Liebherr is one of the world’s largest mining and construction equipment manufacturers, with a presence in Australia since the 1980s.
In Liebherr Australia’s latest management change Tom Juric has been appointed as the mining divison’s new general manager, after working for the company since 2010. Juric began as a product engineer in sales and marketing and moved to a major account manager role less than two years later.
From 2012 Juric worked on major accounts and told Australian Mining his role as account manager gave him the opportunity to look at different areas of the business and understand “what makes Liebherr tick”.
“We’re not your typical multinational corporation,” he said.
“We’re still a family business so with that comes quite a lot of unique features and some challenges as well.”
Juric said the German company was not listed on any stock exchange and was currently in the third generation of the Liebherr family running the business.
In terms of his new role, Juric said he would bring the responsibilities and experiences he gained from differing levels to understand what his team and the company at large needed to be successful.
“I’m quite collaborative and like to hear different opinions,” he said.
“I like to be challenged and in this day and age, in this market, I think that’s a valuable skill to have.”
Although it is typical for new managers to observe business practices for the first three months, Juric said he would not necessarily have to wait that long as he had already been observing for a number of years.
He outlined what he believed was the key responsibility of his role.
“It’s about providing my team the tools to be successful and by extension our customer base to be successful,” he said.
He added that it also involved auditing or analysing the team and ensuring the company provided every opportunity to do right by their brand.
New year, new products
Juric highlighted that during the company’s re-correction period between 2011-2015, its research and design ramped up, with the development of around five new product lines.
Liebherr has more products on the way and plans to roll out three new ones later this year, beginning with the PR 776 mining dozer.
Juric said the dozer was unique in that it is a Liebherr engine, high sprocket hydrostatic drive track type tractor – the only one of its kind in the 70-tonne dozer class.
“Through those three distinct features, it’s going to deliver a very competitive total cost of ownership to our customers,” he said.
The PR 776 was showcased twice last year: at Bauma in Germany and MINEXPO held in Las Vegas.
Juric said it was the most exciting thing that was talked about at the shows. It will be officially released in Australia around the third quarter of this year.
The second major product release is Liebherr’s Ground Engaging Tools (GET) range, which Juric said “really closes the loop on Liebherr’s vertically integrated approach to the machine design”.
“Up until the introduction of the GET, we’ve effectively been in control of the sort of machine; in control of the design of the bucket; but we’ve really been reliant on industry to provide the GET solution, but not anymore,” Juric said.
“We’ve gone out on our own based on decades of experience, research and significant investment.”
The tools have been developed by the company’s engineers to complement not only machinery up to 400 tonnes but potentially other products as well.
The final product is the Troubleshoot Advisor, which consolidates the company’s technical capability into an app – allowing operators to troubleshoot any issues they have with Liebherr machinery 24/7.
“It’s a tool that people can use to quickly diagnose problems on the machinery and bring it back to service without necessarily having to call specialists out,” Juric said.
The app serves as a time-saving tool but operators can still contact support staff if necessary. Moreover, Juric added that the system could adapt and grow – the first level of artificial intelligence the company has invested in.
“It’s actually quite ingenious in that it’s constantly learning. So, any improvements, any updates or any better methodology that is quicker or more cost effective, gets uploaded to the system and is available for immediate use for service teams around the globe,” he said.
Innovation or automation
Juric said innovation and automation were often used interchangeably but referred to different things.
“Automation is a topic that is of extreme importance and it is the future of our industry but innovation in itself doesn’t just start and end with autonomy,” he said.
“Innovation transcends new, in-your-face, technology – it’s about doing things differently and better to create value.”
Juric emphasised that some of the best innovation is often unseen – it simply works and blends into the background. He said the innovative benefits were witnessed in faster, more efficient, lower cost machines, that may not be heavily advertised as much as a system like automation.
Juric also noted that innovation is one of Liebherr’s core business values, critical to helping its brand continue to grow into the future.
When it comes to the way the company services the mining industry, Juric said it was a component company first and a technology company by extension. He added that the company supported the industry by engaging with their customers and developing solutions for them.
One of these solutions was the R 9800 – the largest excavator the company makes.
“The industry called out for a specific need, we went away, designed something, came back and said ‘Well how does this look?’ And to and fro we went and eventually the R 9800 was born,” he said.
Juric said Liebherr listened to the customer base – which he referred to as partners – to create a “symphony” between the company’s intelligence and customer needs.
Juric believes there has been a sense of “cautious” optimism in the mining industry, particularly since August last year.
He said the recent triple digit price of coking and steaming coal had a lot to do with the optimism and even though the prices have since softened, a general positivity remained.
“I don’t think that we’re going to go back to the ways of the last boom…however we are far more positive and in a bullish position than we were 12 months ago,” he said.
Juric was also impressed by the restraint shown in the industry amid the uptick in the commodity price. He added that one question remained: ‘Will it last?’
Ready for a new role
Juric expressed his excitement at taking up the position as general manager – sales and marketing,
“It’s certainly been an aspiration of mine for some time,” he said.
“It’s going to challenge me and it’s the challenges – the diversity in the role – that I’m looking forward to.”
Juric added that he was most looking forward to being able to influence his team and set each of them up for success.
“I can’t wait to really get my feet under the desk and work with this amazing bunch of people that we have here,” he said.
Liebherr is continuing to invest in alternative product lines for the mining industry, with a focus on entering the high horsepower diesel range.
Juric started his new role on April 1.