Keech entered the South American market with Chilean trials of its Wearpact product 2011. Following the successful trials, the product has been adopted by several miners since then.
This success has seen Keech quietly begin to expand its presence in the continent, and at the beginning of the year the Bendigo-based ground engaging tools specialist announced a partnership with Peru’s Recolsa.
“We targeted four companies to gauge their expressions of interest,” Mark Adams, Export Sales Manager at Keech, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“All of them had heard of the Keech brand before. And after a couple of visits we appointed a dealer in Lima.”
Over 20 large buckets are currently installed in Chile, most of them past their trial stage. The partnership in Peru follows Keech opening its wholly-owned subsidiary in Santiago in 2012.
Recolsa – which started handling Keech’s orders in January – is also a family-owned business. For this and other reasons, the partnership seemed a good fit, said Adams.
Keech has had representation in Canada for 12 years and a dealer in South Africa for over a year, with South America targeted for upping the company’s exports.
The dollar’s fall recently has provided little immediate relief to the company, due to a nearly simultaneous collapse in Australian mining, where Keech sees about four-fifths of its sales.
“The drop in the dollar unfortunately has been mirrored by the drop in the mining boom. Things are going quiet,” said Adams.
“Everyone’s a little cautious at the moment, and that’s being mirrored globally.”
Adams’s company has been positioning itself as a thoroughly modern engineering and innovation-focussed business in recent years, for example relaunching its patternmaking subsidiary as Keech 3D Advanced Manufacturing last year and investing heavily in a set of 3D printing machines.
And last month it became the first company to have guaranteed access to the CSIRO’s metal additive manufacturing capabilities.
Still, Keech is a manufacturer and seller of castings for the mining industry, first and foremost.
And as things are quiet in Australia, Keech is aiming to “aggressively” drive more business in Africa, as well as in additional South American markets. It believes it is able to bring a technological edge into the market and point to the benefits it’s provided to Chilean miners.
“Maintenance can [now] be done while the buckets are on the machine [with the Wearpact, a bucket edge system]. So what that has meant to them – although the initial set-up cost is far more expensive than their current methods of bucket repairs and bucket rebuilds – what that has meant to them is the machine availability.”
Not having to stop work and lug a bucket (sometimes weighing six tonnes) to a workshop on the surface several kilometres away is an obvious improvement.
“The Wearpact system now has been in Australia for the best part of ten years and is working very successfully in companies such as BHP Billiton, Newcrest, XStrata and the list goes on,” said Adams.
“So introducing it into a market has had its advantages in South America.”
Keech is hoping that its momentum in the Americas can be maintained and built upon.
“We’re hoping to mirror image that in other countries in South America: Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, we’re hoping to mirror that throughout South America.
“We’ll be attending the mining show later this year in Peru and supporting our reseller there. And we’re also going to visit the Brazilian and Colombian mining shows that are on.”