This ensures the retention of the high quality and performance of the products it supplies to the mining industry. It also ensures that replacement products or items are easily ordered as the company has all the project detail drawings and is able to quickly identify which item the client needs.
“We spend much time on evaluating clients’ enquiries, covering their specifications performance and maintenance-cycle requirements, as well as quality and material, to develop solutions accordingly,” Vital Engineering MD Dodds Pringle tells Mining Weekly.
He adds, however, that mine end-clients do, at times, enter into low-cost, low-end purchasing agreements with non-original-equipment manufacturers (non-OEMs) and suppliers to replace, manage or change products or equipment over a mine’s life.
“While this process invariably takes place after the guarantees have expired, it could have knock-on effects if the high standards demanded at the project outset are lowered through the use of substandard or low-quality, nonperforming products for the rest of the project’s duration.”
This could potentially lead to equipment failures, workers slipping or falling, downtime and even fatalities in some cases, owing to the products not being designed to perform as originally specified and required. “So, short-term, cost-savings equal long-term, continual cost and safety implications.”
He points out that there is sometimes a large discrepancy between the standards specified during contract development and purchasing components thereafter for maintenance, owing to cost-saving objectives. “So, while we offer SLAs, sometimes they are not viewed within the context of safety. Not adhering to these SLAs could result in safety issues at the plants later on, as well as failures and higher product life cycles,” notes Pringle. Maintenance Offering “When our Vitagrid products are used at mining operations from the start, maintenance costs will be reduced from the outset, compared with using non-OEM parts.”
Vital Engineering also supplies a range of standard-dimension products that can be easily tailored and maintained by mine employees.
However, more mines are sending schematics of replacement panels and handrails to Vital Engineering for fabrication, rather than doing it themselves, says Pringle. “We ascribe this to mining companies realising the cost of using their own resources, welders and boilermakers for maintenance purposes. There is also a growing awareness of the waste involved in using standard product sheets, the transport of components to and from galvanisers, and the time required to do so.”
Pringle states that these considerations are becoming deciding factors in using an accredited OEM company to undertake maintenance work.
Meanwhile, for ease of maintenance, Vital Engineering offers a free evaluation service to plant owners wanting to review the safety and performance of Vitagrid or other products, namely flooring, handrailing and expanded metal, installed at their operations.
“We also offer assistance in developing maintenance cycles and checks on safety- critical items, such as fixings, for corrosion and overloading, to avoid lost-time injuries and potential fatalities,” Pringle avers.
He adds that some companies have yet to embrace this service, owing to clients not always recognising the importance of using high-quality products to ensure safety.
“When considering that your most valuable and trained resources are using this product daily to traverse or work at height, it is dangerous to assume that it requires no regular inspection.”
Although newer and more suitable products for mines to reduce risk and improve safety are always becoming available, often little attention is paid to this within maintenance cycles, being driven by price rather than safety. Vital Engineering develops its products to reduce maintenance costs by, firstly, ensuring high welding quality on various add-ons such as kick flats, angles and penetrations in the floor.
For example, ensuring high welding and fitment quality where products are being galvanised ensures that porosity, entrapment or weeping is limited and, ultimately, reduces the requirement for continual, regular product replacement.
“Not only do we develop new product solutions but we also regularly review our manufacturing process and skills during the process to improve our current product offering and reduce maintenance costs,” Pringle highlights. This product development is the result of understanding the different demands placed on mining operations – from safety to economies of scale – to achieve cost-efficient mining operations for shareholders, he adds.
Vital Engineering supplies many open-cast and deep-level mining operations on the African continent, ranging from coal, gold, diamonds, platinum, semi-precious stones and rare earths. Pringle concludes that the company is involved in various small-to-medium mine projects in South Africa and other African countries, which range from new plants to upgrades.
Since 1939, Angus McLeod and Vital Engineering have established a reputation for quality and service delivery in the manufacture of all types of gratings, fibreglass gratings, stairtreads, pressed floors, expanded metals and safety handrails.
Vital Engineering Johannesburg
Phone: +27 11 898 8500
Fax: +27 11 918 3000
Office: Lea Road, Anderbolt, Boksburg North, Johannesburg, South Africa