The OEM has gone above and beyond for a remote operation in Indonesia, turning a logistical challenge into another successful project for the company.
Using initiative and innovation, McLanahan designed, manufactured, tested and shipped a reclaim feeder and two feeder-breakers to a client of more than 10 years.
In March 2020, a major Indonesian coal producer contacted McLanahan, as they needed its tried and tested Australian-made equipment.
The machines were ordered as part of the operation’s continued expansion and happened to coincide with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, severely limiting international travel. This left McLanahan unable to perform its preferred site visits to consult with the customer in-person, opting instead for the (now all-to-familiar) video call.
McLanahan sales specialist for minerals Paul Skelton explained just what made this order especially tricky.
“We’re used to designing orders to suit customers’ applications, but this one was unique in that we had to make a concerted effort to fit everything inside the envelope of a 20-foot container,” he told Australian Mining.
“This was to help them transport it domestically in Indonesia, as their trucks and their roads and infrastructure aren’t suited to a long portable container.”
Equally tricky was keeping the customer involved in the design and manufacture of the equipment from roughly 5500km away in a Newcastle warehouse.
Despite the challenges the situation presented, necessity is indeed the mother of invention and this has also become a service McLanahan uses for its customers in Australia.
“A lot of difficult site locations are not just in Indonesia but in Australia. I think one of our greatest tools has been the video calling,” Skelton said
“We’ve had to do it a lot in our workshop to show customers what we’re doing.
“We’ll send them video of us explaining equipment, and video of our factory acceptance testing because we assemble and test everything here in Cameron Park before we ship it.”
But once the equipment was designed, built, packaged and en route to Indonesia, the job was only half done. The next step was ensuring the customer could unpack and install the machines themselves.
Detailed instructions – not to mention a significant amount of foresight – were key to pulling off what would usually pose another logistical nightmare.
“They were very happy with the documentation detailing how to lift it safely out of the container back onto their truck,” Skelton said.
“They were able to assemble it quite easily with instructions we gave them. And with the videos we gave them on how the machine was assembled and tested, they were able to reference that.
“Language barriers are always difficult because their English is far better than my Indonesian, but we were able to overcome that with drawings and focusing on the engineering detail.”
Considering what tools were on hand was one of the most important aspects in designing equipment for the receiver to install; it wasn’t as though the customer, located in a remote part of Indonesia, could run off to the hardware store if something was missing.
“The customer was experienced in installing pieces of equipment based on instructions we gave them. But then they weren’t that experienced in running this particular piece of equipment,” Skelton said.
“So we provided a few video conferences and referencing manual recommendations for testing methodologies and procedures that would work based on the tools they had available and based on the remoteness of their operation.”
What was even more important was ensuring that safety was maintained throughout the entire installation process.
Whether working with a brand-new customer, or a client of more than 10 years, Skelton said no one should get hurt when working with McLanahan machinery.
“I think one thing that we’re very aware of in McLanahan is trying to promote a culture of safety to countries like Indonesia, where their safety standards are not as high as us in Australia,” Skelton said.
“We supply a customer equipment that meets the engineering and technical specifications, but also keeps everyone safe.”
Looking to the future, McLanahan has realised the value of telecommunications in delivering mining equipment, be it bespoke or stock standard. Where a site visit would see a handful of company representatives meet with customers in-person, a video call allows potentially dozens of people to collaborate to satisfy everyone’s needs.
And while Skelton’s career has involved countless site visits and smiling faces, he sees remote operations as another tool in McLanahan’s belt.
“I think it’s a good model for us and, as a result, I recently had a conversation with the customer about the next stage of the project to potentially add another three machines,” he said.
“So they’re confident in being supported and being acknowledged.”
This article also appears in the April edition of Australian Mining.