Schlam manufactures miracle with Hercules EXO


Schlam’s engineering team devoted months to developing the new Hercules EXO.

Combining the best of both worlds for a new flagship mine truck body, Schlam has done what was thought impossible and reduced weight while increasing service life. Introducing the Hercules EXO.

As a leader in manufacturing mining equipment, Schlam leans on its 30 years of product development to find opportunities in the market – and in its own offerings. 

Owner Ryan Schlam is said to drive a culture of never being completely satisfied with an existing product range, instead striving for the next big development. 

That’s according to Schlam sales manager Tom Smith, who said the Hercules EXO represents that next big leap for the company and its customers. 

“Prior to the EXO body, you have two choices when it comes to dump bodies,” Smith told Australian Mining. 

“There’s the lightweight body with a short lifespan which maximises payload but doesn’t last as long; or you can choose a heavier body which lasts longer to the detriment of payload, while having to implement a costly structured maintenance regime. 

“The goal with the EXO was to combine the two, so we worked backwards to find out what is most important in a body and found that it is the wearing components. 

“We completely redesigned the previous Hercules to reduce the weight in all our non-wearing components. We’ve looked at all the structural componentry individually to reduce weight so we can maximise weight and thickness in the floor.”

This unheralded step in dump bodies is proven to more than double its service life while remaining lightweight, according to Smith. 

He said a major inspiration behind the project was Schlam’s relationship with BHP’s Western Australian Iron Ore (WAIO) business arm, which called for its next order to reduce body weight without sacrificing service life.

“We’ve done a lot of work with BHP WAIO; we’ve supplied all their truck bodies for the last three years,” Smith said. 

“They came to us in anticipation of the next bodies being required and asked us to look into reducing the body weight. So they were blown away by the end results and we were too, somewhat. 

“It’s not directly led to, but it assisted in us securing this latest contract with BHP to supply all their bodies for the next four years.”

The Hercules EXO is made from SSAB’s Hardox 500 Tuf wear steel.

The Hercules EXO takes advantage of the quality in Schlam’s major steel supplier, SSAB. The new body uses SSAB’s Hardox 500 Tuf steel, which has the wear properties of Hardox 500 combined with the weldability of Hardox 450. 

Smith admitted he was personally unsure of the bold claims being made by SSAB, but he was pleasantly surprised to find truth in the game-changing material. 

“As an engineer, I was very sceptical of what they were advertising. Hardox 500 Tuf has been in the market for about four years but a lengthy trial proved them to be true and the results speak for themselves,” Smith said.

Schlam chief executive officer Matt Thomas was especially proud of the job his team has done with the Hercules EXO. 

“This is a young engineering team that really went through and modelled every aspect of this product by thinking outside the square to figure out how we can reduce the weight while still getting more serviceability out of it,” Thomas said. 

“They’re innovative, interested and keen, and I think they should be celebrated for the results they’ve achieved.”

And the cost benefit of the EXO model goes well beyond reducing maintenance duties, which can cost up to 500 labour hours alone, at a time when labour is hard to come by.

Smith described a few other flow-on effects of investing in the EXO dump body. 

“Another cost benefit is the reduced annualised capital cost – if the bodies last longer, you don’t need to buy as many of them,” he said.

“Also, the increased payload from reduced body weight will reduce overall truck hours. If your truck is 10-tonne lighter and twice as strong, you could potentially save $100,000 per body per year in just reduced truck hours on a major mine site.”

And for an industry that’s increasingly regulated for environmental compliance, Schlam considers how it can reduce its own and its customers’ footprints. 

A body like EXO uses less steel per unit while lasting longer and is a good example of Schlam’s devotion to greener mining.

“We know how much carbon is created by steel production, and the whole industry is looking at this very closely, including at Schlam,” Smith said. 

“So having a body which uses less steel to manufacture, while also being replaced half as often, that has a massive net benefit on the environment and for the operator. 

“Over eight years, you’ll be using 25 tonnes of steel instead of 60 tonnes of steel.”

An additional environmental benefit comes in the form of Schlam’s body-scrapping service, which has ramped up considerably over the past 18 months. Smith said the company intends to continue this trajectory.

“We can arrange for bodies that have reached the end of their life to be decommissioned and recycled instead of sitting in the corner of a mine site collecting dust,” he said. 

“To complete that cycle, a large percentage of our bodies are made from 100 per cent recycled steel.”

But delaying the need for bodies to be scrapped is ideal, so Schlam’s dedicated technical support team will accompany any new body to site should the customer require it, especially in the case of a first-time user. 

This team can include representatives from Schlam’s sales team, engineers, or various other technical specialists. 

Such an approach has come from an understanding that not everything will always run smoothly, Smith said. 

“We understand that things can go wrong with our products in a very harsh mining environment. Cracks can occur and, occasionally, components can be hard to come by these days,” he said.  

“But the way we respond to concerns raised by customers is something that we’re very proud of.”

And in the interest of responding to customers’ needs, Schlam isn’t just stopping at the EXO for vastly improved mining equipment. 

Smith hinted that the materials science behind the new model would soon be applied to a range of Schlam’s products, providing a flow-on effect that will see the company move from strength to strength. 

“We have one project we’ve been working on for quite a while now – a new type of dump bucket which uses a similar methodology to the Hercules EXO to reduce weight and increase service life, which we are aiming to release to site before the end of the financial year,” Smith said.  

This article also appears in the March edition of Australian Mining. 

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