What's driving the mining sector

What’s driving the  mining sector’s upward trajectory?

A story by Fred Whalley of Bonfiglioli AU

Fred Whalley started with the company 21 years ago and is a sales manager servicing Western Australia. Most of his work takes place from a small office or from his home as he works to service mines across the region.

Founded in Australia in 1998, Bonfiglioli provides high quality gearmotors to an array of industries, including the mining sector. Fred Whalley started with the company 21 years ago and is a sales manager servicing Western Australia.

Most of his work takes place from a small office or from his home as he works to service mines across the region. 

“The company saw a market for their gearboxes in Australia, but when I first joined nobody really knew Bonfiglioli and we were predominantly known for smaller ‘worm boxes’” explains Fred.

“Early days, the biggest challenge was recognition. Our biggest competitor was in Australia 10 years before we ever arrived here.”

Italian founder Clementino Bonfiglioli created the first worm gearbox and subsequently patented the two-stage planetary gearbox, which Whalley says largely contributes to our success.

Today, we supply some of the largest mining operations in Australia, predominantly in iron ore.

“We’re standardised with our core products such as in-line, helical and right-angle boxes, but we also have our planetary range. The planetary has been our biggest driving force over the years with our unique combination of standard products and planetary products.”

When selecting a planetary gearbox, Fred says that one can opt for either electric or hydraulic. “This is quite a unique offering compared to what is currently available on the market”.

Speaking to the effect that COVID-19 has had on the market, Fred says that Bonfiglioli experienced their best year ever, despite the odds. “We picked up Bonfiglioli’s biggest project in recent history, a multi-million-dollar deal” he recalls.

So, what is driving the upward trajectory?

“It has to be our delivery time. Ss operations expand, mining companies are asking for delivery times that are largely unable to be fulfilled. We cater to delivery demand by optimising its build times and maintaining component stockpiles in Australia to cut out international shipping of large parts.”

“We tend to stock our gearboxes as components, which means we can stock more in head office and then build from there. We will bring the odd gearbox from Europe into Perth, but nine out of 10 times we have stock modules to give us better delivery times,” Whalley explains.

Another key factor is undoubtedly quality – coupled with service life.

Fred says the best way to have a long-life gearbox is the correct selection. When trying to make a sale and a customer claims a product is a lot more expensive, the sales representative makes sure to ask, “are we quoting apples for apples?” “In a case like this we often find competitors quote for smaller boxes at cheaper prices, which won’t last for as long” says Fred.

“Customers are far better off investing a bit more for a product that will last, especially in such a heavy industry like mining. “I recently received an enquiry about an operation with 10 of our feeder drives, which had been running for 10 years and they’re only now looking at reconditioning them one at a time.”

Bonfiglioli’s combination box is comprised of a planetary and HDO box together. “The combination box is a planetary and HDO box together, for example, forming a right-angle boxed. This makes it more compact, allowing it to transmit a lot more torque, while fitting into smaller applications”.

On the future of the product’s industry, Fred expects trends to continue much as they have for the last 20 years – that is, in size.

“I’ve been dealing with virtually the same gearboxes, but the sizes have grown. These big mine sites are looking to increase production, so where they used to have one gearbox, they now need two. Looking into the long-term complexities and costs of having two gearboxes, they may then decide they want one bigger box”.

Bonfiglioli’s 300 series offers 20 options with a torque range from 1000 nanometre (nm) to 1.1 million nm.

Having “seen it all”, Fred’s advice to companies in the sector is to invest more now to reap the rewards in the long run.