Distributor Notices Demand for Simpler EquipmentWed, 10/21/2015 - 11:13
Thomas Baker originally started out as a one-man army, doing everything from sales to services. In the 1980s, his company, Topo Machinery, started by selling raise boring machines. After some years, the team grew to encompass mechanics and technicians and in 2007, Baker put up a warehouse to begin selling spare parts for mining equipment. Since then, Topo Machinery has blossomed and has between 45 and 50 employees working in the Fresnillo area or travelling to cover the needs of the mining industry around the entire country. Today, it stands as the Mexico sales representative for J.H. Fletcher, Getman, and MTI’s M71 raised drill pipe
Topo Machinery may be an American company but it caters exclusively to the Mexican market. Baker explains that his customers in the Mexican mining industry usually want to buy directly from the US and then imported the products themselves. “Most of the equipment is either purchased from the factory or through the company in the US,” Baker states. Bringing equipment to Mexico is not too difficult, although there are some obstacles when importing merchandise, particularly on the US side where Homeland Security scrutinizes everything going out of the country. “We have more problems getting products out of the US than we do getting them into Mexico.” Another challenge is that the mining industry’s demand for equipment has been declining of late. Nonetheless, Baker is satisfied with the continued popularity of the utility equipment that his company sells. When he started working for Fresnillo, there was no utility equipment in the mines and almost everything was done with rather expensive scooptrams. Later on, agricultural tractors were introduced into the operations. “The problem with these vehicles is that they do not really constitute mining equipment, per se. They do not have spring-implied, hydraulic-lock, release brakes, and they do not have rollover protection structures or cabs on them,” explains Baker. This is one of the reasons Topo Machinery has been successful in introducing Getman trucks to serve as production support and utility equipment. “The industry started shifting to specialized equipment in 2005. Before that I sold probably four trucks per year. Even then, companies would not order utility equipment until they were in production. This has changed now, and companies have started buying utility tools because they are seeing their value,” details Baker
Due to the fact that it is designed specifically to serve the mining industry, Topo Machinery feels its equipment is much safer for miners. The company has lubrication trucks and equipment used to hang cables with scissor lifts, which geologists use for sampling. Baker also explains that it is not easy to transport drill jumbos back up from the mines. In these cases, the lubrication truck is sent to service the vehicles down the shaft itself. Topo Machinery also has personnel carriers, as well as transporters for removing explosives. The Getman brand has been a large part of Topo Machinery’s business for many years as its trucks are very popular in Mexico. Due to this popularity, Topo Machinery profits well by providing maintenance, services, and spare parts to the owners of Getman trucks. “Anything that is in the mining industry needs a fair amount of support to make it successful. That is what we can offer. Once we sell a piece of equipment, we deliver it and support it,” says Baker. To complement the success that the company has experienced with its established brands, Topo Machinery is introducing two new lines in Mexico: Fletcher and GHH. Fletcher is the leader in rock bolt equipment and holds 95% of its US market as well as possessing a strong global presence. Baker says that Fletcher is mainly focused on the coal mining industry, but is now looking to expand to areas such as metal mining, providing an additional business opportunity in Mexico. In order to promote its new lines, Topo Machinery is visiting several mines where it performs demonstrations with a ten-tonne LHD from GHH and a Fletcher rock bolter.
The technological sophistication of Topo Machinery’s suppliers is undisputed. In this sense, it might seem strange to some that Topo Machinery is so focused on selling simpler equipment. “Fletcher has all the modern technology, such as remote bolters. The same goes for the GHH line. It has the latest and greatest, but we are trying to promote its less sophisticated equipment,” says Baker. He explains that his company is not promoting complex equipment because this usually results in downtime. As an example of this, Baker explains how a company decided to automate every possible process, but eventually returned to simpler equipment. “Most engines have a lot of electronics nowadays, but I am trying to get away from that as much as possible. This way, when there is a problem, my customers’ mechanics can troubleshoot it with basic hydraulic and electric concepts.” Baker says that a lot of his customers are asking for less sophisticated equipment because it is easier to maintain and less complicated to use. Topo Machinery can thus add to its success by selling the simpler product lines of famous brands