Australian Bulk Handling Review learns more about Kinder Australia’s training sessions and how it can help bulk handlers improve their operations.
A conveyor belt that isn’t running is not usually making its owner money. Unscheduled downtime costs can add up and lead to unacceptable losses in productivity and profitability. This is exactly what Kinder Australia is trying to avoid.
In his role as Field Applications Specialist, Tim Storer helps bulk handlers diagnose problems in a conveyor system and what can be done to address them.
This typically comes in the form of maintenance and preventative maintenance. In one analogy, Storer compares it to household upkeep.
“Rather than wait for the roof gutters to start leaking and damage the house, find the flaws early and get a new system installed,” he says.
Storer and his team help identify what to look for to solve common problems. Material spillage is one he encounters the most, as it has the potential to fly under the radar. From a quarry maintenance point of view, staff see rocks all day long, which can cause workers to minimise or even normalise the problem.
However, spillage presents some serious problems if left unchecked. It can lead to equipment being worn out or taking damage. It can also create safety issues for staff as a tripping or striking hazard and means a certain amount of material is being lost.
If a conveyor system is spilling material at a transfer point due to ineffective equipment, increased throughputs or certain applications, it is key to ensure staff working near the plant are quick to catch issues at their earliest stages.
Kinder’s training sessions aim to do this by teaching multiple levels of employees. Fitters, welders, engineers and asset managers all come together to learn what can be done to improve their operation.
“We generally have a meet and greet session at the start so that everyone can get comfortable,” Storer says. “While we may have 20 people working under the same banner, they potentially have never met each other, working at plants more than 300 kilometres away from the other.”
Attendees are given some homework before the session begins. They’re told to find something on site which has been causing issues. This becomes the first part of the training session and helps Kinder’s team establish what kind of training is needed.
This could be a quarry trying to move a particular material on a conveyor system, which tends to bend or break. The problem gets floated around the room, with everyone able to chime in and discuss where the problem could originate.
“The training sessions are very open and hands on. We can see what some of the issues are for the client and can talk about potential solutions and applications that can make their lives easier,” Storer says.
Kinder avoids taking a one-size-fits-all approach, as that doesn’t engage with the client’s needs. Two quarries could be dealing with similar problems but may wildly vary when it comes to equipment and methods.
Storer says by keeping the focus on the client, everyone gets more value.
“You can really turn people off when you start sounding like an advertising pitch,” he says. “People can tell if you’re just trying to sell them something.
“What we try to do is remain neutral and help them find the best way forward, not flash them a catalogue.”
Kinder began running the training sessions in 2016 and was met with encouraging feedback. The company has since focused more of its efforts in engaging with its customers to provide knowledge and engineering expertise.
According to Storer, this has helped break down the barriers between Kinder and its customers, who are now more likely to pick up the phone and call if they’ve got a problem. It’s also helped break down barriers with participants, who have reported having better connections across their own organisations.
Due to its success, Kinder plans to expand the training sessions interstate. Currently, they are held at Kinder Australia Headquarters in Melbourne, which allows guests to tour the factory and see how Kinder manufactures its products.
The team is working on hosting an event in South Australia and Queensland in the near future to make it more accessible to clients around the country.
“The training sessions have helped spread awareness about what technology is available on the market and awareness of how Kinder can help,” Storer says.
“Kinder has committed to investing back into the industry and the customers that support us. By doing so, it helps them feel more comfortable approaching us and gives them an avenue for aid if they start encountering bulk handling issues.”
Written by William Arnott for Australian Bulk Handling Review