at top capacity to meet demand for mining excavators and trucks.
“I have visited seven of the company’s plants around the world, producing dozers, loaders, trucks, and cranes, and they’re all at maximum capacity,” Kaloglou says.
It is not just factory capacity that is the problem: there is also the ability of component suppliers to also supply. Think engines, drive trains, tyres and other equipment that goes into a modern piece of mining equipment.
The remarkable boom in demand for mining equipment has been felt in Australia. Kaloglou says demand in the last financial year has been 40-50% above the previous year and is expected to rise another 50% in this financial year.
The increase in demand saw the Adelaide-based Liebherr operation increase staff by 20% last year to service customers.
The result has been a major expansion in service capabilities with new branches opened over the last 12 months in Mt Thorley, Sydney and Melbourne, and expansion of the Perth branch because of the company’s new Mt Whaleback and Telfer contracts.
This year the Mackay plant will expand to cater for excavator contracts at the likes of the Century and Ernest Henry mines.
With some miners thinking, or hoping, the boom will continue for the next three to five years, the pressure is on companies like Liebherr to crank up production to meet demand.
This poses a question of whether to develop new models or maximise production of existing models.
Liebherr is taking a conservative attitude. The main effort will be to service old and new customers for existing products but, nevertheless, it is still upgrading its product line.
This year will see the release of a new mining excavator in the over 200t class. Replacing an existing model, it will have advanced electronics and diagnostic capabilities.
Meanwhile, Liebherr is experiencing good sales with its excavator range, with a reportedly “excellent” reaction to its 994B upgraded excavator.
Recent excavator sales have included two 996 units and a 994 unit being delivered to BHP Billiton at the Mt Whaleback iron ore mine in the Pilbara.
Kaloglou says the company is on track to deliver six 994B excavators in Australia this year, as well as five 996 units. Next year, the delivery schedule includes eight 996 excavators.
The company will also supply 10 T282 trucks for the Mount Arthur coal mine in NSW, which brings the number of T282s there to 20. These are fitted with noise attenuation and dust suppression baffles and fittings.