Equipment manufacturer Liebherr plans to reduce the company’s reliance on the coal and iron ore sectors by diversifying its focus and developing business in Australia’s other key commodity sectors.
The company has set a goal to expand the reach of its mining equipment in Australia and become an attractive supplier of machinery for the precious and base metal mines that have emerged over the past year, according to Liebherr Australia general manager – sales and marketing Tom Juric.
The sheer size and quality of Liebherr’s trucks and excavators have made them a common sight at coal and iron ore operations around the country.
While Liebherr intends to consolidate this presence, Juric said it now viewed the growth in other commodities as opportunities for it to bolster its order book and to introduce new equipment models.
Juric said the development of the precious and base metals sectors in Australia had already helped strengthen the company’s order book over the past year. He explained that Liebherr was commonly seeing green shoots appear from new players in the marketplace, instead of the major miners.
“I believe the acquisitions that were made in the down period – let’s call them disposal acquisitions – are now bearing fruit,” Juric told Australian Mining.
“There are new companies that now own assets that weren’t necessarily viable or in the cost curve for the majors, which have divested them and are now pushing forward with other assets at their core.
“Certainly, that’s what has driven our order book, at least for the next 18 months. Many companies we hadn’t even heard of are now coming on board and actively looking for new equipment or partnerships. So, what was traditionally confined to the major players has actually gone the opposite way.”
Juric pointed to the expansion of so-called tech or battery metals like lithium as another opportunity that Liebherr would target.
He said Liebherr would focus on building a footprint in these expanding or emerging sectors, but reinforced the importance of developing a strong reputation with the miners in development.
“If you look at our portfolio (in Australia), and where we are really strong, it is at the top end of town. We offer the largest excavators and the largest trucks for the bulk commodities,” Juric said.
“We have made some inroads into the base metals, gold, titanium, and even lithium to a smaller extent, but we’d like to do a bit more in those areas.
“We are actively pushing to get into a few more of those second-tier assets, but that’s a hugely different market and it involves a different way of supporting that customer base, instead of the majors.”
Juric said Liebherr had started to market smaller products to Australian miners to achieve this, including 100-tonne trucks and excavators.
The company has already given an insight into the type of products that it will launch for the Australian mining industry in the coming years with the T 236 truck.
The T 236, which will be Liebherr’s entry into the 100-tonne class, is going through trials in Austria and is set to be made available in Australia during 2019. Liebherr has also welcomed its first crawler tractor in the 70 tonnes category – the PR 776 – to Australia.
Liebherr’s most significant product introduction to the Australian market at IMARC 2017 in Melbourne was the first diesel engine of its mining-focused D98XX series – the D9812.
Targeted specifically at mining, the D9812 engine is designed to withstand the toughest conditions that companies contend with around the world.
The D9812 can also be adapted to fulfil a range of emission standards, such as optimised fuel consumption, Tier 2 or even EPA Tier 4 final, complementing a design equipped to manage diverse mining environments.
Liebherr-Components managing director Dr Ingo Wintruff said the attributes of the diesel engine’s design would make it well-suited to Australian conditions.
“Mining has special requirements due to the harshest working conditions one can imagine,” Wintruff told Australian Mining.
“Robustness is the key so with that in mind we followed the concept that we set out to, which is that simplicity comes first before complexity.
“Efficiency, like fuel efficiency, is still key, but we have tried to make it simple – if you look at the engine you get the feeling it’s robust and it looks very simple I would say compared to others.
“We also have this concept of standardisation and modularity for the different family members of this engine.”
Liebherr’s dedication to designing the D98XX series specifically for mining includes precautions such as integrating a high level of oil and air filtration measures to keep the dirt out of the engine.
The D98XX series will include three different cylinder variants – a V12, V16 and V20. The engine family has been set up in standard and modular design to deal with varying requirements of different mining applications.
The first cylinder variant – the V12 or the D9812 – is, according to Liebherr, capable of reaching power output of up to 2013kW in mining applications, including dump trucks and hydraulic excavators.
Liebherr said the engine was also delivering low fuel consumption by matching the right engine subsystems with the highest quality of in-house developed components, such as the manufacturer’s engine control unit and its common rail fuel system.
The D9812 has obtained fuel consumption values down to 190 grams per kilowatt hour due to a low mechanical friction layout and the engine’s high peak pressure capability up to 250 bars.
Wintruff said a key design target of the engine was the low total cost of ownership it would offer mining companies.
“The advantages come from the cost structure on the manufacturer’s side over the price competitiveness of the product,” Wintruff explained.
“If you think of the life of an engine fleet operating in a mine site, for example, including spare parts handling and the number of different parts that are required – standardisation means the D9812 requires less spare parts and less storage for those parts, reducing life cycle costs.”
The standardisation of the engine series would also work in the favour of service and maintenance teams, Wintruff added.
“Qualifications and training for the whole engine family is very similar,” he said. “You don’t have to be trained in new technology, or complex technology – this also reduces life cycle costs of the engine at mine sites.”
The Liebherr engine portfolio, including the D96XX and D98XX series, is ideal for the entire spectrum of mining machines, such as trucks, wheel loaders, excavators and crawlers.
This article also appears in the December edition of Australian Mining.