MRO product specialists Brammer operate in nine key sectors, including quarries. With more than 5 million products available from the 90 Brammer branches around the UK and the company’s central distribution centre in Manchester, most operators will find what they need in bearings and seals, mechanical power transmission, fluid power, electrical power transmission, tools and maintenance and PPE and site safety. But if 90 branches are still not enough, customers can have their own on-site mini version with the Brammer Invend and Insite vending services.
These are a good way of making all those smaller, frequently used consumables, including products such as masks and gloves, readily available while at the same time tracing who is using them, which has been found to reduce consumption of them by as much as 40% on some sites. Having decided the stock levels required, Brammer will keep the vending machines stocked to that level to make life easy for the customer. It is clearly a popular proposition because last year the number of installations of the vending machines topped the 1,000 mark.
Babcock invited visitors to take the Babcock Challenge by completing a buzzwire course in the quickest possible time without setting off the buzzer, with a bottle of Prosseco being given away each day for the winner. The aim was to get people on the stand to tell them how this UK company has grown into a global business managing £42 billion of assets worldwide.
Babcock have been trading in fleet management for more than 30 years, traditionally working for utilities and emergency services. Three-and-a-half years ago they branched out into mining and minerals, which director Simon Purchon said was ‘a bit of a revelation to us’. What Babcock do is ‘sweat the assets’, so the plant and equipment throughout a group works at maximum potential – and stays working at maximum potential thanks to the use of telematics and preventative maintenance rather than crisis management. ‘Really, we’re allowing our customers to do the same job with fewer assets, saving them money,’ said Mr Purchon.
On the Siemens stand, application specialist Gary Palmer was explaining how the global technology and engineering company is taking a leading role in the next industrial revolution, with minerals being one of the company’s five key areas of operation. At Hillhead 2016, the company was emphasizing how its integrated, no fuss plug-and-play drive systems could be used for greater efficiency and safer conditions in production by gathering smart data from machines. What it amounts to is maximizing the up-time of plant, increasing its reliability and reducing energy consumption using bespoke systems designed for each client’s specific needs. The systems being installed are intended to continue working for 20–25 years, which gives Siemens confidence in the future. This is allowing them to recruit apprentices to make sure the skills of people like Mr Palmer are passed on to another generation of engineers.
When it comes to bitumen, reduced-temperature materials get the job done quicker and Nynas can provide the binders to make low-temperature products. That was the message from director Steve Waller. ‘Our products are part of the armoury of asset managers,’ he said, ‘and asset management is the key to determining whether central government invests.’ He recommended anyone thinking of opening an asphalt plant to talk to Nynas.
Total, who claim pole position as the largest refiner and marketer of bitumen in Europe, say the referendum result on 23 June has done nothing to cool their enthusiasm for including the UK in that claim. Investment in the UK continues and the first boat arrived at Total’s new Southern terminal in Thurrock, Essex, during Hillhead. It was more than a decade ago that Total carried out a sustainability survey that identified durability, lower temperatures and recycling as main areas of development along with improvements in health and safety. Those aims have been successfully pursued. Visitors to the stand heard how, for example, Total Styrelf PMB and ECO2 bitumen could assist with the asset management of highways. With lower working temperatures and rapid return to use, it means highways reopen to traffic sooner and the carbon footprint is reduced. ‘It’s all about solutions,’ said national sales & marketing manager John Tuite.
Northern Ireland has become a recognized centre of manufacturing for quarrying, mining, recycling and construction equipment, with all the benefits of geographical proximity that such a concentration brings. The importance of the province to the sector was in full evidence at Hillhead with 40 companies from Northern Ireland exhibiting. And, judging by the accents, there was also a good number of visitors from all parts of Ireland, North and South, among the visitors.
As well as major companies from Northern Ireland, such as Powerscreen and Smiley Munroe, exhibiting on stands of their own, 19 firms were exhibiting in a Northern Irish avenue with Invest Northern Ireland, the Belfast-based economic development agency that helps companies develop products and export them worldwide. It helped the companies exhibiting under its banner with the cost of being at Hillhead. In return, the sector provides the region with some £500 million of exports each year.
Powerscreen, as mentioned earlier, were celebrating 50 years in business at the exhibition this year – a celebration that was rounded off for 450 of their worldwide network of distributors and major customers on the Friday following Hillhead at the Titanic Centre in Belfast (see page 50). Powerscreen were one of the companies that led Northern Ireland into its dominant position in the manufacture of products for the minerals processing and construction industries, but it is a sector that is still attracting new companies, some of which were exhibiting at this year’s Hillhead for the first time thanks to Invest Northern Ireland.
They included Crushing & Screening Parts, set up two years ago by Michael McGrath after he had spent 25 years in various divisions of Terex. His aim is to be a single source spares supplier to processing companies, no matter which machinery they are using. And, he says, 65% of the products he is selling originate in Northern Ireland.
But although Crushing & Screening Parts sell all over the world, until now they have not sold much on their own doorstep into the UK – a position Mr McGrath was hoping to change by exhibiting at Hillhead. He said he had not exhibited at Bauma in Germany in April because ‘it’s too expensive, too far away and too international’. ‘What I like about Hillhead is that it’s more to the point. If you want to talk to quarry people this is where you come,’ he added.
Another of the Northern Irish companies was Pneutrol International, manufacturers of automatic batching control systems. The company is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and at Hillhead was introducing a new version of a product that measures the slump of concrete. According to sales manager Jordan Miller, it is the first system of its kind on the market.
The system not only measures concrete rheological properties such as slump, load volume, viscosity, yield stress and temperatures in a mixer and at delivery, it records them into the cloud, which can put an end to some of the arguments about who is to blame when a concrete turns out to be not quite what was required. ‘With this we can say it was right when it was delivered, it’s up to you what you did with it after that,’ said Mr Miller.
While there is not room here to mention all 19 of the Northern Ireland companies exhibiting with Invest Northern Ireland, another of the region’s specialist manufacturers, Euro Springs, who make precision engineered springs, camber bars, grid bars, grouser bars and tines for many of Northern Ireland’s OEMs, as well as supplying their specialist products, many of them as bespoke solutions, around the world, were back at Hillhead this year after taking a break last time.
Euro Springs’ technical sales director, Martin McNamee, believes the show is important. He said that as well as having an opportunity to see established customers he had also had enquiries from manufacturers in Belgium and Nigeria. ‘We look on this exhibition as an investment in the future. Some people ask if they can afford to come here, but can you afford not to come? Where better to put your message out?’