Machines to mechanize your mining by Fermel in South Africa

With almost 50 years of providing mining machinery and equipment, Fermel Mining (Pty) Ltd. knows more than most what it really takes to tailor products to the needs of an individual operation. The company, headquartered from Gauteng, South Africa, has been providing the necessary equipment to mechanize its clients’ mines since 1962.

Originally formed and branded as Impala Engineering Works, working out of a shop in Johannesburg, the years have been good to Fermel. November has delivered all sorts of news on new products, deliveries and purchases, and in order to truly appreciate the corporate vision, commitment and growth behind this front runner within the mining services industry today, TABJ looks over the company’s operations today and asks what does it really take to make a mining equipment company like Fermel?

The company in place today

Today, Fermel’s head office and assembly plants are located in the industrial suburb of Wadeville, Gauteng Province, and it is here that the work behind its core business focuses takes place. The product range now in place is diverse and impressive, ranging from working on mechanized mining solutions for underground trackless operations to integrated product supply and support post-sale and modular format builds packaged on standard platforms (maximizing cost advantages and remaining flexible to custom work as clients require). All such activities are underpinned by a company aim to continue “producing quality products measured by their operational capability and quality of build.”

Of course, behind each individual product released is a strong team of Fermel engineers and developers which fall under the company’s research and development division. The company says that an engineering office, driven by Intellectual property key holders, is responsible for all of the work done in this discipline. This includes developing modular product platforms, aimed at matching the diverse product offering and using cutting-edge design and validation software packages—from conceptualizing new products to providing commercially realized items and related documents and manuals. Next in line is Fermel’s manufacturing activities, where the company’s central African location and access to skilled workforces and suppliers comes into its own. Fermel says that there are three specific facilities, each of which is defined by product line. All three operate all under overhead cranes and 5,000 square metres of workshop floor space. These are defined as product assembly lines, machine tools shop, fitting workshop, electric workshop, and a hydraulic installations centre.

By focusing on the industrialization of the building process, Fermel ensures that it maximizes productivity and product quality throughout its manufacturing division. This can take continuous updates and focuses, from buying up the latest and greatest in tools and equipment and systems, to working with a global network of partners to keep up-to-date with the latest technology available for the company to bring to its clients. In terms of advancing people that same focus of constant improvement and development still applies, and the company takes all necessary steps to help Fermel employees develop their skills and strengths, whether they are on the work floor or in overseeing management—and in doing so the company continues to advance and attract the best skilled persons around.

“Long-term relationships are built on our ability to provide our clients with efficient and reliable support in the care of their equipment. We strive to achieve this in a seamless manner with dedicated account management functioning to umbrella both the acquisition and the maintenance of our products,” the company says.

“We are committed to providing a strong presence the form of established Fermel entities in proximity of our clients operations to provide technical support and the reassurance of our commitment in the form of accessibility to inventory of replacement parts.”

With this in mind, Fermel works tirelessly to cover all corners of its given market with the utmost in aftercare services and the company counts its responsibility as an original equipment manufacturer to be down to the organic growth within this aspect of its business. The geographical footprint of Fermel’s target market today only serves to support the successful way the company has tailored and honed its aftercare activities to meet any project and related Fermel product in question.

After care services include:

-Client Training
-Lifetime Account Management
-In-house capability for repairs of products and parts
-Service Exchange programs
-Varying degrees of technical support from Ad Hoc Field Service, Scheduled Equipment audits and reporting, Dedicated service contracts, Comprehensive Maintenance Agreements, structured to meet the clients -requirements

In the news today

One of the latest announcements marking Fermel’s ever growing geographical footprint came in August when the company registered as a trading entity in Zambia.

“As a consequence of a growing number of sales, Fermel will now be permanently represented in the country. The business will focus on the sales, distribution and support of Fermel products in the region, allowing our clients uninhibited and continuous access to Fermel,” the company stated.

“The creation of a registered company in the country follows our commitment to organic and sustainable growth in new markets. Client confidence with our ability to provide levels of service commensurate with their requirements will be the key objective for our fledgling operation.”

In November, it was announced that with its partner on the product, Fermel’s first drill prototype, which is marketed as a long hole drill, will be commissioned for testing at the end of the month. Fermel set about supplying its own staff to operate the drill, intended to provide feedback on the real-time performance of the machine and weigh it up against previous design expectations.

“During the trial period, Fermel will also be responsible for the maintenance of the equipment, for the compilation of an expected cost of ownership model,” the company states.

“While this unit enters operation, a second machine is being readied for release in February 2011. And to accommodate our latest addition, our facilities in Alberton and Wadeville are being expanded to cater with the increased demand from a manufacturing and most importantly an after-market perspective,” says the company’s website.

Further down the development track is Fermel’s trial loader which, following successful introduction and nearing the end of its nine month trial period at Anglo-Platinum, has delivered more good news. Anglo has elected to purchase the TMECH 600 LP LHD.

“‘The machine was equipped with an on-board weighing system and is being maintained on-site by Fermel personnel. This has given our engineers insight to the actual performance of the unit over the period and with it the cost of servicing and maintaining the machine,” the company says.

“Our TMECH designers also grasped the opportunity and introduced small upgrades throughout the period to further improve the machine’s performance and ease of intervention by maintenance staff.”

Once Fermel’s efforts in research and development, business focuses, product ranges and manufacturing are understood, it is easy to see why the company has enjoyed many successful projects and long-term relationships with globally recognized clients. A further look at the aftercare services indicates exactly why clients keep going back to Fermel, and those who hear of their capability, whether on a geographical, industry or sheer reputation basis, are initially attracted to find out more. No company accomplishes 50 years in the mining equipment and associated services field without strong ideals and client commitment and there are not many who rival Fermel in its market setting today.