From November 20 to November 23, a press-tour organized by Epirok was held in Sweden for employees of Russian industrial publications. This company recently changed its focus to mining and mineral retrieval, and more specifically, to the production of special equipment for it. Already after a year of work (the presentation of the newly founded Russian division was held in Moscow on April 12) Epiroc has something to show to our businesses – but since Russian office houses only 500 of its employees the company’s achievements are best seen at home in Sweden, where the press tour was held.
Production of equipment and integrated solutions for the mining industry is the main activity of Epiroc, a newly formed company, and at the same time having the richest experience: the 145-year history of the Swedish company Atlas Copco is the founder of this new brand, created to utilize its experts know-hows.
The competence of the new company includes the supply of equipment of its own production for the extraction of coal, ore materials, diamonds and precious metals. In Russia today its machines are used in more than a hundred mines scattered throughout the country: in Mirny, Khabarovsk, Norilsk, Apatity and many other places. Russia for Epiroc is an important market, fourth in terms of supply volume, right after the United States, Canada and Australia. Of course, the company’s activities are not limited to the development and production of equipment — Epiroc is implementing large-scale service and consulting programs; besides, the services of the company for the lease of equipment are increasingly in demand (the most intensive development was received in the United States).
In order to acquaint employees of Russian specialized publications with the company’s activities and give them the opportunity to see the production and testing of special equipment close to them, both for underground and open-pit mining, the Epiroc management invited them to Sweden. Per Lindberg, President and CEO of Epiroc, welcomed the employees of the industry media from Russia to the company’s headquarters and held a press conference specifically for Russian journalists.
«Modern equipment and software Epiroc is used in the mining industry all around the world. Our innovative solutions increase productivity and help reduce production costs. Thanks to many years of experience and a wide range of equipment, we can always offer the best solution for customers. Our service includes daily work with customers, which is possible thanks to an international structure with professional experts. Innovative products and enthusiastic employees are what made us leaders in the mining industry, » said Per Lindberg.
A graduate of Chalmers University of Technology, a master’s and doctoral degree holder, Per Lindberg is an experienced manager, whose record of service includes many years of management of large international companies. From February 1, 2018, he is the head of Epiroc, building a company’s strategy in local markets around the world — including, of course, Russian market. According to him, international sanctions did not prevent the company from receiving orders from Russian companies, including such well-known ones as Norilsk Nickel and a number of others. «We have developed comprehensive sales strategies and a number of programs to improve our operations: in the supply chain, in manufacturing, when choosing sources of supply and service providers, as well as initiatives aimed at increasing the flexibility of the company,» says Per Lindberg; his words fully apply to Russia.
Other competitive advantages that have been important for the representatives of the mining industry in Russia working with Epiroc products has been the richest experience in the production of special equipment, inherited from Atlas Copco — as well as its effective consulting staff training programs that allow them to quickly train machine operators. The average lifespan of a machine operating underground is six years — with skillful operation and timely maintenance it can be extended.
However, sooner or later, the new generation of machines comes to replace the old, less advanced ones. For example, already today’s Epiroc equipment can be remotely controlled from distance — while one well-trained operator can simultaneously control several machines at the same time; however, more on this later. Of course, in order to make this possible, the development of appropriate software in the company is given no less attention than the creation of special equipment.
After a short break, the press conference for Russian journalists in the office of Epiroc continued. This time, the speaker was Sophie Gillen, vice president of corporate communications and branding. She spoke about the value of Epiroc and that for a brief, but undoubtedly memorable, period for all its employees their Atlas Copco division became a completely independent enterprise. Literally in half a year, the Epiroc brandbook was formed; Many of the company’s core business lines had to be created from scratch at the same time.
Of course, the question arose about the company name. Of the many options received, the only one that was proposed by one of the employees of the company and consisting of two words was selected. «Roc» means a stone, «Epi» indicates a position near or above it, which best corresponds to the nature of the company.
As for the Epiroc logo, then, according to Sophie Gillen, he does not have any one, the only correct decoding, but rather works at an associative level. Someone sees in it a faceted gem, another sees the entrance to the mine, going deep into the earth, someone else — something third, also associated with mining; Be that as it may, anyone who looks at it, the logo refers precisely to the field of activity to which the company Epiroc is oriented. For a relatively short period of activity of the enterprise, its logo has become absolutely recognizable in the global market for special equipment and equipment.
On the first day of the press tour, an excursion to a real mine was organized for Russian journalists, which is located directly under the company’s office. This mine has several levels. At a depth of twenty meters under the ground there is a museum in it, the exhibits of which illustrate the history of the enterprise since Atlas Copco was founded nearly a century and a half ago — to the present day, when work began on the creation of machinery and equipment for the mining industry, based on many years of experience, successfully continues the company Epiroc. By the way, with our country the company is connected with trade relations of more than a century in length: the first supply of equipment for mining to Russia dates back to 1913!
The exposition of the museum tells the in the language of newspaper pages, unique photographs from different eras, and even more clearly – with the help of mining equipment presented here for different purposes, about how the geography of business cooperation of the enterprise developed, covering all new markets on different continents. The oldest samples presented at the exposition were made in the nineteenth century.
If in the museum, mining equipment pieces are presented in the form of exhibits, then in order to see it at work, you need to sink another twenty meters below surface. Here, at a depth of forty meters, the participants of the press tour had the opportunity to observe the Epiroc mining equipment, namely the models of the Cabeltec and Boomer XE3C machines.
It should be noted that the mine under the office Epiroc is an operating mine. At a depth of sixty meters the third level of the mine is under construction. And also underground tunnels (of course, not the same ones where the equipment works) is a great place to meet sports enthusiasts. Once a year a mass race takes place here: in September 2018, 800 participants from around the world took part in such an action. This event of course gave Epiroc some advertising: the equipment and technologies that the company develops are quite specific and known mainly to specialists in mining, and the mass run underground is a great opportunity to get favorable reviews in social and political publications in many languages all over the world.
Leadership of Epiroc is no stranger to charitable events: the company is implementing a project that is called: «Water for all». This initiative is designed to provide drinking water to millions of people with low incomes living in arid regions of the planet. In this case, it is not only about the delivery of potable water to such places. Within the framework of the «Water for All» project, work is being carried out on geological exploration, drilling on water, as well as innovative methods of obtaining and preserving water are being implemented — and all this solely on voluntary donations. The company adds two of its own to each euro donated to Epiroc — in this way, the company annually collects very large sums for providing water to those for whom it is vital for each employee to feel personally involved in this, no doubt, good a business.
Until now, this article has been mainly about the technology and equipment for underground work. However, during the press tour, the journalists were given the opportunity to get acquainted with other groups of machines produced by Epiroc — for the extraction of minerals on the surface, for work in quarries, and also for construction work, including underground ones. To this end, on the second day, a trip to a place located sixty kilometers from the capital of the country, Stockholm, was organized for all participants in the press tour, where one of the largest customers of Epiroc, NCC, which is currently building one of the largest Europe freight terminals. Among the other equipment involved in the grand construction site by the sea, Epiroc SmartRoc D65 drilling rigs are working here.
In order to build a large-scale object such as a cargo port with seven points for unloading containers and a berth for ships, a truly huge amount of work is required. Part of it is connected with laying railway tracks across the rocky landscape. The journalists were shown how, in order to do this, the special machines went deep into the solid stone tens of meters. It was possible to do this only by resorting to blasting. With the help of drilling rigs, deep holes were made in the rock, they were laid with explosives — and with the help of explosions they lifted hundreds of thousands of tons of rock into the air. Then, the extracted rock mass was crushed and sold by self-pickup for the needs of construction organizations. Of course, for the sake of security, the explosive works themselves were not show on the tour — but they could visualize the scale of changes in the local landscape. Against the background of the explosion of the walls, the self-propelled drilling rig Epiroc looked like a miniature model. By the way, the equipment produced by the company allows drilling not only on the surface of the earth and under it, but even under water — for this purpose special technologies and equipment are used.
The third day of the program was perhaps the most intense in terms of information provided to Russian journalists. The participants of the press tour visited the plant where the equipment for underground works is produced, were familiarized with the principles of operation of the innovative control tower Control Tower, visited the park of simulators — and finally completed their acquaintance with the company’s activities in its production of equipment for open mining and exploration — and all this in just one day!
Of course, the Epiroc equipment is not only manufactured in factories in Sweden. Since the company has international status and is represented, as we have already noted, on different continents, it seeks to localize production as much as possible in places where the need for such special equipment is the greatest (all in all, Epiroc machines work today in sixty different countries of the world). Epiroc production sites operate today in Italy, India, Japan, China, the Republic of South Africa and other countries. In total, the company employs about fifteen thousand people around the world; Interestingly, the largest number of jobs in Epiroc are occupied by service specialists.
The company produces the entire standard range of machines for mining on land and underground, as well as equipment for exploration and construction, including underground, for example — laying and arrangement of tunnels. Two thirds of the total production volume of Epiroc is accounted for by underground equipment — drilling rigs, dump trucks, loading and hauling machines. Today, Epiroc customers from among the mining companies have the opportunity to purchase the second generation of this technology, even more reliable and high-tech.
Nevertheless, Epiroc does not leave a problem unsolved when it comes to mining. One such problem lies in the fact that up to forty percent of the energy budget of mining companies is spent on the work of the systems for eliminating diesel exhaust when working underground. For this reason, Epiroc intends to transfer the entire range of its underground equipment to electricity over the next five years. At the same time, machines with a diesel power unit will also be available for purchase, but still the basis of the company’s offer in the near future will be equipment with an electric motor — safe, eco-friendly, allowing mining companies to save substantial funds.
In the technological information center called Control Tower, journalists from Russia were shown how modern technologies of Epiroc allow remote control of equipment located almost anywhere in the world. At the same time, the accuracy of the work depends solely on the skill of the operator — with certain skills it is possible to simultaneously control the work of three or more pieces of equipment — for example, drilling rigs performing drilling for subsequent blasting operations — which was demonstrated to Russian journalists. Of course, this kind of work, which seemed to be fantasy a quarter of a century ago, requires specific software, special applications, complex telematics systems — all these things are created by specialists from the corresponding unit Epiroc in cooperation with the company’s partners. The latter are directly interested in making the Epiroc equipment smarter, since with remote control of machines substantial funds are saved, and the productivity of the equipment grows by at least twenty percent.
Today, the fleet of Epiroc machines, which can be remotely controlled, is more than 450 units globally. Is it difficult to learn how to operate them while inside the Control Tower? Yes and no. After all, in fact, the production tasks remain the same, only the type of controls changes: instead of the levers and the dashboard, the operator receives a computer keyboard and a monitor, which displays the work process. Epiroc specialists notice that young people tend to gain these skills the fastest: some of them who have visited the Control Tower managed to get comfortable and begin to confidently operate the equipment in half an hour!
In the park of simulators, «pen and a voice recorder workers» were asked to change their profession for a while and try on the role of a drilling machine operator or a specialist in the service of dump trucks or lifting and loading machines. However, it is not so important what it is: the Epiroc machinery is created according to the modular principle on a single platform, which, among other advantages, is very convenient for routine maintenance of the machines.
By the way, the company’s park of simulators in Örebro is far from being the only one. There are similar ones in other countries. Including in Russia, where two training stands are available in Norilsk and one in Yekaterinburg. If necessary, any of the clients of Epiroc can rent a simulator and train its staff there.
For training of special equipment operators and service specialists special simulation stands are used, which are assembled from parts and components of real machines. The degree of similarity to real work with Epiroc equipment is maximum. Thanks to the special touch devices put on fingers, and also points of virtual reality it is possible to get inside the engine and other segments of the car — it, according to the journalists who have tested a simulator, gives unique sensations. In the simulator cabin for training special equipment operators, imitation of the working process is no less reliable — in fact, the only difference is that the working platform is not here outside the windows, but on a special screen.
At the production site, where ground-based Epiroc equipment is manufactured — for work in quarries and construction, as well as for geological exploration — the press tour participants were vividly demonstrated the very modular principle that allows assembling different types of machines on a single platform. At the same time, the technical characteristics of Epiroc cars assembled in Sweden may differ somewhat from those assembled, for example, in India, because different markets have different requirements. For example, the equipment manufactured in Örebro is used, among other things, for the installation of geothermal heating systems, as well as for the extraction of decorative stone, which Sweden is famous for. These works impose quite specific requirements on the technical characteristics of the machines.
Here, on the production site, journalists were shown the remote control of the SmartRoc drilling rig — however, more clearly than in the Control Tower. This time the car was only ten meters away from the operator, which allowed the participants in the press tour to simultaneously observe the delivery of commands and their execution by the drilling rig.
More then a few times a questions was asked of how many units does Örebro plant produce in a year as well as the total unit count for Epiroc in general. The specialists of the company succinctly answered: exactly as much as the market requires. Company analysts predict these figures and participate in production planning each year. It is for this reason that the manufacture of special equipment at the plant in Örebro and at other production sites of Epiroc around the world is carried out by a flow method — in two, and, if necessary, in three working shifts.
For the three days, which continued the press tour organized by Epiroc for journalists of Russian industry publications, the company’s employees managed to give the maximum, as far as possible in such a short time, an understanding of the company’s activities and the range of machinery and equipment that it produces. And also, which is no less important — to demonstrate the coordinated work of an international team of specialists who promote products, service and innovative technologies of Epiroc around the world. Despite the fact that the company headquartered in Swedish Örebro is still young — just over a year old — today, without exaggeration, it can already be called one of the world leaders in the mining equipment market, which has great prospects in the markets of different countries — including of course, and Russia.