The undercarriage cost in excavator lifecycle is approximately 30 to 40 per cent, which is a significant maintenance cost. The use of Sleipner extends the life of the undercarriage by at least two to three times; apart from this, there is savings in fuel, says Abhinay Hatewar, Director - Business Development, Houtec Engineering & Services. Excerpts from the interview.
Tell us about the core competency and strengths of Houtec.
Houtec provides innovative, application-focused, customer-oriented and cost-effective solutions in the sector of mining, construction and infrastructure equipment segments. Our strength lies in deeper understanding of customers and their expectations, equipment and their use, job applications and the needs.
What are the range of products and services offered by Houtec?At this point, we are offering Sleipner systems for faster movement of hydraulic excavators within the mines, between the mines, between work locations, on paved surface. The product is being introduced in India. We are getting a very positive response from the customers as the product is going to address many burning issues related to cost, maintenance, fuel, productivity, equipment utilisation, being faced by the equipment operators. There are other products in the pipeline, which we have planned to launch very soon.
Brief us about Sleipner and its application areas.
The movement of excavators is inevitable in mining and other excavation operations for various reasons like material availability, required blend of material, blasting, maintenance, mine planning, mine progression, etc. Moving an excavator on its own power and tracks is a slow and cumbersome process which causes heavy wear and strain on tracks and other undercarriage components, apart from loss of valuable time from production and loss of fuel, etc.
Sleipner is an innovative, globally patented, simple, highly effective and economical method for faster, easier and safer transportation of hydraulic excavator inside open pit mine, large quarries, between sites, on paved surfaces, etc. The idea of Sleipner is to move the excavator so that the tracks are lifted above the ground.
Sleipner is a built-to-last product with high quality material, components with an eye on details. The product also is very easy to maintain, as most of it is only inspection. The best part of the product is that no alternations are needed in existing equipment hence there is no additional investment. Sleipner is a proven product working globally for various mines, various climatic conditions. In fact, the first Sleipners are still under use after more than 16 years of operation. The product range presently available can move excavators from 30 T to 550 T.
What are major advantages a customer gets?
The use of Sleipner system has many benefits like enhanced productivity, increased equipment utilisation, faster mobility, reduced operation cost, reduced maintenance cost, reduced life¡¡¡cycle cost of excavators, reduced down¡¡time of equipment, increased prof¡tability, optimisation of capital equipment, etc. Due to saving in fuel usage, the system even contributes towards a green environment.
The undercarriage cost in an excavator lifecycle is approximately 30 to 40 per cent, which is a significant maintenance cost. The use of Sleipner extends life of undercarriage by at least twice or thrice over, thereby Sleipner contributes heavily in the reduction of lifecycle costs of excavators. Apart from this, there is saving in fuel which is another major cost contributor. The savings in fuel is experienced at an average of 5 per cent. There are benefits in repair and maintenance activities as these activities can be performed in workshops resulting in faster and safer repairs, higher availability, reduction in the field maintenance logistic arrangements, etc.
One other very significant benefit of this system is savings in travel time. Time thus saved can be utilised for actual excavation or production, thereby improving economics of mining operation. Users of this method have experienced increase in production by an average of 5 to 10 per cent. In some mining applications, where positional deployment of excavators are in practice due to issues related to ore quality, this system is very helpful as it can optimise existing fleet of machines. In applications where the equipment are to be moved on paved roads or surfaces like plants, roads, airports, the Sleipner method is very useful as the surfaces are not damaged by excavator tracks. So considering the overall benefits and usability, the Sleipner method contributes to reduction of operating costs of existing excavators, apart from having its own very long lifecycle.
How safe is it to use Sleipner especially when an excavator is moving through slopes and around tight corners?
Mining roads are designed such that the dump trucks can carry full load, so the road design and guidelines include width, grades, slopes, and turns. The system is designed to operate effectively on all kind of mining and construction roads available and no extra efforts are required for development of roads.
The movement and speed in the Sleipner method is controlled by operators of excavators and trucks as well. The excavator, while in movement, is lifted above the ground by 10-15 inch and the engine remains in running condition. On a slope, the excavator is further lowered towards the ground. In the worst and rare cases, the excavator is disengaged instantly by just raising the boom and the movement is stopped by track coming in contact with ground. In this system, the training of operators is very important as being the new way of transportation.
What is the potential for Sleipner in India?
Being the most effective and economical method for frequent movement of excavators and other machines, we believe Sleipner has great potential in India. The users of this system will be from various sectors like mining, quarrying, infrastructure, etc.
What do you think are the major challenges in popularising Sleipner here in India?
The system being innovative and new to our market, this has all the challenges of creating awareness, creating comfort factor, initial sale, training, support, etc. However, we are geared up to handle all the issues to surpass the expectation level of customers. Moreover, once the product is in operation and visible in India, the method, the benefits, the customers will make it all the more popular.
What is the cost factor?
Sleipner is the most economical method available for movement of excavators. Although the returns are different in different sites and operating conditions, during our actual study at various mines and excavation sites, we could establish the astonishing payback of less than six months in many applications.
Has the recessionary trends impacted your business here in India?
Yes, the current conditions related to political uncertainty, economic conditions, uncertainty in mining related issues, currency rates, etc, have impacted our business potential. However, we are very positive and optimistic about future prospects in India. We are targeting a few numbers of Sleipners initially and then we expect to grow this business at an exponential rate.