OEM’s recipe wins bulk of Africa’s projects

3rd February 2023 By: Tracy Hancock - Creamer Media Contributing Editor

OEM’s recipe wins bulk of Africa’s projects

MANUFACTURING MATTERS Weir Minerals Africa is the only player in the local market that has its own foundry

Pumps manufacturer Weir Minerals Africa is the partner of choice for the majority of mining operations in Africa, winning 95% of projects, owing to the company’s footprint, the scale of its operations and product offering, says Weir Minerals Africa pump products GM Marnus Koorts.

“The number of projects we are awarded has, in fact, been increasing over the past four to five years, and the 5% of tenders we lose are usually won back.

“Many equipment suppliers are under the impression that the competition for tenders starts when the client begins the enquiry process, but the reality is that mining companies have already started to engage Weir Minerals months, if not years, before to help them optimise their flow sheet.”

Pumps are one of the largest consumers of energy and spares at mines, with some copper mines having up to 200 pumps on site. Therefore, pumping systems are one of the first areas mining operations want to optimise, says Koorts.

“Our technical experts are one of our major strengths in this regard. We have highly skilled engineers focused on delivering hydraulic designs that enable the transportation of large volumes of material from point A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible, optimising a client’s site before projects go out to tender.

“Our strong engineering team can also tailor pumping solutions to accommodate site constraints, which are synonymous with expansion projects. “Therefore, there is substantial emphasis on being able to reverse integrate pumping solutions into an existing plant,” he emphasises.

And, just as Weir Minerals believes it is vital to have technical experts on the continent, the same is true of its manufacturing capabilities.

“We are the only player in the local market that has our own foundry, which is quite unique. Even replicators use third-party foundries, which reduce their control over the manufacturing process and can potentially lead to delays,” explains Koorts.

Weir Minerals Africa’s heavy bay foundry is based in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape, while its Isando manufacturing facility, in Johannesburg, Gauteng, manufactures the smaller pump components. The company also has assembly capabilities at its 20 branches across Africa, ensuring complete control of its supply chain.

“A pump is a complex piece of equipment, and it only takes one component not arriving to prevent an entire product from being delivered,” highlights Koorts, adding that Weir Minerals Africa has a lot of manufacturing flexibility which allows them to ramp up production when needed.

“We can double capacity overnight. You can’t do that if you are outsourcing work to a foundry that has 50 customers, for example.”

While some mining companies may opt for cheaper pumps to reduce their capital expenditure, Koorts says their decision to do so is usually short term as they are compromising on quality in the process.

“Between quality and speed and consistency of supply, they generally always come back to Weir Minerals. Mining companies don’t only partner with us for our quality products but for the risk mitigation they afford.”

The premature failure of a cheaply procured pump could cause plant stoppages and result in significant financial losses, he warns.

Benefits of Scale

The company also facilitates seamless integration of engineer-to-order projects through the solid relationships it has established with industry partners over the years, says Koorts, adding that Weir Minerals is by far the biggest customer of many of the third parties that supply the small portion of components it does not manufacture in-house.

“We are the largest customer of many of our suppliers by far and are able to leverage this relationship to our advantage.”

The same goes for the company’s logistics partners, with the scale of Weir Minerals’ business enabling the company to transport specific equipment in and out of countries during the Covid-19 pandemic when other equipment suppliers could not.

The company also boasts a global product management team that holistically reviews best practice across all continents and manages Weir Minerals’ globally-based technology hubs, each of which are custodians of a specific range or product type.

“The global product management team ensures that every best practice identified is industrialised and developed worldwide using a sophisticated knowledge sharing process that promotes the sharing of valuable technological advancements.”

One such advancement is Weir Minerals’ wear reduction technology, which has been incorporated into the company’s Envirotech range of submersible slurry pumps which are used in slurry transportation and dewatering applications.

Weir Minerals Africa has branches in most major mining hubs in Africa, such as those in Central and West Africa, with Koorts highlighting that the company puts “a lot of energy” into upskilling local people and ensuring that these branches are adequately staffed.

“Pumps are equipment supply heavy and it is really difficult to manage your clients’ expectations if you are reliant on a distributorship and don’t have in-country staff. We are also not limited in our product offering and have a wide range of pumps at our disposal to provide our clients with the best possible solution for their specific applications.”