Halving the time for the delivery of big wheel loaders was at the head of the list of good news items for mining companies when Australian Mining interviewed David Farrar, Managing Director of the Australian arm of LeTourneau Technologies.
The huge cut in delivery time is the result of LeTourneau’s commitment to the building of its 950 series machines — big wheel loaders and big wheel dozers — in Australia at its Hunter Valley plant in New South Wales.
The Texas based LeTourneau Technologies is known for the design and manufacture of its unique big wheel electric drive machines — a design perfected over forty years and well proven on many mine sites across Australia, including some of the biggest in mining coal and iron ore.
Previously represented in Australia for over 20 years via an independent dealer network, the company has had its own subsidiary in Australia since 2003 and just recently took the bold step to expand, and commence an Australian build programme.
“LeTourneau is the only company to build big wheel loaders of this class in Australia,” said Farrar.
“And, we are talking a total build programme, not just a finishing or assembly project.
“Bare frames and individual components arrive from our main factory so there is no variation from the quality standards of our US built machines and then, as to the build, we do the lot,” he added.
Considering that the company has plans to widen the range of models it will build at its Muswellbrook plant, this commitment is a major move and one that represents many benefits for Australia. Later, the plant could become a regional hub for this part of the world with it’s phase 1 kitting process in lieu of only a phase 3 or 4 kitting, a process which would normally be allocated to a distributor.
The L-950, although the smallest wheel loader in its range, has a bucket capacity of 13.7 m3, which is ideally sited to Haul Trucks in the 75 to 150 tonne range — or in the case of the dozer version, a blade capacity of 27.3 m3.
One of the first companies in Australia to benefit from the Australian build program is Fortescue Metals Group which purchased two L-950 loaders for its Cloud Break mine site in Western Australia.
Although Fortescue was attracted to the L-950 for a number of operational reasons, the much earlier delivery time was an important advantage.
Fortescue personnel are visiting LeTourneau’s Muswellbrook plant throughout the building of their loaders and arranging their own specifications for various modifications.
Australian Mining went on to discuss some of the operational advantages for mining companies and those using wheel loaders when providing contracting mining services.
“The overview,” said Farrar, “is that LeTourneau in Australia, has control over the timing of the build … we are not having to fit into a line that supplies the U.S. and other countries. We also cut out the six to eight weeks for shipping from our US manufacturing plant to our customers in Australia,” he explained.
What many Australian customers are now looking to, is being able to actively participate in the Australian build process. This covers the selection and design of modifications in consultation with the Australian factory engineers and assembly fitters at the LeTourneau plant.
“The next phase for our customers is then being able to attend throughout the build process to watch components being fitted together, wiring harnesses going in as well as other items normally concealed from view … and then other major components such as the engine and the hydraulic system.
“Customers then have the significant advantage of being able to familiarise and train their operational and maintenance people with the machine — it’s a great opportunity and customers say that this means a lot to them,” explained David.
“To ensure our people at Muswellbrook get the build process exactly right, an Australian crew went to the Texas plant and literally worked on the US 950 assembly line.”
“Because the Australian plant is a wholly owned subsidiary of the US factory we have direct access to all the drawings, engineering know-how, computer programmes, in fact anything within the Intellectual Property category. The US engineers and assembly personnel opened right up for the Aussie crew. There were no barriers at all,” concluded Farrar.
*Rod Lindblade is the principal of Northfield Communications Pty Ltd — business-to-business advertising and journalism. To contact Rod call 03 9681 9585, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LeTourneau Technologies Australia Pty Ltd
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