Chances are at least one older piece of equipment is in operation on your site. Possibly, it is a machine that is no longer produced and for which conventional support may no longer be available. At the very least, it may be difficult to find parts and components. It may be an L-800 Letourneau loader, a Marion shovel, a Page dragline or a Wabco hauler.
Basic common sense and the hard reality of economics dictate that, while these machines play an important day-to-day role in your operation, a new replacement for its function cannot be justified. Extended lead times on new machinery in this heated mining environment can eliminate the option of replacing the machinery altogether for companies wanting to take immediate advantage of high commodity prices. The high demand for machinery and replacement parts also tends to drive pricing up.
So how do you keep older machinery running when the need to keep costs down to be competitive is crucial? Increasingly, mine maintenance and materials management personnel are turning to the used or surplus parts/components market. The main reasons are straightforward. Used or surplus original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are sure to fit and are sure to be a match in terms of profile, hardness, strength, durability, output, etc. Both ‘new/special order’ and ‘new/aftermarket’ generally feature lengthy lead times when parts, perhaps surplus to another property, are available immediately to those who can find them. Last but not least, as used/surplus, these items are generally available at a substantial savings.
Naturally, the first call made is to the equipment dealer or the OEM. Not all, however, have wholly embraced or established infrastructure for support of past or present models through used components and attachments. There are also larger independent organizations, generally outside of the dealer/distributor circle, who may purchase and stock items for eventual sale. Then, there are the smaller brokers dealing in surplus directly from minesite to minesite with low operating costs, low overhead and minimal (if any) carrying cost. The key here, of course, is establishing dialogue with cautious and thorough people and in whose judgment you are comfortable. When the item is being brokered, ask if your contact is willing to travel with you to view the material offered firsthand (see checklist below).
Knowledge, caution and experience are the only safeguards against the unexpected when sourcing used and rebuilt components and attachments. In addition, non-destructive analysis has become increasingly common, increasingly available and more accurate. Be specific and complete with information you supply to your contact so that you both know the correct item is being sought. If the component to be replaced is not the original received with the machine when new, be sure to provide the correct replacement information.
With a little care, proper use, and common sense, much of this older machinery will still be productive and profitable to operate for many years to come.
A checklist of recommended questions
What is the serial number of the host machine from which the component was removed or at least a serial number range into which the host machine falls, along with the part, assembly or group number of the item offered?
What are the hours on the item since new or last major overhaul, and will the item be opened and inspected and tested where possible?
Will digital photos and reports be made available, i.e. oil samples, measurements, megger tests, etc., and if warranty/guarantee is available, will it be delayed to start after reasonable allowance for transit time?
What is the lead time to availability for shipment and transit time?
Are all logistic charges incorporated, including freight, handling, pilot cars, fuel surcharges and insurance (for ocean, air and over-the-road freight) and are all brokerage, duties and levies included for exit from the country of origin as well as entry to the destination (your) country?
Will the material offered be thoroughly cleaned to avoid quarantine, extra charges and unnecessary delay upon arrival, and is special packaging required for compliance with destination country requirements?
Dan Rachiele, of RAX Enterprises Inc., has a lot of experience working with used equipment.