MechChem Africa

According to some, maintenance is a skill in its own right that requires a disciplined and coordinated programme to ensure that the necessary systems are implemented. When first starting a job, OEM FLSmidth places primary importance on critically assessing the existing programme before establishing a productivity partner model for its customers. Wilhelm van Wyk, FLSmidth’s manager for operation and maintenance for southern Africa explains.

Plant maintenance effectiveWith growing pressure on the mining sector to get optimal service life from equipment while incurring minimal downtime, many mines are looking to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to take charge of their maintenance headaches.

“Many maintenance systems grow over time into a paper exercise with either too few, incorrect or too many maintenance tasks. Inspections and maintenance tasks are often added over the years, not all of which are necessary, appropriate or even relevant, placing an unnecessary burden on the maintenance staff,” says Van Wyk.

“When some maintenance tasks are not executed, or are improperly executed, this leads to the programme not actually fulfilling its requirements This is the reason why, when FLSmidth starts a new contract, the critical review and revision of the existing maintenance system is one of the first activities to be done,” he says.

Maintenance, says van Wyk, is a skill on its own: it requires a disciplined and co-ordinated programme to ensure that all necessary maintenance is implemented.

“An OEM such as FLSmidth also has in-depth engineering capability,” he says. “The very nature of our business is that we engineer and manufacture capital equipment for the mining sector, so we have the highest possible level of engineering knowledge about the products. This is a major advantage for the end-user in terms of optimising production, maintenance and support.”

Focused on a productivity partner model for customers, the FLSmidth operating philosophy is to have on-site teams with access to global specialists, because local representation is vital to the success of any ongoing support and maintenance programme.

“One of our major differentiators is to ensure that there is a network of specialists that can assist and support customer operations whenever necessary,” he says.

Among the challenges faced during the economic downturn – when a plant needs to reduce costs – is that maintenance budgets are often the first to be slashed. This pursuit of short-term savings, he says, is “foolhardy” as the long-term health of an operation can be severely jeopardised affecting production and quickly reversing any of the achieved savings.

In this context, a major advantage of appointing an external contractor – and specifically an OEM – is that the commitment to quality maintenance is enshrined in a contractual relationship, with service agreement levels to manage these activities.

“This means that performance targets, which have been pre-set between the mine and the contractor, must be met on an ongoing basis,” says Van Wyk. “This creates a relationship which is actually far more beneficial to the mine: the contractor has to meet certain parameters monthly, so it is not that easy for individuals on a plant to cut corners in maintaining equipment.”

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