Álvaro Chacón
Global Business Development Director
Martin Engineering
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Insight

Innovation in Bulk Material Handling

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 11:34

Material spillage and airborne dust are common occurrences in the process of moving bulk solids from one place to another via conveyor belt. There are many dangers, expenses, inconveniences and inefficiencies associated with both phenomena, from health risks to lower productivity. Since 1949, Martin Engineering has offered solutions for bulk material handling issues. “The company has always had a strong presence in the cement and mining industry,” says Álvaro Chacón, the company’s Global Business Development Director. “However, the mining boom has increased our sales in the sector in the last three years. Canadian companies represent a good percentage of our mining clients, but we also continue to offer our products and services to companies like Grupo Mexico, Peñoles, Minera Frisco, and Fresnillo, with whom we have worked for many years.”

Chacón explains that Martin Engineering manufactures three product ranges: belt cleaners, transfer points, and flow aids. Regarding belt cleaners, Chacón’s opinion is that one of the most sophisticated products is the SQC2S Secondary Conveyor Belt Cleaner, which offers low-maintenance and high performance solutions for cleaning conveyor belts. “When handling bulk solids on conveyor belts the material often spills, contaminating the floor and creating unsafe working conditions. Our equipment allows conveyor belts to transport the material in the middle of the belt and in a clean way from entrance to exit,” he explains. The second range of products the company offers is transfer points for conveyor belts, such as align and support systems, modular chute walls, conveyor skirting, wear liner, stringer systems, and tail pulley plows, which prevent material spillage and dust control. The third range is flow aids. Mineral tends to get stuck in the chute or silos, and this technology promotes the flow of material through air blasters, vibrators and silo cleaners to prevent this from happening.

Even though strategies vary from country to country, Martin Engineering is leveraging its 143 patents and its commitment to innovation and technology in its internationalization process. “We are constantly figuring out ways to gain territory with new technology. Since other companies copy our ideas and innovations, our Center for Innovation constantly works to develop new solutions for our clients,” Chacón comments. The company invests 3% of its global revenue in R&D. “Innovation is essential for Martin Engineering. We constantly brainstorm with our sales and service divisions about our clients’ current and future needs,” he adds. For example, Martin Engineering Environmental is focused on developing environmental control solutions, since they create healthier labor environments for employees that usually have to work in areas with more than 10mg per m3 of airborne dust, which poses many health risks. Another example of Martin Engineering making an effort to combine safety practices and productivity can be seen in its primary and secondary belt cleaners, on which maintenance tasks can be performed without having to bring the conveyor belt to a halt. In this case, the technician’s hands never have to reach into the chute. “The company has had to adapt to overcome the challenges we have faced along the way as a result of the changes in the mining industry, as well as modified labor regulations for performing maintenance on moving conveyor belts. This technology is another innovation proposition that adds value to the industry and helps to differentiate us,” Chacón highlights.

Currently, Martin Engineering’s efforts in Mexico are focused on marketing Martin Plus®, the integral services package that provides total solutions to achieve better efficiency and productivity for its clients. The package consists of three different levels of service: Product, Product + Installation, or Product + Installation + Maintenance. “We are providing the third level solution for all conveyor belts at ArcelorMittal’s Aquila Mine. We offer daily management of all conveyor belt logistics, allowing the client to concentrate on its strategic operations,” he adds.

The Martin Plus® services play a central role in the company’s ambition to consolidate its presence in the Mexican mining industry in the next five years, not just through direct sales but also by creating solid relationships with mining companies and strategic long-term alliances. Another plan for the future is to open business units closer to mining operations. “Mexico’s growth will continue regardless of the current global context, and the country will benefit from its metal diversity. We want to approach the challenges the future will bring through products, but also with services that will build long-term commercial relationships with our clients,” Chacón emphasizes. As is the case with other companies, one of the biggest challenges Martin Engineering faces is the shortage of human talent in Mexico, especially during the mining boom when trained personnel became a precious commodity. Chacón stresses that the company is ready to invest in a market that requires a lot of human capital. “We are aware that our value proposition will continue being part of what the industry requires. Regardless of metal prices or government modifications, our products and services will continue to be essential mining solutions,” he adds.