Ampcontrol chief executive officer Rod Henderson discusses how the engineering company has responded to the improvement in market conditions in mining.
Has there been a lift in market activity in the mining industry for Ampcontrol?
We believe so. There has been a general upturn in opex (operating expense) spend, and some limited capital replacement projects, across both coal and hard rock mining markets.
Is the company investing significantly in the R&D of its mining solutions?
Absolutely. Throughout the downturn, we made a concerted effort to focus our R&D spend on a range of new products that we have been able to release to market over the past two to three years.
This has included hard rock market specific relays such as our PF1 but also, more complex products such as our Outlet Test System and H3RO fibre optic networking solution.
What have been the mining solutions that the company has focused on over the past one to two years?
Everyone is talking about digital disruption and this is something we have really sought to understand as METS to global mining markets. In particular, the role of ICT infrastructure planning to bringing mines ‘online’ and a part of the IOT/Industry 4.0 transformation.
One of our areas of speciality is network convergence through automation so we see ICT infrastructure as one of the most significant solutions we can develop for our customers.
How are Ampcontrol’s mining solutions benefiting the mining industry?
In 2018, we will celebrate 50 years of operation and I think this says a lot about the place we have within the Australian mining market. We have ridden the highs and lows of the market and throughout this, continued to focus on what we are good at: high quality, safety driven technology that helps mining operations work smarter and more efficiently.
Today, our electronics equipment helps customers make real time decisions about the health of vital electrical equipment and we have a very strong service arm to our business that seeks to support customers via maintenance diagnostics.
How important is it for a company like Ampcontrol to stay on top of the latest technologies available for mining?
At our heart, we are an engineering company. We are fortunate to have very skilled tradespeople to manufacture our power distribution equipment but at the end of the day, one of our value adds is that we can design a solution to meet our customer’s needs. Innovation has been an essential part of this mix as has R&D. Now, the reality is technology is moving ahead rapidly and while the focus must always be on safety, of course our customers want the latest and best on offer.
Our role as a supplier to this industry is to continuously improve, adapt and listen to the market.
Which technologies does Ampcontrol view as being important for mining, both now and in the coming years?
Like I said before, the industry is buzzing with IOT and the digital mine. I think the technology out there at the moment has great potential and it is like any solution in its early adoption phase, experiencing the realities of application in what is a very challenging and complex environment.
The desire to connect devices, people and information to make better operational decisions is great and I think this is where we will see more advancements over the coming years.
What are currently the key trends shaping the electrical sector of mining?
We understand the major drivers of our customers: safety and productivity. With a raft of solutions aimed at powering critical infrastructure, I think there is a general trend towards data driven decision making.
Realistically, personnel need to be able to make quick operational decisions based on information but when data is just literally dumped, it isn’t of much value. Making sense of the data through automation or software means decisions can be made quicker but also, with a more complete picture. Our products and solutions have a role to play in this scenario as both data contributors and network designers.
What have been a couple of Ampcontrol’s standout projects in the mining industry over the past year?
Many within the industry would be aware of Rio’s Oyu Tolgoi operation in Mongolia and we have been fortunate to secure a contract to supply electronics and power distribution equipment to this project. This is a long-term arrangement, and one that has seen us establish an in-country presence so that we can support the operations team on the group. We have also sent personnel from Australia to the site to assist in installation works and training.
This project, along with our increasing growth in the hard rock sector via HV service contracts and specialised electronics and power distribution equipment have been fantastic wins for the business.
Is Ampcontrol confident that the mining industry has a strong future after the challenging years created by the commodities downturn?
Yes. While it was a tough slog for everyone concerned, I believe the resources sector is an invaluable and long term contributor to the Australian economy. My optimism is further cemented by the growth of the METS sector and the appetite for supporting suppliers like Ampcontrol by miners across the world.
This article also appears in the December 2017 edition of Australian Mining.