For everything that has changed in the mining industry over the past decade Max Wijasuriya can find something that has stayed the same at Schenck Process.
When Max Wijasuriya started as Schenck Process Australia’s managing director in August it didn’t take him long to feel comfortable in the role.
The company’s diverse product range and service expertise across a number of industries are not new to Wijasuriya, who spent two-and-a-half years as Schenck Process’ director of sales and marketing up until 2011.
Wijasuriya’s familiarity with Schenck Process’ screens, feeders and train load out systems may have quickly grounded him on his return, but he has also noticed that the company has developed significantly along with the evolution of mining.
Much has changed in the industry since Wijasuriya’s previous stint – the boom has come and gone, and resources companies have increasingly shifted their focus to innovation, technology and collaboration.
For Wijasuriya, the attention on these three areas reflects the direction he hoped mining would be moving in by now.
“It is my second time here so I am familiar with the products. Things have obviously progressed, but it was somewhere I could hit the ground running,” Wijasuriya tells Australian Mining.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that it is a great company with great technology and people, and it’s exciting to see how the technology has moved.”
Wijasuriya’s first priority as MD of Schenck Process was to develop an understanding of what the company was doing well and what it needed to do better.
He focussed on integrating the skills of the multi-faceted Australian team and how the knowledge of one business area could be leveraged by others.
Importantly, the push for innovative products and services has continued to take precedence so the company is positioned to meet the modern demands of mining and other industries.
Wijasuriya is unashamedly passionate about innovation, a value that he predicts will be infectious among his Schenck Process colleagues.
“What’s become apparent to me when working with people in our business is that my passion for innovation is shared by many of them,” Wijasuriya says.
“The narrative around innovation and collaboration in mining, that’s changed in a good way. If you look back five or six years, the challenging conversations were being had, but people were still looking at being the first to be second.
“Now mining companies are challenging themselves, they are challenging their suppliers and they are challenging us to look at things differently and to do things better.”
Wijasuriya stresses it is essential for Schenck Process to be innovative if the company wants to be considered as a partner for miners that are developing digital operations.
He highlights ways that Schenck Process has achieved this, such as the CONiQ condition monitoring device for screening machines and vibrating feeders.
CONiQ, a system based on the latest sensor technology and analytical software, makes it possible for minerals processing teams to detect future faults before they happen.
“As you move to the digital mine the strategy is to focus on high efficiency, automation and safety, and using those digital technologies alongside our process knowledge,” Wijasuriya says.
“For some of our products that means adding sensors or controls. The sensors have to be accurate and reliable, the controls have to be faster, more intelligent and able to be optimised further. Then we can use ongoing data analysis as the basis for the algorithms for our controls.
“We’re also bringing into play smart service solutions that reduce shutdown and maintenance times but also achieve safety and efficiency targets. Things like our ProLift Train Load Out (TLO) chute change system, which apart from improving safety around this activity, have also unlocked the potential for 290,000 tonnes of additional productivity per year.”
Schenck Process is leveraging the technologies the company uses on projects in other industries to enhance what it offers mining in this way.
The company has also structured its employee base to support the emergence of these technologies and innovations.
Wijasuriya believes the mix of people throughout the entire mining industry has changed, something he has also noticed within Schenck Process’ workforce.
“I think as these new tools develop the mix of people and the skills they will need is going to develop – it is a natural part of the industry,” Wijasuriya says.
“If you look back at the industry even 20 years ago, the mining or service engineer was much different to now.
“It will be the same in five years’ time because I see things moving very quickly as the speed of development starts to accelerate – I think that is a great thing.”
This combination of elements sets the scene for a period of growth potential for Schenck Process with Wijasuriya heading into his first full year as MD in 2020. But Wijasuriya remains under no illusions about delivering on this opportunity.
“Schenck Process is a smart company and that is clear from the projects that I see us working on. Our vision is to be smarter and more connected with technology, but these are not just words, we are actually doing that,” he concludes.