Contractors will need to be more creative to get work – predicts industry stalwart

The demands of mining companies for greater cost efficiencies and more exacting levels of output is placing a huge emphasis on mining industry contractors to become more creative in machinery design.

The comment was made by Neil Irvine, Principal of Rapid Crushing & Screening Contractors who in marking Rapid’s recent 40th anniversary said he believed the next 40 years would be far tougher than the last.

“Up to about 20 years ago, contractors in our field of work could generally get by with ‘off-the-shelf’ bought plant and provided they were cost competitive they could get work.

“I’ll never forget the advice of a good client who said – ‘build the machinery and you’ll get work’ which is exactly how we launched our business,” he said.

“As things evolved we increased our competitiveness because we had the in-house skills to modify plant for making it better suited to the harsh, extremely dusty conditions of outback Australia which meant we had fewer breakdown problems.

“This was brought about by the fact that we actually started as a service company, repairing plant and equipment. One of the advantages was that we didn’t have to rely on overseas plant suppliers to service the gear and come up with the parts. We had them on hand which meant and continues to mean far less downtime.

“Additionally, we developed the idea of configuring our plant specifically to clients’ sites. This helped in giving better output and at times we were able to operate with fewer people which meant lower operating costs.

“However, from about 10 years ago – and we expect this to evolve further into the future we’ve been finding that not only do mining companies require a more exacting output in the material produced and in quantity produced to deadlines, but they’re vastly more conscious of relating these aspects to cost of production,” he said.

Mr Irvine said that mining companies are having to meet their client order specifications more precisely and the timelines for output had definitely reduced. This has led to Rapid Crushing building vastly bigger equipment than what was needed in its earlier days and they’re tailor designing it specifically to the needs of the client.

“By doing this we have been able to give much better levels of output, far more reliably and often with a lower level of manpower which when all this is taken into account means greater cost effectiveness for the client”.

Mr Irvine said he not only believes that mining companies are going to require greater capabilities from contractors, the mining companies themselves are going to become far more reliant on capable contractors rather than doing the work themselves.

“Crushing and screening work is becoming increasingly specialised with greater flexibility needed. It means that companies can get stuck with outmoded machinery when their client demands change,“ he said.

In looking back on the 40 years of Rapid Crushing’s evolvement, during which the company is believed to have grown to becoming the biggest privately owned operation of its type in Australia, Neil Irvine said it had been most satisfying to work with fantastic clients in the mining industry.

Rapid has worked on numerous projects, many operated by such majors as BHP, Rio Tinto, FMG, Woodside (Burrup) and Chevron (Gorgon) and directly for other mining companies and contractors as well as undertaking specialised quarrying and construction material operations for major civil contractors.

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