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Fenner Electrifies Australian Mines

Article published by Australian Mining

Fenner Dunlop is a valued supplier of materials handling, mechanical and electrical services for many Australian mining companies. However, the company considers itself to be more of a partner than supplier.

Since acquiring Australian Conveyor Engineering (ACE) in 2012, Fenner Dunlop has become recognised for a service portfolio that includes ACE’s 25-plus years of experience in conveyor design, manufacturing and installation abilities.

Conveyor Starters 600

Fenner Dunlop ACE regional manager for New South Wales Shane Wilson says an aspect of the company that sets it apart from competitors is having both the in-house electrical and mechanical engineering teams working collaboratively. 

“We work together at the same location to ensure a complete customer engineered solution is provided,” Wilson tells Australian Mining.

“We don’t look at the problems or projects individually, we work collectively to ensure we produce the best outcome for the customer.

“ACE has been manufacturing electrical solutions for the industry over the past 15 years, these solutions include both hardware and control systems to ensure reliability, market advances and user operability are included in the final solution.”

The company used this process when working with a New South Wales coal mine, building not only a positive working relationship, but also helping the mine to improve productivity during all phases of the mining process.

“In mining when an outbye conveyor is stopped all inbye conveyors are also stopped,” Wilson explains. “An outbye conveyor could stop due to belt tracking issues, a belt rip or equipment inspection, which can cost 10 to 20 minutes of productivity each time depending on the site. 

“While this doesn’t sound like much on its own, it quickly adds up.

“To combat the loss of production in these times we have implemented systems to ensure we can continue to maintain coal on these belts until it reaches the conveyor that has stopped.

“This provides the longwall development an opportunity to continue to produce, which reduces start up times whilst enabling some production to continue, especially when the stoppage is a short one.

“This enables coal processing to continue rather than coming to a standstill.”

In addition to increased productivity, Fenner Dunlop has developed solutions to improve both safety and productivity for the industry utilising its electrical solutions.

One example that Fenner Dunlop has developed is an online thickness tester, a unit that allows remote monitoring of the cover belt over the entire length and width for the conveyor belt.

This means rather than having people manually measure the belt cover thickness, there is a permanent monitoring system that removes workers from the equation. The data is remotely monitored and reports provided to the customer.

Conveyor belts are considered one of the most dangerous areas on a mine site, due to the sheer number of moving parts, and trip and slip hazards, particularly in poor environmental conditions.

“We spend a lot of time designing how we assemble our equipment to ensure that maintenance or repairs can be completed practically and safely,” Wilson says.

“We have our electricians and engineers on site regularly to provide real-world feedback on our designs and how we can constantly improve to make equipment safer.”

Part of the Fenner Dunlop’s manufacturing process is putting all equipment through its in-house high voltage test bay for function testing before putting it out in the field. This ensures that substation starters and associated equipment are tested at their nominal voltage prior to dispatch.

The testing isn’t limited to Fenner Dunlop’s staff though, with customers also involved in the development of their projects once it is deemed safe for them to do so.

“Once we’ve completed our safety protocols and concluded our internal testing, we open up that test space for customers to do their own testing,” Wilson explains.

“This ensures when it goes in to be commissioned there’s less time spent in that commissioning process on site, as its easier to diagnose and rectify during testing in the workshop.”

This is reflective of Fenner Dunlop’s close relationship with its clients – as a partner instead of a regular supplier.

Fenner Dunlop’s partnership approach goes as far as the company having ongoing support teams on certain sites, allowing them to be close by to resolve any issues and take on valuable feedback from clients.

The company also offers remote support and monitoring, which is ideal for more isolated sites.

Fenner Dunlop considers itself only a phone call away and able to assist, despite the geographical distance that Australia’s remote mining operations pose.

“If a client rings us middle of the night or during the day for support, instead of having to drive or fly out to a site, which can be five to six hours, you can log in remotely,” Wilson says.

“Having experienced support team, we can have a look at appropriate trends and understand what might be happening to remotely fault find. The systems are designed so all information is available to you.”

Even if the Fenner Dunlop team is unable to see what’s physically happening on-site, the remote monitoring system is advanced enough that being connected to the client by phone allows them to troubleshoot most issues.

“The motto of Fenner Dunlop is is all about being customer centric and ensuring our customers problems can be resolved quickly,” Wilson concludes. “Our brand is on the equipment, so we want to be a partner with our clients the whole way through.”