Apron feeders are an essential component of the minerals processing cycle. After decades of maintaining, fixing and installing them, Minprovise has also begun designing and manufacturing them.
Minprovise is a specialist engineering, products and services company providing expert support to the mining, oil and gas and construction industries throughout Australia, with key locations in Perth, Karratha and Port Hedland in Western Australia and Coopers Plains in Queensland.
The company offers everything from mineral processing equipment and fabrication to specialist industry products and site services.
Minprovise general manager of value-added services and engineering John Minnaar told Australian Mining that in the mining sector, Minprovise predominantly provides maintenance service, especially in the crushing and materials-handling environment.
“Part of that is also the supply of technical specialists, or subject-matter experts on equipment to maintain and optimise the equipment,” he said.
“We also provide parts and services as well as products to support the mining industry, and we assist clients to evaluate the condition of their assets to help plan and schedule maintenance.”
Minprovise was established in 2004 with a core business of reducing the risk associated with operation and maintenance of crushing equipment. Between that time and 2017, the company occasionally delved into refurbishing apron feeders; however, it wasn’t a main focus.
But in 2017 an opportunity presented itself for Minprovise to follow apron feeders down a more permanent path.
“That’s when Minprovise decided to set up an apron feeder division and an apron feeder specialist service that I headed in 2017,” Minprovise apron feeders and materials handling technical specialist Louw Scholtz told Australian Mining.
“From 2017 we’ve grown from refurbishing one apron feeder a year to eleven machines this last year across the board.”
When this apron feeder specialist service was implemented, the company’s technical experts provided maintenance on any apron feeder brand that its customers had installed on-site.
Minprovise gained experience and knowledge getting to know apron feeders inside and out – literally.
When Minnaar came on board with the company he managed to demonstrate the value of manufacturing Minprovise’s own brand of apron feeder based on the wealth of knowledge and experience accumulated through years of providing maintenance to other brands.
Minprovise has been able to take the best design elements from each model it encountered in the field, improve on them, and incorporate the results into its own well-oiled machine.
“An apron feeder is a fairly simple piece of equipment, but our team has done a lot of innovating, and research and development of safety items that we’ve designed and incorporated in our maintenance strategies,” Minnaar said.
“We were able to find out the good and bad points of all the machines out there are and put the best of it all together.”
Minprovise has considerable technical experience, with Scholtz’s team always working on, improving and maintaining apron feeders.
Adding to the team is Minprovise drawing office manager and apron feeder design and development leader Darren Brooke, with years of experience for various market competitors.
It’s the A-Team of apron feeder design, maintenance and optimisation.
“We believe we’ve got a very strong technical team who design the lifecycle of apron feeders, from the design through to operation and maintenance,” Minnaar said.
Apron feeders usually have a lifespan of four to five years before replacement.
Minprovise has now developed a unique process and methodology for this replacement that works in partnership with a client’s own standards and procedures, as well as their needs based on the data Minprovise has collected during the previous four to five years of maintenance.
Standards change and new ones are continually introduced; it’s a dynamic space.
“A lot of the plants these machines are in were designed before certain standards even existed,” Scholtz said.
“So we go out and assess the site for specific ways to improve that particular set-up and come up with ideas and designs to enable easier and more efficient maintenance.
“This can include building specialised platforms and devices that we can (use to) hook winches and access platforms onto the machine or build the platforms around the machine to carry out maintenance.”
This site-specific analysis, coupled with Minprovise’s more general database gleaned from years in the maintenance space of apron feeders and crusher circuits, results in a comprehensive approach with unique and often-subtle changes and adaptations that can have significant impact on overall efficiency and optimisation of the circuit and, more specifically, apron feeders.
Scholtz and Minnaar agree that a lot of the difficulties or challenges Minprovise has encountered have forced them to think outside the box and come up with unique ideas, designs and safety features that mitigate some of the risks generally present in this environment.
Minprovise is still consistent with its beginnings of “reducing the risks”, but as its entrance into the design and manufacture of apron feeders is showing, it takes its current positioning of “forward-thinking partners” seriously.
Part of this transition and growth has been an internal overhaul where Minprovise invested heavily in training so the revised teams can improve on their knowledge development of innovative solutions.
“We have very competent people that go into the field, assess and bring the information back to us in-house, where we combine it with our greater knowledge and experience and the client’s needs, and come up with innovative solutions” Minnaar said.
“The open field of development is a continuously ongoing process. We have our base designs, and we use our subject-matter experts to invest the knowledge back into our designs.”
Minprovise values collaboration and feedback and as a company it gets involved in community activities, supporting local in all aspects of the business – manufacturing, assembly, support for maintenance, and operation – as much as it can throughout its home state of Western Australia.
The experienced team at Minprovise will continue to improve safety and identify efficiencies in processes where possible, staying committed to reducing costs, risks and minimising downtime on-site.
This feature appeared in the April issue of Australian Mining.