Liebherr-Australia’s modular maintenance program is cutting downtime in half for some mining companies. Here, the company explains why it uses this aftersales approach to maintenance.
There has been a shift in what mining companies focus on when they develop their equipment maintenance programs.
The modern emphasis often leans towards reducing the number of suppliers or contractors that are required in their supply chain.
It increasingly involves working alongside a single source or partner that understands every element of the maintenance lifecycle beyond the point of procurement.
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Liebherr has made this demand an integral part of the aftersales customer service it offers in Australia for its mining trucks and excavators.
Liebherr-Australia’s aftersales method is a modular maintenance approach that focuses on delivering a combination of safety, productivity, reliability and customisation benefits.
The modular program complements the way Liebherr has designed its current machines, as well as the vertically integrated model of the equipment components manufactured by the company.
Liebherr-Australia introduced the modular maintenance concept for truck power packs in 2014, before adding excavators to the mix at a major mining company’s operations in Western Australia.
The program has grown to cover a wider range of equipment and is available at each of Liebherr’s Australian branches – Perth, Mt Thorley and Mackay, where a combined total of more than 200 module changeouts have taken place.
Liebherr-Australia executive general manager customer service, mining, Tony Johnstone says the design of an excavator like the R 996B makes modular maintenance possible for the OEM.
However, a lack of alignment between component wear, along with reluctance from mining companies and contractors to adopt a modular model prevented Liebherr from introducing the concept up until five years ago.
“Before 2014 it was always thought about by Liebherr but never really adopted because of the inability to line up component life,” Johnstone tells Australian Mining.
“Then a customer in Western Australia eventually decided to look at modularisation again – it was achievable because of their maintenance strategy. From there it has become more widely accepted elsewhere as well, such as in New South Wales and Queensland.”
In 2014, Liebherr-Australia set out to improve on the conventional maintenance approach where a mining machine would be brought in to a workshop for component changeouts.
In this case, the machine would be out of action until the completion of all maintenance – possibly taking several weeks until it returned to work.
In contrast, Liebherr-Australia’s maintenance concept involves rebuilding an additional module, either one of its own or one that belongs to a customer, without the machine having to be down for maintenance and affecting productivity.
A machine is brought in for maintenance when the old module is immediately removed and replaced by one that has already been refurbished in the workshop.
The old module remains in the workshop for repairs and will be ready for the next machine that arrives for maintenance.
Despite the stage of the ‘wear and tear lifecycle’ the components are in, they are all replaced in the Liebherr approach.
Its servicepeople also extensively test each component, including blast, crack test, repair and painting of each component, electrical harness, fitting hose, nut and bolt.
Liebherr-Australia general manager, customer support, Paul Murphy says the modular approach provides a mining operation with value beyond the maintenance area.
“An important consideration of the program is that modular maintenance responds more holistically to a mine site’s expectations, not just the maintenance department’s expectations,” Murphy says.
“The full value comes to bear when the mine site looks at it from a more holistic sense and the production dividend is realised by cutting maintenance downtime by 50 per cent.”
The program has increased productivity by reducing maintenance downtime by up to eight days (from 14 days to six) depending on the machine and type of modules.
It also improves the reliability of the machines through the ability to plan or forecast the changeout of components, enhancing productivity even further.
From a safety perspective, most of the work is completed in a controlled environment in a Liebherr workshop. This reduces the number of crane lifts from more than 50 to fewer than 10; it also significantly decreases the amount of time working at heights.
Liebherr-Australia works with its mining clients to customise their modules or programs. For example, companies have been known to ask for scaled-down mini modules or to undertake additional maintenance while a major changeout takes place.
“Realistically we are providing a solution that promotes safety, it promotes productivity, it promotes reliability and it is customisable,” Murphy says.
“With these features we are applying that logic to multiple scenarios in the maintenance realm from an asset management perspective.
We have been working on the R 9800 and been developing the modules across the range on that machine.
“It is something the industry has been keen to see – innovation and efficiency brought together with all of those benefits, which are elevated considerations for them in remote locations.”
Liebherr has power pack modules for all of its trucks and for each excavator from the R 9250 to R 9800 models.
The OEM has also made the modules available for other excavator and truck components, including undercarriage, hydraulic tanks, value banks, hydraulic skids and more.
Liebherr-Australia has consistently expanded the program over the past five years to include these components and plans to continue to grow the concept at this rate.
Johnstone says Liebherr’s largest excavator, the R 9800, has been the latest focus of the expansion in 2019.
“We have been working on the R 9800 and been developing the modules across the range on that machine,” Johnstone says.
“What comes next is really an expansion of the existing modular program in terms of identifying what else we can modularise. What other opportunities are there? That’s what we are searching for.”
This article also appears in the August edition of Australian Mining.