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Tassie setting a high standard for quality machine modifications

Tassie setting a high standard for quality machine modifications

If you see production drills, loaders and raiseboring equipment operating on the east coast of Australia, chances are they first went through a precision-planned, customised modification at Epiroc in Camdale on Tasmania’s north west coast.

The Epiroc team of service technicians, fitters, machinists and electricians take pride in the quality of their work which encompasses modification design, fabrication and installation to comply with customer machine specifications. Across its customers, the specifications can vary widely and every modified machine is delivered with its own Australian Modifications Manual including design and hydraulic schematics, a parts list, and component certification.

The high standard of customisation was evident in the two development drills (Boomers) and production drill (Simba) that went through Epiroc in March for mining houses. Taking up to four weeks for each machine, the modifications touch almost every component from safety rails, steps and signage to cabin rewiring, fire suppression systems and guard boxes to protect against corrosive underground water.

At least three staff work on a machine at any one time with tasks such as heavy metal powder coating and signwriting outsourced to other local businesses. This interdependent network of suppliers and service providers follows the highs and lows of the mining industry which is a testament to Epiroc’s adaptability and resilience over its 19 years of operation at the Camdale site.

Epiroc’s Western Australian operation takes care of modifications for customers in the west. Select major projects are shared across both sites, including modifications for a major mining house in South Australia completed on drilling equipment and LHD machines.

Epiroc modifications are both well-designed and functional, with exceptional attention to detail. When the voluntary Mines Department Guidelines (MDG) were introduced around 15 years ago to inform the integrity and safety of mining machines, Epiroc embraced the high standard and engaged a consultant to audit its machine modifications. Repeating this process ensured a continuous improvement in workshop procedures and outputs. Even if MDG compliance is not specified by a customer, it’s a foundation of all of Epiroc’s work.

From this solid foundation comes many layers of clever, efficient and effective custom modifications, also known as J4s after the local pre-delivery modification class. The Epiroc team has designed a level winder box for the Boomers to improve the safety and precision of extending and retracting 120 metres of electrical cable. Each cable comes at an approximate cost of $14,000 AUD so the custom-made level winder is a highly valued addition as it matches the distance travelled with the rate of cable rewind and smooths its placement onto the reel. The operator can monitor its progress from the safety of their cabin thanks to the addition of localised lighting and remote camera technology.

A similar level of ingenuity and practicality was designed into the folding handrail system custom-fitted to the top of the Boomer machines. At three metres in height, the cabins already test the limits of some mine tunnels. So to ensure compliance with Australian Standards, the Epiroc team designed, manufactured and installed handrails that could be folded upright when in use and returned flat when the operator was safely off the top of the machine.

For Brett Kenley, his 16 years at the company has seen him progress from an apprentice fitter to the role of Product Manager – URE (Underground Rock Excavation). At least seven apprentices have come through the Epiroc Camdale Service Centre over the years, benefitting from the diversity of hands-on work across almost every component of the big machines.

“Not only does each customer have its own specifications, but each machine is also evolving in its technology, capability and components. On the Simba, we’re up to mark-nine and each release requires new parts and reveals new refitting challenges,” said Brett.

“The biggest change we’ve seen in the machines over time relates to their electrical systems. The addition of touch screens, monitoring systems, and CANbus controls means a reduction in manual work for the drill operator. We used to service more airleg machines and with the change in machine features, we’ve also developed new skills and brought in new equipment and tools in response.”

Brett says that the motto in the clean, well-organised workshop is ‘would you be happy to pay for that machine?’ It’s an informal but reliable way to ensure that staff focus on quality in every detail in addition to the audits and checklists completed before signing off on any customisation job.

It’s not uncommon for Epiroc to receive good reports from customers on their machine modifications.

“Staff stay a long time with the business; it shows the commitment and pride we take in our work. Our average age is around 40 years, with the youngest at 19 and the eldest being 70. This depth of skills, experience and knowledge creates a strong team that can improve any machine for any customer.”

Learn more about Epiroc at www.epiroc.com/en-au