Epiroc continued to register strong demand for its equipment in the December quarter, with the mining OEM’s order intake increasing both in the underground and surface mining segments, the company reported today.
Headline numbers from the December quarter included a 1% year-on-year increase in orders received to SEK9.3 billion ($1.1 billion), a 5% drop in revenues to SEK9.8 billion, a 10% increase in operating profit to SEK2.2 billion and a higher operating margin of 22.6%, compared with 19.6% a year earlier.
In terms of its equipment, Epiroc said orders received increased 26% organically to SEK2.97 billion in the last quarter of 2020.
Speaking to IM shortly after the results were released, Helena Hedblom, Epiroc CEO, explained: “The equipment orders…were across our portfolio, and the good thing is there were not that many large orders in the quarter; it was many small- and medium-sized orders.”
This would imply the strength in equipment demand – which came from both the underground mining and open-pit mining segment – is broad across the industry, coming not just from the major miners.
This pattern was also seen in the September quarter of 2020 when the company recorded a 25% year-on-year organic increase in equipment orders in the period, with the majority of orders coming from small- to medium-sized contracts of, say, one or two pieces of equipment, Hedblom said at the time of the results release.
Looking at the wider equipment and service segment of the business – which provides rock drilling equipment, equipment for mechanical rock excavation, rock reinforcement, loading and haulage, ventilation systems, drilling equipment for exploration, water, oil and gas, as well as related spare parts and service for the mining and infrastructure industries – Epiroc said the share of orders from equipment in this segment was 43% in the December quarter. Service, meanwhile, represented 57% of the orders.
Epiroc said it expected demand, both for equipment and aftermarket, to remain stable in the near term, while cautioning: “Uncertainty, however, still remains regarding the COVID-19 development and any further related restrictions.”
In the results release, Hedblom said automation, digitalisation and electrification solutions were in high demand over the quarter, with the company connecting more and more machines over this time frame.
“We continue to win orders and we are proud of our market-leading solutions that are globally deployed and proven,” she said. “They enable increased productivity, safety and sustainability for our customers.”
When questioned about the planned acquisition of MineRP, announced late in the quarter, Hedblom said the combination of the MineRP platform with its own digital solutions would allow Epiroc to “become a better productivity partner” in a mine’s digital journey.
IM also got Hedblom’s thoughts on if there was a regional difference in the speed of uptake of ‘new technology’ in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. She said: “I see this technology shift coming in a different light with the pandemic. Sustainability is coming in; digital tools are becoming more and more natural as we need them.
“There is maybe an acceptance that the technology is here to stay, is available and customers want to jump on this journey now. I see it across all regions, which is a bit different to how the mining industry has adopted new technologies in the past.
“We have good traction everywhere now when it comes to new technologies.”
And, on the subject of ‘new technology’ uptake, IM asked Hedblom if she saw any parallels between the evolution of automated equipment adoption in the mining sector – which started with solely new autonomous equipment purchases to improve operations and moved towards a combination of retrofits and new equipment as the technology gained traction – and how companies may look to leverage mine electrification underground.
She answered: “I think it is too early to say yet. If I look into the coming 5-10 years, conversion of existing fleet will be one way to speed up the electrification journey. That is also why we are investing and developing these types of products to allow us to offer retrofits as part of the mid-life rebuild process, for example.”