Last year will be remembered by all, but particularly Liebherr-Australia. The original equipment manufacturer’s service department achieved multiple milestones, proving that aftersales is not an afterthought for the company.
The number of equipment orders at Liebherr-Australia is going from strength to strength with every passing year.
When growth accelerates, some businesses have been known to struggle with maintaining the quality of their customer support as more of their equipment populates mine sites.
But the opposite has happened at Liebherr-Australia despite the increasing number of its machines in the field.
The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has instead continued to provide world-class customer support for mining operations regardless of the circumstances.
Liebherr-Australia executive general manager customer service, mining, Tony Johnstone says this can only be achieved by having first-rate employees.
“At Liebherr, we recognise that our employees are a key factor of our success and this has been very evident in the past year. Everyone at Liebherr-Australia has worked extremely hard under difficult circumstances to deliver exceptional customer support. We owe it to all of our employees,” Johnstone tells Australian Mining.
“They had the willingness to work together, including adapting to different situations by moving to a different shift patterns, ensuring social distancing at work and changing some of our work processes to stay COVID compliant.
“This applies to everybody across the sites and our operating regions, and in our various office locations, not just in the workshop floor.”
Safety has remained at the forefront of Liebherr-Australia’s operations as ever-changing circumstances forced workplaces to quickly adapt and remain flexible.
“It’s pleasing as well that during all of the stress our employees were under in the environment that COVID-19 has created, our focus on safety didn’t waiver and we continued to improve our safety performance through the year,” Johnstone says.
In 2020, Liebherr-Australia’s remanufacturing business achieved its highest ever annual production numbers.
The business reclaims parts from its components and refurbishes them at its Adelaide remanufacturing facility back to factory-standard for use by mining companies.
In the past year alone, the OEM’s remanufacturing business produced 1377 components and disassembled 1672 components, surpassing the 2000 components Liebherr-Australia aspired to hit this year.
Johnstone says that customers are driven to use Liebherr-Australia’s remanufacturing service because of the company’s ability to return components to a factory new standard.
“Every component is tested before it’s dispatched, while the remanufacturing process also brings environmental and sustainability advantages through the reduction of waste,” he says.
The OEM also assembled and tested more than 24,000 hydraulic hoses in the Adelaide hose manufacture department. Every hose manufactured is MDG (mining design guideline) and ISO standard compliant.
This is a 7 per cent jump from the 22,432 hoses the department processed three years ago, Liebherr-Australia’s previous annual high.
Liebherr-Australia also commissioned 41 mining machines in 2020 – nearly twice that of 2019 – and broke its record in buckets fabrication.
The company delivered 45 buckets last year compared with the 33 fabricated during the previous year.
This achievement sits on top of the fabrication department’s on-time delivery rate of more than 97 per cent. It includes the delivery of four buckets in just under 12 weeks from the time of purchase order.
“We continue to look at the type of welding consumables machinery, robotics and bucket design to make our fabrication process more efficient and allow us to generate the highest quality products that will last longer in the field,” Johnstone says.
In this way, Liebherr-Australia has proven to overcome supply chain challenges amid the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The OEM has chosen to ensure that its European supply chain will experience no interruptions, by turning to air freight.
“We wanted to ensure that we maintained continuity in supply to our mining customers, as well as maintaining the supply of remanufactured components to our customers, which heavily relied on our European and US supply chains,” Johnstone says.
“Fortunately, our customers didn’t experience any equipment downtime last year due to our inability to supply parts on time, even during challenging times. All our facilities were open last year. We didn’t miss a day.”
While breaking multiple records, Liebherr-Australia continues to keep a steady approach on innovation.
The OEM is increasing its ability to remanufacture electric and electric drive system components, in addition to hydraulic components in the Adelaide remanufacturing facility.
This has contributed to Liebherr-Australia’s ability to bring new products online, according to Johnstone.
The OEM has produced two wear plate-less excavator buckets as part of its innovation strategy, eliminating the need for and high risk of bucket maintenance on site.
These buckets have the potential to be used on all mining excavators up to the Liebherr R 9800, and can be replaced at the end of their life to be remanufactured.
“It’s unusual isn’t it? We had a big year across all parts of our business. When you think the impact of COVID-19 could’ve been a lot worse, it’s actually made us a lot busier and even more innovative making sure that everything kept running,” Johnstone explains.
“We’re a customer-focussed business and that’s evident in everything that we do, every day.”
This article will appear in the March issue of Australian Mining.