Features, Mining Services

How Epiroc is instigating a new frontier in mining

Epiroc mining

Epiroc’s commitment to drive change in the mining industry is inspiring METS companies all across the world to join the evolution. 

It may seem as if Epiroc has been increasingly active in its pursuit for inorganic growth in recent times, but acquisitions form part of a company vision that has been built over years, if not decades.

Epiroc has always been an industry forerunner in that the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has never been afraid to explore and institute change.

Peter Strimaitis, Epiroc’s vice president of mergers and acquisitions – digital solutions, said that Epiroc aspires to be a “change driver”.

“You can have a few responses to upcoming change, you can be resistant to change, you can be brought along, you can have a passive acceptance, or you can be a change driver,” he told Australian Resources & Investment. 

“Epiroc is taking a position where we, along with our customers and business partners, are driving the transformation in the mining and construction sectors and where we see transformation occurring in particular is in the area of automation, electrification and digitalisation.”

Epiroc has anticipated mining’s next evolution, where driverless drill rigs, carbon-neutral haul trucks and digitally-connected mine sites are the way of the future. And the OEM is responding to the needs of its clients by initiating its own advancements, adding new capabilities and perspectives in the process.

Recent acquisitions include the addition of CR, an Australian-based provider of advanced ground engaging tools (GET) and associated digital solutions. CR’s GET solutions include cast lips, teeth, and protective shrouds installed on mining buckets and loaders that increase productivity and operational uptime. Its digital solutions include real-time GET loss detection and payload management systems, among other offerings.

Epiroc also recently completed its acquisition of Mernok Elektronik, a South African company which is advancing the safety capabilities of the mining sector through its collision avoidance and proximity detection technologies that are of the highest standard (EMESRT Level 9).

With these two acquisitions, Epiroc has bolstered its offering of consumables, and added another string to its safety and automation bow, enabling the OEM to support more client requirements and requests.

Strimaitis said Epiroc is committed to providing its clients with a full suite of solutions, an objective supported by the recent acquisition of Perth-based Remote Control Technologies (RCT).

“To demonstrate our commitment to providing all different types of solutions across a mixed fleet, I highlight our acquisition of RCT,” he said. 

“RCT is a proven, OEM-agnostic, mixed-fleet automation provider that provides a range of automation, remote control, machine protection and data management services. Epiroc has plenty of automation expertise which has been typically based around Epiroc machines, so bringing in RCT means we can provide a holistic solution to our clients.” 

Epiroc recently acquired Remote Control Technologies, an OEM-agnostic, mixed-fleet automation provider.

Epiroc’s inorganic growth strategy is also centred on partnerships, where two or more like-minded industry pioneers work together for the betterment of a client.

Strimaitis used the example of Epiroc’s shareholding and partnership with ASI Mining.

“We’ve been working together with ASI Mining to roll out an autonomous haulage system at the Roy Hill mine,” he said. “This doesn’t involve Epiroc equipment, we’re instead providing the autonomous platform to automate that mine.

“This is very different from the traditional view that each OEM sticks to its knitting, as it were, and just works on its own equipment. The world’s moving and clients want a total solution.

“Sometimes in the past it was about us providing automation on top of, or as part of, or as an adjunct, to the supply of our equipment. Now, we’re looking at a digital solution in its own right.”

Strimaitis said Epiroc and ASI Mining’s joint project was an example of an automation solution in its own right.

“That’s the market and the industry starting to change,” he said. “And that change will keep on accelerating.

“Take our acquisition of Mernok, who do collision avoidance and proximity detection, which also complements our purchase of Mining Tag. These companies provide solutions not just for Epiroc equipment, but for all types of equipment. 

“This is where these digital solutions are becoming solutions in their own right, whereas in the past, they were almost like add-ons to an equipment purchase. Now you can start to see why Epiroc last year split out digital solutions into its own division.”

Prior to Epiroc creating its own standalone digital solutions division, the OEM’s digital focus formed part of its technology division.

Strimaitis said Epiroc’s digital solutions division is now about providing external support for its clients first and foremost, with many of the company’s recent acquisitions coming under this banner.

The core capabilities of the digital solutions division include automation, data integration platforms, situational awareness, collision avoidance, fleet management solutions, and machine performance and health data, to name a few. These solutions are suitable for both single and mixed fleets. 

But Epiroc’s digital scope doesn’t stop there.

“A number of Epiroc’s digital solutions and products fit within the digital solutions division, but we also reach across other divisions to pull together their offerings that might fall under the digital banner,” Strimaitis said. “This is to ensure that a complete offering is provided to our clients.

“For example, we recently acquired CR, which provide ground engaging tools. CR fit into our tools and attachment division, but the company provides a number of its own digital solutions. 

“If a client is seeking a broad portfolio of solutions, we can draw in the solutions that might sit outside the digital solutions division, such as those offered by CR.”

Strimaitis, who himself has worked in the mining industry for decades, said he anticipated “step changes of improvements” in the sector in the near-term.

“The way we do mining and construction now, in 10 years’ time, it’s going to be radically different,” he said. “And everyone’s recognising that. 

“There’s all kinds of different drivers for step changes and a lot of clients are wanting assistance and the level of assistance they’re looking for really depends on the client. 

“You might have clients that are there with us trying to shape and drive change. Or you have clients that are keen to shape and drive change but are not sure how, and Epiroc can support them with that. And then there are clients that will adopt once they have seen proven solutions.”

In order for Epiroc to be able to support any situation or potential client scenario, the OEM is constantly adding more toolkits and options. Because only then can Epiroc be the true change driver it sets out to be. 

This feature appeared in the April/May edition of Australian Resources & Investment.

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