The continuous miner rebuild market is small and split between a few big, established suppliers, but the offerings are plenty
by jesse morton, technical writer
It has maybe never been easier to get a top-notch custom rebuild on a continuous miner. Suppliers in the space now offer a level of optionality that can only come from much study of the market and extensive experience, troubleshooting and improvising. When asked about the rebuild options and offerings available, the suppliers are glad to disclose the caramel nugget of their success. It is no state secret, they said. Their top-tier personnel are what makes them able to offer what they do. And what they do, they do well.
Levels of Optionality
Komatsu reported that its Life Cycle Management (LCM) partnership offering for Joy equipment is arranged to generate the most value possible by optimizing equipment performance so it produces at the lowest cost per ton.
In a typical LCM agreement, “we are partnering with our customers to provide solutions for improved machine performance, higher levels of machine availability, and increased production of the equipment over its life cycle,” said Mike Lane, regional manager, soft rock, Komatsu. “As a strategic partner to our customers, we invest in project management, inventory planning, remote machine monitoring and field support.”
An LCM program can help a customer realize lower capital and maintenance costs, higher equipment availability, secured production slots for rebuilds, more efficient inventory planning, and quicker responses to troubleshoot equipment issues, he said. “In the end, that leads to more uptime.”
Lane told Coal Age the typical LCM agreement works as a strategic partnership that vests Komatsu in the goals of the customer. “It goes beyond the contract,” he said. “We are strategically partnering with our customers to help provide solutions to some of mining’s toughest challenges.”
For example, under one particular agreement with a coal customer that has been in place for a couple of years, Komatsu rebuilds multiple continuous miners, provides support parts and componentry; and assists with machine monitoring, data assessment and maintenance planning.
“Under this program, we leverage our industry-leading supply chain network, center of excellence rebuild facilities, and our highly skilled field service technicians to optimize utilization of the equipment and lower the total cost of ownership for our miners,” Lane said.
Komatsu tracks mining rates, performance of equipment and the number of rebuilds provided on a monthly basis. The results are assessed with the customer’s management team on a quarterly basis. Based on those results, the team “proactively plans forward to meet the upcoming needs of the operation,” Lane said.
“In this instance, we have seen equipment availabilities increase 3% to 5%, monthly production increases of 7% to 15% and mining maintenance cost decreases of 20% to 30%,” Lane said. “Due to the success of the program, we are in discussions to renew it.”
Another rebuild partnership agreement is the Machine Exchange Program (MEP).
In the MEP, Komatsu tracks a new Joy machine by serial number. After a set time or tonnage, the unit comes up for rebuild. “We provide either a new or fully rebuilt machine in exchange for receiving a machine that is ready to come out of service for a rebuild,” Lane said.
Komatsu offers three levels of repair-and-return rebuild service contracts: Joy Prime, Select and Base.
“In a repair-and-return scenario, in which the customer owns their own spare equipment, we would generate a rebuild quote per the original machine serial number, bring the machine into our facility and rebuild it to an agreed scope of work,” Lane said.
The Base level offers repairs centered on customer input, and includes expert recommendations on future services.
Select rebuilds a machine to specifications that extend the interval between rebuilds.
Prime rebuilds offer maximum equipment life at the lowest cost per ton and include a full machine warranty that can be extended based on consumable usage.
The ability to select from a range of contracts and programs allows the customer to shop for benefits, Lane said.
“A customer new to the program needs to know we can provide either short-term or long-term solutions that best suit their needs,” he said. “Programs can be as simple as rebuilding one miner or providing multiple exchange machines to facilitate rebuilding a customer’s fleet of Joy equipment over several years.”
A single Joy miner can be rebuilt multiple times. Each time, the machine is stripped down to the frame.
All mechanical, hydraulic, electrical and electronic components are disassembled, inspected, rebuilt, and tested based on strict standards, Komatsu reported. According to company literature, all hardware, cable and conduit, hoses and fittings, and wear items, including chains, are replaced.
“It is brought into our facility and our highly skilled employees completely rebuild every component on that machine to OEM specifications,” Lane said.
The rebuild is tested to make sure it is compliant with regulatory machine approvals and certificates, he said.
“Generally speaking, any existing Joy continuous miner can be rebuilt back to the original equipment specifications,” Lane said. “When you get a rebuilt machine from us, you are getting a machine that will produce like a new machine and it is backed with the same warranty as if it was brand new.”
After the rebuild is complete, the customer receives updated parts catalogs, technical manuals, and warranty offerings, Komatsu reported. The rebuild is documented for future reference.
The big benefit of entering a Komatsu rebuild contract or agreement is cost savings, Lane said. “The customer has the potential to save several hundred thousand dollars, or several million dollars based on the size and duration of the program selected.”
The other listed benefits all point to the high level of expertise and support the company offers.
“Our manufacturing facilities produce the best quality products in the industry,” Lane said. “We have an unmatched distribution network, industry-leading equipment rebuild facilities, capabilities to remotely monitor equipment to diagnose and prevent catastrophic failures before they occur, and an elite staff of highly skilled sales, engineering and field service personnel able to analyze and provide solutions for our customers, who operate Joy equipment.”
Each Rebuild is a Custom Job
Phillips Machine Service reported its rebuild offerings draw on 40 years of experience and an ingrained commitment to supply the industry with safe, competitively priced, high-quality rebuilt machines.
“Since Phillips began operations in 1976, the company has set the pace for the market when it comes to equipment service and support,” said C.R. Allen, director, sales and marketing, Phillips Machine.
“Phillips was instrumental in the 70s in starting what is today a common occurrence, a service exchange equipment program,” he said. “Today, Phillips is an OEM and is involved in almost all phases of mining equipment, including rebuilding continuous miners, roof bolters, scoops and feeder breakers; remanufacture of shuttle cars; repair and remanufacturing of cutter drums; as well as the sale of used equipment.”
For continuous miners, Phillips offers both contract rebuilds and service exchanges. “Customers can choose to service exchange a continuous miner that will result in no downtime at the mining face,” Allen said. The big benefit of the service exchange offering is minimal interruption in production.
“The old machine is retired and replaced with the rebuilt machine,” he said. “A service exchange is also a path to updated technology.”
The other option is to rebuild machines on a schedule that allows for the rebuild process. “By using their own core machine, they are able to develop a complete historical record of the machine’s life and total cost of ownership,” Allen said.
Allen told Coal Age that each rebuild is a custom job. “Phillips typically does not inventory rebuilt continuous miners,” he said. “The reason for this is no two operations are the same and some level of customization is to be expected.”
Each rebuild typically launches with a meeting with the customer on scope of work, which can vary widely between customers.
Each machine is disassembled into components. The components are then disassembled, cleaned and inspected. Fabrications are sandblasted and inspected. “From that, the repair scope of work is determined,” Allen said.
Worn steel and wear plates are replaced. Major electrical, hydraulic and mechanical components are rebuilt or replaced. “Our facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art machining centers,” Allen said. “Our customers rely on Phillips’ complete precision machine shop, our welding and fabrication facility and our component exchange program to keep their machinery operating cost effectively.”
The machine is fully tested and serviced prior to delivery.
“Phillips will work closely with mine personnel throughout the rebuild process to ensure that all aspects of the machine layout meet customer specifications,” Allen said.
Allen told Coal Age that a rebuild can hit the same performance metrics as a new machine. “We say our rebuilt continuous miners will provide the same level of production as a new machine, and back up that statement by offering the same warranty on our rebuilt machines as the OEM’s offer on their new machines.”
Which is to say the customer effectively pays less for a like-new machine. “A customer should expect from 20% to 30% savings when rebuilding versus buying a new machine,” Allen said. “Of course customization of the core machine will ultimately determine the price and the level of savings.”
In one recent case, the company was tapped for four rebuilds for a customer that had a seam at 5 meters. “No such machines were readily available,” Allen said. The company had to improvise. “So Phillips took a smaller machine and modified it to cut the required height.”
Such innovation has been par for the course, he said.
“Phillips has been rebuilding continuous miners of all sizes and brands for nearly four decades,” Allen said. “Our first exchange product was continuous miner cutter drums. Next was a shuttle car. It only made sense to expand this type of program to other types of mining equipment such as continuous miners, roof bolters, feeder breakers and scoops.”
Over the decades, the company grew to become one of the largest full-service companies of its kind in the world. Allen attributes that success to the company’s philosophy, which, he said, is “to utilize the most skilled people in the industry, to provide a safe working environment, and to provide the best possible machines and components at the most cost-efficient price.”
The goal is to “get our customers back in production as soon as possible,” Allen said. “We are committed to listening to our customers’ needs through underground inspection and consulting,” he said. “The resulting innovations have provided for our continued growth.”
Allen also attributes the company’s success to its personnel. “The skills and expertise of our team is what makes Phillips an important player in the coal industry both nationally and globally,” he said. “Through their dedication, we have developed a cutting-edge technology base.”
Accordingly, potential customers interested in the company’s offerings typically first tour a Phillips factory. “We believe this is the best way to start a new relationship, as the customer will have a chance to see our facility, meet our people, and discuss with our engineering group any needed customizations,” Allen said.
That strategy has paid dividends and the company now has customers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, Russia, South Africa and Australia, he said.
“Our customer are a who’s who of the U.S. mining industry,” Allen said. “Quality is our No. 1 priority,” he said. “This commitment has gained us a reputation that is second to none.”