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Analysis

Embracing Quality Mexican Manufactured Spare Parts

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 13:43

Most of the mining equipment and machinery used in the Mexican mining industry is manufactured abroad. However, as the sector develops and grows, some local companies are taking this as an opportunity to manufacture spare parts, and even to make improvements in their designs. Metal Master Industrial, a machinery and design company based in Nacozari, Sonora, is embracing the challenge of servicing and creating its own designs to perform repairs and maintenance on its customers’ mining equipment.

The company started operations eight years ago, after its founder and Director General, Rolando Aguilar Contreras, had been in contact with the group that brought the first CNC lathes to Chihuahua: “After I heard about this equipment I was very interested. Suddenly, the idea of starting my own workshop and working with all types of lathe was born.” After a while, Aguilar Contreras realized that the industry was more demanding than he had originally thought; manufacturing pieces was not enough, it was necessary to have installation and maintenance systems, too. At around the same time, the company started to do reverse engineering and to analyze pieces coming from Finland, Japan and Germany, with the aim of producing them locally in Mexico. “When manufacturing these pieces we identified improvements that gave an added value to our clients. Also, by producing them locally, we were able to reduce cost and delivery time, without jeopardizing quality. Once our clients felt satisfied with our products they asked us to take care of their installation andmaintenance too, which sparked Metal Master Industrial to invest more in new and better equipment to work on mining sites. As time has passed, our engineering division has strengthened in such a way that today we are able to design and manufacture different types of gears, herringbone gears, and pipes that adapt to our clients’ needs,” says Aguilar Contreras.

There are few companies developing certain spare parts or machinery for the mining industry. Metal Master Industrial got a big break when Grupo Mexico gave it the opportunity to manufacture and improve a type of chain that was originally made in Finland, used in dredging processes to transport concentrates to the first stage of smelting. It was a big challenge and the team had to work very hard to carry out the improvements that Grupo Mexico was looking for. “Being able to comply with what was asked of us made our business and our reputation stronger,” Aguilar Contreras recalls. Another project that had a big impact on the company was its work at Cananea, where it manufactured mill bins that had to be adapted to the specific needs of the mine. The company also repaired and modified all of the installed pumps on the site. “We can say that we were in charge of maintaining the heart of the entire operation, because if the pumping system does not work nothing else will. Fortunately, everything functioned as it was supposed to and operations continued successfully,” Aguilar Contreras recalls. In order to perform its core activity, which is servicing machinery, Metal Master Industrial has 

had to design and develop its own repair and maintenance equipment. “There are mills that have an average weight of 80 to 100 tonnes, and it is practically impossible to get hold of the equipment needed to repair this type of infrastructure. We therefore had to design a special rotating machine with a transmission for its assembly. We also developed a cutter that, as it rises, sharpens the steel of the original structure,” explains Aguilar Contreras. One of the projects that defined the company’s place in the mining industry is the Concheño Mine, where it was invited to check each piece of equipment and, if required, do the necessary repairs. “Minera Frisco acquired all of its equipment in Canada. We had to separate each piece – there were mills, pumps, herringbone gears, and so on – and from there decide which ones needed maintenance. Complications arose when we realized that many of them had been worn down and needed to be replaced. It was not easy because we had to perform very delicate operations, where one little flaw could jeopardize the whole production and result in financial losses. But all of our company’s expertise was used and we designed a plan to do the job in the safest and most professional way,” says Aguilar Contreras.

An essential feature in guaranteeing the quality of its products is the post-delivery service it provides, through which the installed, manufactured or repaired equipment is monitored, allowing the company to guarantee proper operation. Aguilar Contreras explains that even when another company installs its products, Metal Master Industrial asks its client to supervise the installation process: “All the herringbone gears of Cananea and La Caridad are being monitored by Metal Master Industrial. We have qualified personnel to perform vibration studies and create reports that help company management to allow a better decision making process.” In the current market, Aguilar Contreras considers that it is very important for his company to understand that its competitors are allies, or business partners, for whom it continually performs repairs or manufactures products. Technology and quality have also contributed to a steady workload over time. In the past few years the company has performed many jobs for big mining groups such as Minera Frisco, Goldcorp and Grupo Mexico. Currently, the company is focused on opening its Cananea office in order to provide the quality maintenance service the mine requires.

Aguilar Contreras is aware that the years to come will consist of intense work, since Metal Master Industrial’s goal is to grow with its clients. “Our philosophy is that we want to stay at their level, in order to be able to satisfy their needs. We need to continue developing our equipment and keep up with state of the art technology, because new equipment requires new and better maintenance services,” he concludes.