How badly-chosen consumables can have an adverse effect on running costs.
By Steve Skinner05 October 2009
Ill-chosen consumables can have an adverse effect on running costs. Steve Skinner reports on a trend that's seeing longer lasting, higher performing and more cost effective products being brought to market to aid contractors through challenging times.
While the economic downturn has had a major impact on equipment manufacturers, sales of consumables have suffered far less because all the time equipment is out in the field working, it's using fuels, lubricants, tyres and wear parts.
As Aaron Lian, managing director of Esco Europe told iC, "The biggest decline for demand in our products has been from the OEMs. Through our dealer network and aftermarket, sales have dropped off much more in line with market activity, which has been far less dramatic.
"I think people are making do with what they have as far as equipment is concerned, but I would also say that we have recently seen a small increase in demand from OEMs," he said.
Earlier this year, Esco launched its Ultralok tooth system for wheeled loader and excavator buckets. The Ultralok range replaces the company's earlier Super V line and features a hammerless locking system as well as redesigned tooth profiles.
"The Ultralok also has increased useable wear material," said Mr Lian. "This reduces maintenance and downtime while maximising machine performance. Certainly, the acceptance of Ultralok has been very positive," he said.
At Bauma China, MTG also launched a hammerless system with its StarMet tooth. The company says the new tooth offers greater penetration with more wear material, while the adapter and mechanical wear cap have been designed to protect the weld and legs from wear.
For light to medium construction activities, MTG also launched its KingMet tooth featuring an elliptical shaped nose to increase the contact between the adapter and tooth.
The KingMet tooth is manufactured from MTG steels for improved wear resistance. The company says this also results in better bucket penetration as the tooth stays sharp for longer.
AlloysSandvik offers a full range of alloys for the wear material in its crushers so that users can select the most productive and cost effective solution for their application.
"With our new Flexifeed FF mantle, we offer wear plates produced from a choice of SRP alloys," said Thomas Hedin, market support manager for Aftermarket Crushing and Screening at Sandvik mining and Construction.
"Depending on the rock you crush, you can select replacement mantels featuring varying degrees of carbon, manganese and chromium to best suit the crushing application," he told iC.
"More carbon and chromium increases hardness which is good when you want to resist wear, but the trade-off is that it becomes more brittle," he said. "For non-abrasive materials such as limestone we would recommend our M1 alloy, while for more abrasive rocks our M7 alloy featuring 1.5% carbon, 18% manganese and 2% chromium offers the optimum performance."
The development of alloys by Sandvik means the new Flexifeed FF liners maintain production levels throughout the mantel's lifetime, which the company estimates is also up to +50% longer than with alternative crushing chambers.
Evolved materials also feature in Atlas Copco's new Silver Line of breaker chisels. "We had the Classic Line already and we've developed the Silver Line for tough and hard applications in secondary and primary breaking," said Gordon Hambach, product line manager for consumables at Atlas Copco.
"The Silver Line has been developed using special heat-treated steel adapted for our applications," he told iC. "The range is part of a constant evolution and we continue to research material properties, which could one day lead to a Gold Line," he said.
Mr Hambach also mirrored Mr Lian's opinion on the current market. "I believe contractors are keeping equipment for longer, but this hasn't really impacted on our consumables business because the age of a machine is irrespective when it comes to lubricants or work tools."
Boart Longyear recently replaced the ejection bell on its drills with a new preventer that directs cuttings from the drill string into a discharge hose attached to a collection tank or pit. According to the company, the preventer eradicates mess and the danger of flying debris.
"We're fortunate in that we've been able to continue investing in research and development throughout the downturn," said Ron Hankins, global product manager for capital spares.
"This means we've been able to release innovative products through 2009 such as our small-format anchor drill, the DB95 and our new XRH family of rotary heads," he told iC.
Boart Longyear believes there is a growing focus on longer lasting and higher performing products and the company's responded to this. "We have focussed research and development on various heat treatments and different alloy steels for our casings, drill rods and bits used in drilling," said Mr Hankins.
Alongside its work tools, Atlas Copco also launched its new breaker and hammer oil at the beginning of this year. The bio-degradable lubrication for pneumatic tools features anti freeze and was developed to meet Atlas Copco's long term aim of reducing the total cost of ownership of its equipment.
"The combination of our supplier's deep understanding of chemicals associated with our product and application knowledge has enabled us to produce this high quality lubricant that enables us to stand out from our competitors," Mr Hambach told iC.
In August, Caterpillar also launched its Bio Hydo advanced hydraulic oil, a biodegradable, non-toxic hydraulic fluid offering up to 6000 hours of service life.
"Fewer oil changes, reduced disposal expenses, less downtime and enhanced hydraulic system protection combine to lower operating costs for machine owners using Bio Hydo Advanced," said Stephane Latini, marketing consultant at Caterpillar.
The new hydraulic fluid, manufactured from more than 90% of renewable raw materials, maintains performance through a wide ambient temperature range of between -300 C and +450 C and retains the ability to flow easily through filters, even when water is present.
Following initial success with its segmented tyres, Airboss is to add a double width version to its range this October. The double tyre has two sides, which feature a strengthened metal rim and a common attachment so it can be fitted on any model of wheeled excavator.
"You can hammer nails into the high-grade rubber segments and they still won't puncture," said Dave Goddard, senior sales executive at AirBoss.
The Airboss tyre also features a silica coating, which prevents the migration of cracks and extends tyre life. Furthermore, in the event of catastrophic damage to a segment, individual segments can be removed and replaced by hand within minutes, saving both cost and downtime.
Michelin meanwhile aims to reduce downtime through the introduction of its Michelin Earthmover Management System (MEMS), which is an electronic system for monitoring tyre temperature and pressure on the move.
Tags located in each tyre transmit real-time data to an on-board receiver, which then relays the information to the site control centre. "When tyre pressures or temperatures hit predefined alert levels, the receiver sends a signal so that action can be taken before any damage occurs," said a Michelin spokesperson.
Bridgestone this year launched its VRQP tyre featuring a rigid dump truck pattern to replace its existing VRLS quarry-patterned tyre. For wheeled loaders, the company has also replaced its VMT tyre with a VJT version that offers lower vibration, higher stability and enhanced traction.
The VJT tyre features straight sidewalls and a shoulder protector to minimise cuts and impact damage. The pattern features tie bars between the tread blocks, which gives rigidity to the blocks and reduces lateral and longitudinal tread movement. "The dual tie bar design minimises irregular block wear and extends tyre life," Matthieu Bouesnard from Bridgestone's off-road tyres division told iC.
"The combination of blocks and the tie bar means that in comparison to the VMT tyre we have almost halved the vibration level at travel speeds of between 17 and 20 km/hour," said Mr Bouesnard. "Furthermore, the advances have not compromised traction. The non-directional pattern means the VJT wheeled loader tyre benefits from excellent traction when moving both forwards and backwards."
Investment will be a significant factor in the future of consumable products. "In the mid to long term, here at Atlas Copco we are continuing to invest in research and development at the same levels as we did before the crisis," said Mr Hambach.
"We're working to optimise the total cost of ownership for our customers in conjunction with reducing downtime." A point not lost on any of those involved in the supply of consumables.