Global leading supplier of equipment and tools, service and technical solutions for the mining and construction industries, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, boasts application areas including rock drilling, rock cutting, crushing and screening, loading and hauling, tunnelling, quarrying and breaking and demolition. To remain competitive the company has invested in innovation and a solutions-based approach to the provision of equipment and solutions to the mining sector, and has fared well in doing so.

For Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, the Southern African market presents an exciting opportunity but admittedly, not without its challenges. Mining News sat with Saltiel Pule, Business Line Manager Underground Drills for Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa  and Alain Comorge, Vice President Underground Drills Division Mining and Tunneling Product Lines Manager for Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology to discuss how the business has managed to remain competitive through the adoption of an innovation based approach.

“For the Southern African market the question remains that of finding the balance between historically high intensive labour where mines want to retain as many jobs as possible and balancing that with the desire to remain competitive in this market.” says Comorge.

Sandvik simulator training

“For us the answer is an intelligent transition andthis is the area where we as Sandvik have chosen to focus. We’ve developed a number of intelligent solutions in pursuit of this strategy.  For example, the low profile drill rig which speaks to both productivity through mechanisation and safety initiatives. It is important to note that it is up to industry to adopt new technologies or retain old traditions however to gain ground in terms of productivity and skills development, mechanisation is the answer. We believe that even with mechanised advancements, people will still be employed, and the task will just require them to engage in more training and upskilling, which is our commitment” says Comorge.

The upskilling and training of labour is a large part of Sandvik’s mechanisation strategy and the company highlights how it cannot see one without the other. “We want to contribute to a highly skilled competitive labour force and the way to do that is through upskilling”, says Pule.

Sandvik conducts operator training through a simulator that provides a compact and flexible solution to safely train operators and maintenance teams on its DD422i, DD422iE and DT922i drill rigs. This latest development provides a low weight safe training tool that is highly portable, enabling it to be used where it is most needed – on site. The new Sandvik Operator Training Simulator has been designed specifically to improve both operator and drilling performance, delivering real benefits for underground drilling applications.

An optimistic outlook

With the mining market being as challenging as it has been over the last decade, Sandvik has remained relentless in staying the course and continues to develop new solutions and innovate despite the turbulent times. The company says this is motivated by complete investment and belief in the industry and a commitment to the market.

“We have a very positive outlook where industry is concerned. In order to make intelligent developments for new solutions, we spend a significant amount of time and resources in screening and establishing market trends to predict what the market will require from us in years to come. So yes, we still invest heavily in research and development because mechanisation in the mining sector is a niche,” Comorge explains.

“When compared to the global market, the Southern African mining sector is very competitive, and totally in line with the rest of the world. We see a lot of similar trends here and internationally. There are however some unique challenges mostly attributable to the history of the local market and the shape of the deposits in this region. So there are some challenges to navigate but that is exactly where long term relationships and the maintenance thereof come in” Comorge says.

Collaboration efforts

Relationships are at the centre of the Sandvik business model, and the company often refers to customers as ‘productivity partners’ who have helped transform a number of strategic decisions the business has made over the decades. Pule highlights how important it is for Sandvik to find innovative ways to boost customer’s outcomes – focusing on mechanisation, automation and nurturing our relationships with customers to pin pointing their needs is important.

“It is important to understand your customer’s needs before you apply methods that aren’t applicable. If we look at all successful Sandvik projects,the common thread is always the close collaboration between Sandvik and our customer. Without that collaboration before and after a project, often we see a project not taking off as it should,” Pule says.

This approach further solidifies Sandvik’s reputation as not just and equipment supplier, but also a solutions provider that aims to solve present and future problems with customers. 

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