The customer-supplier dynamic in quarrying and mining
27 Apr 2017
British Fluid Power Association member companies, Brammer and Eriks UK, and OEM equipment supplier, Terex Trucks, consider some of the most important aspects of customer-supplier relationships within the quarrying and mining vehicle and machinery marketplace.
For OEM suppliers of vehicles and machinery to sectors such as quarrying and mining, it is critical to demand the highest standards when it comes to sourcing parts and equipment from supplier partners. Nick Love, global customer solutions manager of Volvo Group company, Terex Trucks, explained that when selecting parts and components for its trucks – including pumps, cylinders, valves, motors, hydraulic hoses & connectors and tubes etc. – the company needs be able to rely on suppliers who can deliver within short specified lead-times, while also adhering to the same high quality, reliability, safety and environmental standards as Terex Trucks itself does.
Similarly, suppliers to OEMs need to ensure that their own equipment supply chain is as efficient and reliable as possible in order for them to provide the best product and service provision to customers. As an example, Andrew Dawes, product manager for hydraulics at British Fluid Power (BFPA) member company, Eriks UK, picks up the lead-time theme explaining that timely delivery of equipment from Eriks’s own equipment providers is critical. “With all our customers, we regularly monitor our performance in terms of delivering within specific lead-times and align to what is expected by them,” he said.
Iain Hanson, general manager – fluid, power and seals at BFPA member company, Brammer, also stressed that manufacturers need to have the ability to deliver on time and in full within a short timeframe. “It is important that delivery commitments to customers are met, and where possible are exceeded, to provide added value,” he said, adding: “In turn, we need to ensure the manufacturers we source from are cost-effective in order for our customers to access competitive pricing. Cost is an important element for most customers and they need to be provided with the confidence that the supplier is offering the right products at the right price.”
Quality, environmental and health & safety management
With regard to quality, environmental and health & safety management, Hanson commented that suppliers should be accredited to ISO-9001, ISO-14001 and ISO-18001. “Brammer’s suppliers need to be accredited to these ISO standards in order for us to work with them,” he said, adding that Brammer customers have ever increasing expectations which must be matched as a minimum or exceeded wherever possible.
In terms of in-service parts quality performance, Hanson pointed out that Brammer’s regime focuses on the brand recognition of the product and the minimisation of issues surrounding failed deliveries due to quality concerns. “In this area it is vital that all fluid power components meet the highest quality standards and that suppliers source them from recognised manufacturers who can comply with customer requirements,” he said.
From Eriks UK’s perspective, Dawes explained that the company looks to be included in the design of machinery or vehicles, and supports this through to prototypes with on-site application support. “For example, we are increasingly offering this support within our Eriks European operations to facilitate impulse testing for the compliance/compatibility of hydraulic hose and coupling combinations; especially when different hose covers are required,” he said.
Dawes added that knowing where equipment is going to be used and the intended hours of operation is essential for the correct application of Eriks UK’s knowhow when working with a major OEM customer. He continued: “We look to supply on-site application support for both new and redesigned machinery, including best routing practices and minimal couplings/connections. A number of projects we are currently involved in require us to review how hose assemblies perform when being used in their operational environment and the lifetime of these assemblies, especially when warranty periods and servicing times need to be stated to the ultimate owner of the equipment. One consideration frequently being asked is how the assembly time can be reduced in the production environment. One option is the Gates Quick-Lok programme which aims to reduce factory connection time down by 50% and produce error proof connections, which eliminates leaks and subsequently reduces warranty claims.”
Dawes pointed out that Eriks UK always looks to offer OEM customers the ‘Working Safely with Hydraulic Hose and Connectors’ course in conjunction with the BFPA. “This explains the correct installation practices of assemblies, the working perimeters of hydraulic hose and to the OEM design team the correct specifications of the different hose types as well as the health safety aspect of fitting assemblies and how they perform in service,” he said.
Love commented that Terex Trucks’ partners should also continually strive for quality using industry-recognised methodologies such as 8D (Eight Disciplines Problem Solving) and Ishikawa to ensure that the quality levels are maintained and to ensure that if faults arise during the production of their components these issues are driven back into their design and production processes while providing us with 8D reports illustrating where the errors arose and the rectification measures that have been taken to address those issues.
Love added that Terex Trucks is constantly progressing its own R&D activities, and adheres to 8D and Ishikawa principles. “Working together with suppliers that embrace similarly high standards and continuous improvement methodologies helps us to continually improve the performance and reliability of our trucks, in whatever environment they are required to operate in,” he said. “Within the quarrying and mining industry, for example, our trucks are required to work in some of the most remote areas in the world and in some of the most extreme and arduous conditions – from desert environments that can reach in excess of 50 degrees Celsius, to Siberia where temperatures can reach around minus 50. This, of course, can take its toll on the parts and equipment that are installed on our trucks, and this is why we and our suppliers are constantly striving to improve the integrity of the equipment.”
Love pointed out that Terex Trucks works with some of the world’s leading suppliers of hydraulic hoses, and, together with these companies, looks to continually improve the hose structure and the type of materials used. “In this way, we are constantly striving to reduce the risk of hose failure or leaks – issues that are always at the forefront of any hydraulic circuit designer’s mind; both from an efficiency and health & safety perspective,” he said. “With this in mind, there is a continuous cycle of information being fed back to us; for example, information recovered from warranty statistics and also from customers themselves – something we refer to as VOC (voice of customer).”
The right products, from the right manufacturers, at the right time at the right cost
From Brammer’s perspective, Hanson explained that the company has in place rigorous selection criteria for product sourcing, as well as a continuous improvement policy with regard to its suppliers’ overall performance and the products they provide. This is underpinned by Brammer’s supplier management system (SMS), which focuses on quality, delivery, cost, service and innovation. “We are focused on service and the use of quality management systems to ensure we are dealing with like-minded manufacturers,” said Hanson. “With the right systems in place and the technical support from Brammer, customers can be confident they are receiving the right products, from the right manufacturers, at the right time and at the right cost.”
Love pointed out that, in certain instances, a standard component from a supplier’s catalogue won’t fit an OEM’s required specification. With this in mind, Love explained that Terex Trucks’ technical design engineers can work closely with supplier partners to design and produce bespoke components within a short timeline. “For example, when designing hydraulic systems, we work closely with our supplier partners throughout the design and prototyping stage,” said Love, who added: “Our partners’ applications and design engineers liaise with our own personnel to meet the required values, temperatures, flows etc., for the individual components to ensure the key deliverables of component lifecycle and reliability are always met. The process of customising components can also be driven by the requirement for change indicated by customer feedback, component performance or application learnings developed through field support.”
Eriks UK requests that it be involved in the early stages of the design process, and also involved in subsequent product upgrades. As an example of the benefits of this strategy, Dawes explained that the company has secured improvements in tube manipulation routings (reduction in connections and complexity) and now offers tube assemblies that have increased corrosion resistance via a unique protective coating, without the additional cost of them being manufactured in stainless steel.
In terms of legal compliance with regard to the supply of fluid power parts and equipment, Dawes explained that Eriks UK is increasingly advising its customers regarding the Machinery Directive and the Duty of Care for an OEM and the legislation for burst and leak proof protection for hose assemblies if they are within one metre of the operator.
Supplier relationship backbone
Love concluded that supplier relationships for Terex Trucks are pivotal to ensuring the efficiency and reliability of its equipment, together with the safety of assemblers and operators. He added that it is also crucial that Terex Trucks and its suppliers adhere to a strict environmental ethos. “As part of the Volvo Group, one of our core focuses is on ensuring that our business partners are aligned to these ideals, as well as helping us to continually drive improvements for our company and our customers,” he said.