Tag Archives: Steve Abbott

Fenner Dunlop strives for mine site safety improvements with iBelt offering

Fenner Dunlop says it is revolutionising safety within the mining industry with its intelligent conveying products and services.

Performing manual inspections is a major challenge that mine sites face on a daily basis, and they can have serious implications to the safety of personnel on site.

This is one of the reasons the company is finding customers are particularly interested in its mobile inspections and thickness testing solutions through iBelt’s BeltGauge and DigitalHub technology, according to Steve Fidoe, Senior Diagnostics Service Coordinator.

“Some of our customers in the Pilbara have over 100 conveyor systems on site, which would traditionally mean a larger workforce required to complete the belt thickness reports,” he said.

“By investing in BeltGauge, our customers are able to reduce the number of people required on site – less people means less risk and less time spent on site.”

BeltGauge is available in a fixed or mobile unit. The fixed unit provides 24/7 autonomous monitoring, removing the need for any technicians on site performing hazardous tasks. While the mobile unit doesn’t eliminate technicians from site, it does reduce risk of damage to equipment, the conveyor system and, most importantly, the person performing the scan, Fenner Dunlop said.

The mobile BeltGauge is designed to be easily transported, installed and moved to the next conveyor. It was designed from the ground up, taking into consideration the learnings of Fenner Dunlop’s first-generation BeltGauge unit, known as OTT, and the experience of its technicians.

While the core hardware has not changed much, the new BeltGauge units are more ergonomic and flexible in design, according to the company.

“The previous OTT units were long and weighed approximately 30 kg,” Fidoe said. “This came with vehicle load restraints and potential manual handling hazards, not to mention days lost just getting the equipment to site.

“As you can imagine, equipment that is 3 m long is difficult to manoeuvre; clipping together the mobile BeltGauge is a much more streamlined approach.”

The mobile BeltGauge unit is made from a range of plastic composites that clip together, meaning no hazardous tooling is required, such as spanners, hammers, or power tools. The reduction in weight and size also means that freight and manual handling are no longer a safety issue. When compared with the OTT, the mobile BeltGauge design has reduced the weight by over 50%, according to the company.

Fidoe explained: “Mobile BeltGauge allows us to be reactive for our customers. It can be transported as airport carry-on with technicians on site and ready to perform work within one day. Once on site, the job can be completed in as little as two hours.”

Recent developments allow mobile BeltGauge to be suitable for all applications, according to Fidoe.

“In the past it has been nearly impossible to obtain thickness readings safely for certain applications, such as elevated systems with narrow gangways or short-cycle stacker systems where angles are constantly changing and there is limited space for installs,” Fidoe said.

Mobile BeltGauge, meanwhile, can be assembled at the conveyor system with technicians able to obtain readings from challenging positions.

“Our team can position the unit safely under belts without the risk of equipment overhanging walkways,” Fidoe said.

“We were able to prove to customers that mobile BeltGauge removes technicians from hazards and allows thickness testing to be completed on a live system safely.”

Fenner Dunlop has also designed a fixed BeltGauge unit as the permanent option for sites wanting 24/7 autonomous monitoring.

“The fixed unit is a tool that allows sites to effectively utilise their condition monitoring teams – it doesn’t replace condition monitoring on site, but instead acts as an additional asset making teams more accurate, more efficient and able to take decisive action in the lead up to shutdowns,” Fidoe said.

“On one site alone, BeltGauge identified at least eight conveyors that were suffering significant wear, which the site was consequently able to address prior to it becoming a major issue.”

Another element of iBelt’s intelligent conveying technology is DigitalHub, which assists technicians to conduct digital inspections via a mobile app. Digital inspections have been rolled out at a number of sites across Australia, allowing sites to improve planning efficiency, Fenner Dunlop said.

“Mobile inspections through our DigitalHub app are more comprehensive than similar products in our industry,” Fidoe said. “Technicians are guided to capture critical data, events and photos, with issue alerts triggered before an inspection is even finished.

“Customers can be looking at the data in the DigitalHub portal while the technician is performing the next scan or inspection.”

Fenner Dunlop Chief Operating Officer, Steve Abbott, concluded: “Our outlook is that these things go hand in hand – when you make something safer, you allow sites to become more efficient. The customer has remained at the forefront of iBelt technology developments.

“Ultimately, the iBelt range of intelligent conveying products and services provide customers with a maintenance strategy that can be customised to suit unique customer needs.”

Fenner Dunlop presses ahead with Western Australia expansion plans

Fenner Dunlop is to once again expand its Kwinana manufacturing facility in Western Australia, with a third steel cord press line set to boost capacity by 50%.

Since opening the A$70 million ($50 million) manufacturing facility in Kwinana, in 2009, the company has looked to progressively expand its capabilities in line with market demand.

The original facility, built specifically to produce steel cord belting, represented, at the time, the largest investment in conveyor belting manufacturer ever made in Australia by any company, according to the company.

In 2013, an additional A$20 million was invested to install a second press line to double the plant’s production capacity and increase the Kwinana workforce by 30%.

“Australian manufacturing has survived many challenges over the past decade,” the company said. “The COVID-19 crisis in 2020 has demonstrated the value of Australian manufacturing to the economy and to the mining sector in particular.

“While other companies are contracting and moving their manufacturing operations offshore, Fenner Dunlop continues to support the local economy and is proud to be the largest conveyor belt supplier in Australia and the only company to manufacture the complete range of conveyor belts for all mining applications locally.”

Today the facility houses two of the world’s largest steel cord press lines and has the capability to produce steel cord and rubber ply belting up to 3,200 mm wide and up to 50 mm thick.

Steve Abbott, Chief Operating Officer, said: “Kwinana is close to its main customers, allowing us to provide a quality product with reduced lead times while keeping the investment in Western Australia.

“Our customers have the convenience of dealing with a global business, supported by a state-of-the-art conveyor belt manufacturing facility in their backyard and the assurance of technical support that understands the local operational environment.”

These customers include Rio Tinto, BHP and many more.

Fenner Dunlop says it is once again partnering with Siempelkamp to commission the third line, which is the finest multi-piston press and associated equipment in the world, continuing the longstanding partnership in the production of high-quality conveyor belts.

The third line will increase the plant‘s capacity by a further 50%, and additional investment will support the efficient manufacture of fabric conveyor belts for Western Australian customers, the company added.

Abbott said: “The plant expansion is part of our longer-term strategy, following the plant opening in 2009 and the initial expansion in 2013. While the expansion is a reflection of our success, it allows us to maintain our responsiveness in quoting, production and delivery to meet the constantly changing requirements of our customers.”

The A$23.5 million investment is part of Fenner Dunlop’s commitment to grow its conveyor belt production to meet the increasing demand in Western Australia, it said.

The manufacturing plant also incorporates a testing and R&D laboratory to ensure all work is done to the highest quality and safety standards and all systems are under constant review and continual improvement.

Site work is scheduled to start in March 2021 with the commissioning in December 2021. The new press line will start full production in January 2022, according to the company.