Weir Minerals Africa is making a substantial investment into its newly acquired Xmeco Foundry in Port Elizabeth.The upgrade will ensure that these facilities will be capable of not only producing Weir’s requirements from an African perspective, but also have sufficient capacity to supply other businesses within the Weir Group globally. The Xmeco Foundry occupies a 4.5 ha site in the Neave township of Port Elizabeth, where it manufactures castings varying in size from a few kilograms to a maximum of 18 tons in a variety of alloys. “This facility is capable of ramping up to about 1 000 tons a month and we believe it’s potentially one of the lower cost facilities in the world for the production of our parts,” says Dave Athey, Weir Minerals Africa regional MD for Middle East and Africa. “We’re already looking at the possibility of supplying cast products into the Canadian oil sands sector. As higher oil prices and new technology enable profitable extraction and processing, these bitumen sands have only recently been considered to be part of the world’s oil reserves.”
The Xmeco Foundry complements Weir’s existing African operation, say, adding the heavy bay capacity that is vital for future growth. “It will also enhance productivity with the application of Weir’s lean philosophy in the production, manufacturing technology, supply chain and front-end business processes,” says Athey.“A big advantage of this foundry and, indeed one of the main reasons it was chosen as an acquisition target, is its proximity to the deep water Port of Ngqura. Typically, the Canadian oil sands use very large pumps and pump components, and a single pour for a component or part could be up to 20 tons. Being so close to a major port will help us achieve significant savings in logistics costs.” The Weir Group has a system of engineering excellence based on Design Centres of Origin (DCO) and Weir Minerals Africa is the global DCO for the DWU dewatering pump, which was designed and built by South African engineers. The local company is also the DCO for the entire Group’s screens business and provides assistance to the Group’s cyclone DCO in regard to dense media cyclone ceramic technologies. Quality is also a central philosophy at Weir Minerals Africa and its 2013 quality strategy has brought about a fundamental shift from quality control to quality assurance. The new focus is expected to introduce world class quality principles to the business. The quality strategy will be applied to the total supply chain, from the supplier base to final delivery, and internal manufacturing Standard Operating Procedures will be reviewed and updated.