Reduce Your Equipment Total Cost of Ownership with Tailored Remote Support

SMS Equipment has the solution for reducing the total cost of operations (TCO) in remote operations

SMS Equipment has the solution for reducing the total cost of operations (TCO) in remote operations

When a remote northern fly-in/fly-out mine was ready to commence construction, management knew the importance of controlling their equipment maintenance costs. 

So right from the start, they engaged SMS Equipment to handle their maintenance. “We started off supporting everything with an engine,” says Cory Moberg, GM Remote Mining & Operations Support at SMS Equipment. “Not only the original Komatsu auxiliary and production equipment, but snowmobiles, ice augers, pickup trucks.” As the site grew, the operator gradually brought in their infrastructure to displace some of that non-traditional work. “As they prepared, we slowly released these duties back to the client, and we focused more on the core products—the Komatsu and primary mining gear.”

Serving more than one purpose, this approach ensured the mine equipment’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was kept to a minimum:

Serving more than one purpose, this approach ensured the mine equipment’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was kept to a minimum:

as well as purchase cost, cost of maintenance is an important ingredient of TCO, the true measure of equipment lifetime cost.
 
In fact, Moberg reckons it’s the real multiplier in the TCO model. “We’ve heard that our units run up to 30 percent lower TCO than our competitors,” he says. To earn that, “we target the customers’ needs and wants. We work with them to get exactly what they’re asking us to do, and we provide those services; modifying them by design, over time.”
 
“We not only represent the OEM as we normally would, but we act as the customer’s maintenance department. It’s a very symbiotic relationship; a true partnership by definition,” he says. “We work with them to make informed decisions on how to best maintain their equipment.”
Many remote sites are camp based

Many remote sites are camp based

Camp is like a small town where not only do they work side by side with the customer’s people but they go home and eat at the same table, watch television together. To increases efficiencies, SMS Equipment cross-trains their people so they might be on a shovel one day, a haul truck the next, a pickup or a skidsteer the day after. 

But it’s not only about that all-important skillset; it is about them fitting in to the camp site. “Often we know we’re successful when the only difference between us and our customers’ people is the branding on their coveralls,” says Moberg. “We work on the same things, we have the same goals, we work the same way—we have a team standard.” 

No two remote support sites are the same. For example, “we have a fly-in camp north of Fort McMurray, that operates seven days in, seven days out,” says Moberg. “We also have Fort Frances in Ontario, which is road accessible, but we treat it much as a fly-in based on 14 days in, 14 days out. Another one we just started is Hinton, Alberta. We don’t look at that one as entirely a remote site but based on logistics and distance from a major center we have our team members there and treat it as a camp even though they are staying locally in the town of Hinton.”

Flexibility is key to remote mining success

Flexibility is key to remote mining success

Moberg offers an example from a remote mine operator in eastern Canada who bought a brand new fleet of new model 240-tonne trucks. “Once commissioning was complete, we then left the site, and the machines experienced some downtime,” he says. “So we strategized with the client and supplied a technician on each shift, and in a very short period had the trucks working at 95 percent availability. “Not only did this bring the machine performance up to expected levels, but it demonstrated our team’s talents. The customer also recognized their value, as they tripled our staged labour work force headcount.” 

When a mining operation moves into a new area, it can be difficult to find the requisite highly skilled people. SMS Equipment has the solution. Its Remote Mining Group maintains a highly-trained mobile workforce available for rapid deployment.

“At the center of these remote sites, is our Acheson branch that we designed to be an immediately accessible labour pool,” explains Moberg. “If next week a customer says ‘I need 20 people’ we can parachute them in—fully functional. This team is already technically capable, up on the policies and procedures, and understands what it takes to run a mine site. As proper community supporters, once we’ve stood the site up, we then recruit locally and integrate accordingly. As that team displaces the Acheson labour pool we bring the Acheson team back out, and the customer can maintain production. We can do this anywhere.”

The challenges and diversity of remote operations attract the best employees, says Moberg. “The real courageous people, looking for diversity and a different challenge. When we add our training and certification programs, I think we create the best technicians in the world. We challenge them to step out of their comfort zone and learn new things.” 

On-site, SMS Equipment teams generally accommodate or adopt the customer’s policies—with one potential exception. “When it comes to safety we will compare with ours and see who has the higher standard and we follow that,” says Moberg. “If the customer has policies specific to their own needs, we will adopt their policy. Over the years, we’ve pushed ours and our customer's safety expectations higher. At these remote sites, medical assistance is often an airplane ride away, so maintaining a rigorous safety culture is absolute.”

This level of remote team operations wouldn’t work without timely parts availability. “Our parts are strategically located, most often, right at the customer site,” says Larry Wakeford, General Manager, Mining Equipment Sales. “Our parts philosophy is that we will have parts when you need them.”

Above all, it is a lasting relationship. “We are together for a long term commitment, we will win together,” sums Moberg. “And we can do it anywhere.”

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