Wired For Success
According to a 2014 report by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the world price of Australia’s mining exports has more than tripled over the past decade, while investment spending by the mining sector increased from two to eight per cent of GDP over this period of time. This ‘mining boom’ represents one of the largest shocks to hit the Australian economy in generations. Despite the economic slowdown in the last few years, there has been no avoiding the exponential growth that the industry has gone through for the decade. Moreover, the Minerals Council of Australia has predicted a further pick up of the mining sector amidst overall economic uncertainty.
Despite tough economic conditions and global financial uncertainty, the Australian mining industry continues to play an important role in contributing to the Australian economy to improve living standards and create jobs.
However, as the industry moves into the future, manufacturing techniques and technologies have also evolved and improved to help businesses move along. Within the mining sector, better tools, machinery and services are always present. As the industrial landscape becomes increasingly competitive, it is imperative that costs need to be kept low. Construction and engineering solutions companies like Finco Engineering have been striving to ensure that maintenance services for mining companies are kept down with superior engineering support services.
The Finco promise
Finco Engineering is a Mackay based business servicing the mining, marine, earthmoving and agricultural industries in that area which offers mobile mine maintenance services and engineering services including welding, fabrication, heavy structural steel, stainless, aluminium and general welding. Founded in 2009, the company continues to thrive in the Queensland mining industry as expert service providers in quality custom equipment repair.
Finco prides themselves on the quality of their services to mining maintenance with qualified fabricators and welders who have extensive experience in the mining industry. The team at Finco offers professional on-site and workshop based services and can design and fabricate replacement parts supplied by OEMs.
Adam Finch, Director of Finco, an experienced boilermaker, welder and certified International Welding Inspector explained, “With mobile mine maintenance services on standby 24-hour per day, all our resources entirely equipped to BMA (BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance) specifications and are readily able to dispatch personnel such as diesel mechanics, trades assistants, auto electricians and boilermakers – as per requirement by clients, with minimal notice.”
“Whether it is designing superior parts or ensuring the best quality welds, it is a fine balance between offering very good price and ensuring the quickest delivery,” says Adam who does his best to pitch his products with after-market prices.
Within mining, having downtimes due to damaged dredges and buckets of the likes of those equipment could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential profits lost in a financial year. “We understand that downtimes are detrimental to businesses so we needed to customised our approach in delivering our services to match demands for quickness and guaranteed quality. Hence investing in the best engineering tools is essential.”
The Finco edge
Finco services excavator buckets like the EX3600 of the Hitachi 5500 series excavators that are commonly used in the mining market. Different products use a range of base materials from 140mm plates down to tungsten hybrid pipes, which are welded with the Hobart FabCO 81N1 wires. For onsite work, they serve Middlemount Coal, a joint Peabody - Yancoal venture, BMC (Biliton Mitsui Coal) at Poitrel coal mine and at BMA at Peak Downs, they are the main service providers for Ausdrill’s tractor maintenance – all utilising Miller welding equipment and the Hobart FabCO 81N1 wires.
Due to its reputation for quality and price point, Finco has also been approached for numerous projects including one where they were approached to provide a cost cutting solution for the removal of mid-life dump truck engines. They provided a solution which consisted of a unique design of an efficient, certified lifting frame.
Meeting such demands require the correct welding setup – in this case Miller welding machines right down to Hobart wires such as the FabCo 81N1 used in the process.
“Onsite work is always a challenge because you are up against the elements. Some of these challenges include times where certain other products that require a 280 deg C preheat and become not user friendly.” Adam added that at those temperatures the slag (non-metallic by-products from metal smelting considered to be waste though largely environmentally benign) does not cool fast enough causing an undesirable weld appearance with low quality wires. “The Hobart wires get around that preheating issue and my employees enjoy using them because they are easy to use, reliable and ensure very neat welds that clients are absolutely happy with.”
Clients in the mining industry spend millions of dollars on high end machinery and equipment. Therefore, they want to see the return of investment of these products with the most cost efficient maintenance as possible. According to Adam, because of this, their equipment needs to be kept running continuously and consistently. “If we are going to be using substandard wires, then the work is going to end up being substandard and frankly, in such a competitive engineering maintenance industry, we want to be re-contracted continuously by our clients and have a reputation to maintain at both ends – us and the clients’”.
Challenges in maintenance
“We have absolute trust in the Miller engine driven welder products like the Big Blue series plus other WIA products that we use across our business. The reliability of the Miller engine driven welding machines is of paramount importance to us because that means downtime is kept to a minimum. We use 12.5mm gouging rods which other machines on the market cannot handle because of the lack of power.”
The challenges, according to Adam are mainly that the preheating to 280 deg C and the welding stability afterwards appearance is difficult, unless there is a greater amount of power in the machines which then enables the saving of time by using a bigger gouging rod that makes material removal faster and welding the FabCO 81N1 wires quicker.
The blend of speed and reliability
Maintaining a good travel welding speed with wire feed is important to achieving the desired weld. According to the welding tips guide published by Hobart , there is a need to check the molten weld puddle and listen to the arc for evidence of traveling too fast or too slow. Moving at a high travel speed or too fast causes insufficient penetration, plus there will be popping sounds as the wire comes into contact with the cold metal just ahead of the puddle. Welding at low travel speeds, or moving too slow, will cause the weld metal to pile up, resulting in poor fusion. “Having the other wires on the market does limit the speed in which we can meet the customer’s demands in terms of quantity delivered.”
He further explained that since this means spending more time on labour – which eventually translates to money. In the case of multi-pass welding, if the first weld run through is a neat one, then there is no need to prepare much more for a second run through. “Man hours means more labour and that’s where the money is, so if we keep our man hours down, it is a win-win scenario for both us (who saves money on man hours) and the client who is kept happy (with faster product back to floor). So a product like the FabCO 81N1 wires is a good solution”
“The second pass of welding follows the shape and contours of the first weld so if it is ugly the first time around, you will get an overall bad looking finish. With the FabCO wires, the set up process is quick because you only need to get the weld to touch the needle gun and remove the slag and then you are all good for the second round.”
In an industry where the fastest to the market wins, the ease of use and the after weld appearance of the product is important. Ensuring the after weld appearance does take up time especially at those high preheats when there is metal on metal and risk of having a bad weld because the slag doesn’t cool well. “With the Hobart wires, we were able to put those worries about the slag not cooling down quick adequately because they just welded so smoothly and cooled quickly while still getting that quality weld appearance.”
Ready supply and affordability
With the growing demand for maintenance of machinery parts in the mining industry, engineering solutions companies are constantly hard pressed to maintain a ready stock of consumables for their fabrication services. As Adam had explained earlier, this could mean increased downtime in the form of service delays to customers which could be detrimental to engineering solutions providers.
“We buy the FabCO 81N1 wires by the pallet and we have never had any issues in terms of getting a ready stock from WIA,” says Adam.
“In addition, pricing for the Hobart product is very competitive as compared to the generic brands in the market when you talk about price by the pallet. So for a product that adds value to both us as an engineering solutions provider, and in terms of quality plus speed to market for our customers, the choice is really a no brainer,” Adam said