Increasing Operational Efficiency Through InnovationBy Lorenzo Núñez | Tue, 05/18/2021 - 08:41
Q: What is Oriental Rubber’s participation in Mexico?
A: Our main markets are the US and India, but we are also present in South America and South and Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Asia. In India, we are the main conveyor belt manufacturer, as well as the biggest exporter.
We have been doing business in Mexico for over 10 years, a period in which we have had a mix of highs and lows. However, we are negotiating a number of orders so this year is looking quite promising. In Mexico, we have great clients and promising growth potential. We are planning to multiply our sales by up to 10 times over the next three years. The difference in our strategy when compared to other Asian companies is that we focus on specific solutions depending on our clients’ needs, instead of mass producing a product. In the Mexican market, for instance, special belts are used, such as steel belts, high-tension belts and high-impact belts. We are one of the leading manufacturers of these products.
Q: What solutions has the company implemented in India that it wants to bring to Mexico?
A: An example would be our pipe belts that allow the environmentally friendly transport of material. We are trying to introduce more of these products to Mexico. Right now, we only have one in the country, while in India many kilometers of these belts have already been built. It is important to mention that our belts are designed to reduce energy consumption, which can be up to 50 percent in some processes.
Q: What are some of the challenges of bringing these products to Mexico?
A: One challenge is cultural resistance. The mining industry, for example, is unfamiliar with new technologies, which ultimately ends up in poor maintenance of the product. The main challenge is when they see new products and discard them due to a lack of knowledge. Mining companies might also consider these products expensive, when in fact the price is quite competitive.
Another challenge is that this part of the world has not yet noticed the red alert concerning energy efficiency. In Europe and Asia, companies specifically request energy efficient belts. It comes down to saving money and efficient energy consumption means more cash in hand. Our belts have a different type of rubber, which is 30 percent more efficient. However, the Mexican mining industry still has a love affair with 20th century technology, making it somewhat challenging for new ideas to be introduced into the market.
Q: What is Oriental Rubber’s innovation process and how long does it take for a product to reach the market?
A: It takes years to introduce new products into the market. We first analyze the problem that needs to solved and soon after we come up with a plan to solve it. We later test our products with our clients, with whom we have an agreement in which they pay us if the prototype works and if it does not work, they get it for free. This process takes time. We have had cases where the belt only lasted two weeks, and this clearly does not work for a production line. Today, our belts last up to six months, which for the copper segment is not bad. In the past, belts in copper mines would last a few weeks, and that was considered normal.
Q: What benefits do customers derive from Oriental Rubber’s belts?
A: We are contributing to the industry’s decarbonization. Our goal is to minimize environmental impact, reduce costs and energy consumption. For instance, we are participating in an operation in India where the company is changing all of its belts, which will ultimately mean that its entire operation will see 30 percent energy savings. It is also important to highlight that the cost of the new belts will be covered by production in only three months. Our philosophy is to find the best solution for every type of situation. We want to reduce capital and operational costs, and environmental impact.
Q: What new technology or innovation is the company planning to implement in its next product?
A: We have products designed over the course of last year that are ready to be introduced to the mining market. We have said how our products are able to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent, but our new products have set a new standard by increasing that number to over 40 percent and this happens in low temperatures as well. When dealing with cold weather, friction increases and the overall operation slows down. There are no competitors in that type of environment that provide the same amount of efficiency. We are closing a deal of this kind in Mexico, one that we have been working on for nearly a decade.