Rented mobile equipment presents opportunities

12th June 2020 By: Cameron Mackay - Journalist

With the resumption of activities in different economic sectors, such as the mining industry, local lubrication equipment supplier Industrial Fluid Solutions (IFS) CEO Gustav Fourie states that there has been an increase in demand for fluid-handling equipment which would reduce manpower requirements.

He says this can encourage growth in the company, particularly with rental opportunities for equipment used to handle fuels and lubricants in the opencast mining industry.

“We own our service trucks and mobile tankers that transport liquid on site. These are developed especially for on-site use. Previously, mines owned their infrastructure and trucks, but I believe that there’s a move away from owning equipment, with companies opting to rent instead. This is where I see the opportunity for IFS."

While the company has also recently concluded a distribution agreement with  lubricant provider FUCHS Lubricants, Fourie confirms that the company’s main focus has remained on mechanical equipment required for lubrication solutions.

The company offers a turnkey solution for managing and handling fuels, oils, grease and lubricants on site.

Despite recent economic setbacks because of Covid-19, Fourie maintains that demand for earthmoving and liquid-handling equipment in the local mining sector remains strong.

The pandemic has, however, posed a challenge to IFS in servicing clients, as it has become more difficult for the company to gain access to sites.

“There are a lot of hurdles and challenges in the way of our getting on site and growing the business. It’s becoming more difficult to put people on the ground, especially from a safety perspective”.

Digitisation 

He explains that the company has altered its strategy to include more digital interactions with customers before more practical work needs to be done with “people on the ground”.

This also required that employees be upskilled to exploit this strategy optimally in growing the company’s already large footprint in Mpumalanga, particularly with some of the larger miners in the country.

He adds that the company also hopes to gain traction in provinces such as the Northern Cape, as well as in the Southern African Development Community region. This includes Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to which the company has previously exported some of its equipment.

“For the past five years, we have been focused on distributing our imported goods to other resellers. This has been successful in provinces such as Mpumalanga, the Western and Northern Cape, and Limpopo. As our distribution network grows and capacity increases, sub-Saharan Africa will definitely be on the map for us.”

While the company has mostly been active in the coal mining industry, Fourie states that there are opportunities to supply to the copper, platinum and iron-ore sectors.  However, subsectors, such as the opencast mining sector, which involve significant volumes of fuels and lubricants, remain the primary focus for the company.

Lubrication Equipment Solutions

Fourie highlights the recently established subdivision, Tankkraft Projects, which was born out of the requirement for a refocussed approach to the manufacturing of mobile equipment.

Tankkraft Projects was established with IFS as the primary trade company, to differentiate between the skills and discipline required in the manufacturing process versus that of field- and on-site service, which IFS has traditionally offered.

Tankkraft focuses on the maintenance and manufacturing of mobile units.

“We have had success with mobile units in the mining industry since the company’s inception in 2003. We have more than 70 units, having supplied them primarily to the coal sector. We will continue to do so, as we also look forward to expanding to rental markets.”

He adds that the company has a long-standing relationship with large miners, such as South Africa Energy Coal, Exxaro and Glencore, which use various products on site, some of which are tied to maintenance or rental contracts.

Single Point Lubricators

Moreover, while the GreaseMax lubricators were introduced to the local market more than seven years ago and initially did well, some issues arose with distribution, which hampered growth, but since the distribution channel has been refocussed, the single point lubricator range has made a significant impact again, Fourie notes.

“The technology was perhaps not well known and the concept not well accepted as manual labour has always been more affordable in the short term, so we had a challenge to market this product initially. We carry stock and have distribution agents in place to support it, but there is much room to grow with this product.”

While the product is fully imported from Germany, Fourie confirms that the company has the capability to fill the lubricators locally with any brand of grease or oil the customer requires. GreaseMax single point lubricators are suitable for low volume continuous lubrication of bearings and rotating elements and are exported to countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Zimbabwe.

“In light of the current financial situation, we find ourselves in a reasonably good place in terms of our customer base,” Fourie concludes.