McLanahan’s big plans

As McLanahan continues to grow with the opening of a new flagship facility in New South Wales, Australian Mining talks to APAC sales and marketing director Chris Knowles about the company’s evolution as an Australian mining provider.

McLanahan Corporation has enjoyed an eventful 2018.

Fresh from a nomination at the Queensland Mining Awards for its work with Thiess at the Lake Vermont coal project, the company opened the facility in Cameron Park, New South Wales in August.

The 18,000-square-metre centre dwarfs the company’s three other interstate Australian offices in Perth, Mackay and Newcastle, respectively.

McLanahan started designing the modern, well-optimised and more efficient facility in August 2017.

The team needed enough space and light to engage engineering collaborations using new technologies, with the workshop and lab set up to interact across various disciplines.

It built the facility near a freeway to offer efficient transport options for heavy freight.

“The larger inventory space and more efficient workflow now enables us to maximise our investment in component tracking systems and integrated supply chain systems,” explains McLanahan sales and marketing director APAC Chris Knowles.

“As we grow our business and endeavour to deliver more systems, equipment and services to the global mining community we need to future proof our business.”

McLanahan originated as a family-owned company in Pennsylvania in 1835. The company launched its Australian division as a crusher and feeder-focused original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in Newcastle in 2003 with just five full time staff.

McLanahan’s Australian division has grown considerably since; the Cameron Park facility incorporates 38 staff, including engineering designers, technical services staff and a design draft team.

It is a significant expansion for McLanahan and is now considered the company’s Asia-Pacific (APAC) hub.

McLanahan’s focus on teamwork extends outside of its operations and into its community work, with the company the sponsor of numerous sporting and charity events.

Its recent staff sponsorships include a company receptionist’s quest to compete in a dragon boat championship held in Malaysia and a service technician’s efforts to complete a 100km Blue Mountains hiking challenge, for example.

“McLanahan’s mission statement talks about the value of staff and of course as an extension community is extremely important,” says Knowles.

Up in the air

McLanahan’s philosophy extends beyond the mine site and into logistics. Knowles cites the example of a mining company recognised for its predictive maintenance planning that required the quick delivery of new Oversize bespoke Drive Components.

They asked McLanahan to assist with an assessment of failure potential on the drive components, which showed minor defects from X-ray analysis. In order to quickly turn around replacements for the client, with no readily replacement parts -during a difficult period, McLanahan decided to turn to a Chinese supplier.

“Since it could have been urgent, [the client’s] aim was to ensure they had replaceable spares on site to prevent what could have been a significant impact on their production,” Knowles says.

McLanahan sourced a wide bodied heavy lift transport aircraft — famously among the world’s largest and heaviest planes — to fly into Shanghai, collect two of the drive tyres (which had a diameter of over four metres each) and then fly to Australia in time for collection by the company.

The logistics of the transportation required considerable effort, not just in terms of clearances, but in getting lifting gear and cranes to load and unload the plane.

“They had the material available and they had facilities and people available over that period to manufacture {the tyres] in a short time, and have one of the few facilities that could actually machine a tyre of this diameter in one piece,” Knowles explains.

The mother of invention

McLanahan has grown significantly in Australia over the last decade. It delivered four of Australia’s largest relocatable coal feeder breakers to Energy Australia’s Yallourn brown coal mine in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria by 2006.

The Thiess-operated site is the nation’s second largest open cut mine.

In 2010, McLanahan reached a milestone in Western Australia when it installed two of the largest hydraulically driven iron ore scrubbers in the Pilbara, a job so large it necessitated the development of new facilities in the region.

It was during the mining downturn, however, when McLanahan firmly entrenched its reputation for building upon existing equipment with unique solutions as more customers began the process of “sweating their assets”, as Knowles says.

“During the mining downturn, our customers turned their focus to maximising availability and reducing overall operating costs,” he says.

“Many customers have asked for specialised designs to fit in a specific space or to deal with unique ore properties. Other customers have asked us how to increase operating time between maintenance days or to half the time to provide access and parts replacement.”

McLanahan’s work at Thiess’s Lake Vermont open cut coal mine outside of Dysart, Queensland, is the prime example of a project that put this philosophy into practise.

It was on this project that McLanahan earned its nomination for a 2018 Queensland Mining Award.

Thiess had experienced issues with its feeder breaker becoming blocked by large lumps of material, causing unwanted downtime.

It found rectifying this process was an often-laborious process involving turning off the machines, clearing the blockage with jackhammers, and rolling the crusher out for cleaning before rolling back into place to continue operation.

McLanahan’s engineers countered this problem by designing a heavy duty chain feeder with a mechanical lid at the discharge end of the crusher. This meant that if there was a blockage the Thiess control and panel operators could stop the feeder automatically, open the lid and have a robotic breaker break up the blockage.

“In the period during the downturn, when people were really sweating their assets, we’d been asked to replace a number of those rotary coal breaker barrels to fit on the same drive systems and the same bases and also to meet up with existing chute work and screens,” says Knowles.

“Those were all customisations that we were happy to do to be able to replace those ageing rotary coal breakers yet meet the same footprint and often improve the separation of coal and rock.”

Knowles says McLanahan predicted an increasing push for automation and intelligent control in mining, two areas that are “really captivating the imagination of most larger global mining operations”.

McLanahan also brought big gains (and reduced maintenance costs) to New Hope Group’s New Acland coal mine with its secondary and tertiary direct drive crusher (DDC) sizers.

The switch to McLanahan’s equipment allowed the mine’s wash plants to run for 8000 hours a year.

McLanahan built on these successes by earlier this year introducing wheel-mounted mini direct drive crushers (Mini DDC Sizers) capable of fine particle separation down to 3-4mm.

“We did see a change and we had to adapt to that and make sure we were more service orientated — we were holding more spare parts ourselves rather than customers,” Knowles says.

“Luckily for us because we have our own local engineering people we were able to customise some solutions and provide some service around optimising equipment.”

With increasing realisation of this technological paradigm shift towards data capture technologies, artificial intelligence and geo-location technology,

McLanahan continues to work with its partners to ensure systems offer increasingly comprehensive plug-and-play monitoring options.


This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Australian Mining.

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