Operational excellence in material handling

 The order to FLSmidth consisted of three stackers and two portal reclaimers for the run-of-mine and product stockyards.

The order to FLSmidth consisted of three stackers and two portal reclaimers for the run-of-mine and product stockyards.

The order placed by United Manganese of Kalahari in South Africa consisted of stackers, reclaimers, electrical, control and instrumentation for the machines. The combination of equipment design, project execution and on-site support demonstrates the operational excellence that FLSmidth brings to a project through coordination between technology centers, research facilities and regional personnel.

The United Manganese of Kalahari Project (UMK)

The UMK project shows that FLSmidth is able to successfully execute material handling projects with engineering and execution teams spread out among several offices.

In 2010, the South African-based company, United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK), placed an order with FLSmidth in Johannesburg for the delivery of stockyard equipment for its planned manganese mine operation in the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. The main components of this mine operation include a crusher, a run-of-mine stockyard, a screening station, a product stock yard and a train load-out station. The manganese ore ranges from 35 to +44% Mn, whereas the product sold must have a 37.5% Mn content.

The order to FLSmidth consisted of three stackers and two portal reclaimers for the run-of-mine and product stockyards. The electrical, control and instrumentation (EC&I) for these machines are integral parts of the delivery. The project handling of the EC&I and scope is an example of FLSmidth's capabilities in global project execution.

Criteria for selection of an engineering location

FLSmidth's new corporate strategies include separate competence centers: Wadgassen, Germany, for Material Handling; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA for Minerals; and Copenhagen, Denmark, for Cement. Each of these locations has R&D centers for equipment and applications relevant to its specialty, as well as the required design and engineering capabilities to assist any local office with the execution of an order.

For the UMK project, it was clear from the beginning that the stackers and reclaimers would be engineered by the Material Handling division in Wadgassen. Contract management remained in the FLSmidth office in Johannesburg, which is the main contract holder and therefore responsible for ensuring the correct and timely execution of the project.

The decision regarding where the EC&I portion of the project would be handled was the first step. In 2010 FLSmidth had only limited EC&I resources in its Johannesburg office. A couple of options were available: FLSmidth could handle the EC&I portion in the Johannesburg office using local South African EC&I engineering companies, or in one of the main material handling EC&I engineering centers in Wadgassen or Copenhagen—both of which have a number of very experienced material handling EC&I engineers.

The decision was made to handle the EC&I in Copenhagen. Handling such an order locally in South Africa seemed tempting, but without experienced local EC&I engineers the risk of placing such an integral part of a large equipment order on a third-party electrical company was simply deemed too high. Moreover, due to the global procurement initiatives within FLSmidth, there is most often neither financial nor quality benefit gained by procuring the main EC&I equipment in the local country.

It should also be mentioned that FLSmidth has developed a number of engineering standards and engineering tools that focus on removing the risk of operator-introduced errors. In addition to that, there has always been a high focus on conducting comprehensive factory acceptance tests before any of the FLSmidth® control systems leave the premises. The well-proven engineering and factory acceptance test procedures, plus experienced proactive project management are the pillars in FLSmidth’s project execution philosophy. All this led to choosing Copenhagen as the location for handling the EC&I.

In total, the project would need to be handled in three different FLSmidth offices—Johannesburg, Wadgassen and Copenhagen—each located in a different country. The advantages of this were very clear: each part of such an order could be engineered and executed in the location with the right competencies and experiences. A local office would have the benefit of being close to the customer, and would be better able to fully understand the customers’ needs. However, some special engineering areas could be better completed at selected locations with a higher accumulation of experience and knowledge for specific needs.

The potential challenges, however, with handling an order in multiple locations include the risk of miscommunication, lack of understanding of the customer's needs and maybe even a lack of ownership during engineering. In order to avoid these potential challenges, a mix of electronic communication and face-to-face meetings for design review and project status between all relevant parties was incorporated into the project timeline.

The UMK project shows that FLSmidth is able to successfully execute material handling projects with engineering and execution teams spread out among several offices, the three FLSmidth offices, UMK and UMK's consultants.

Project execution with close cooperation

The EC&I scope for the five stockyard machines covered everything on board the machines—from the incoming medium voltage and cable reels to operator cabins with separate compartment for the motor control center and PLC, plus the required instrumentation. The delivery was to conform to South African standards as well as some rather detailed client specifications. By using the FLSmidth-approved supply chain with frame agreements, it was possible to keep the cost down without compromising the quality of the components selected.

By its very nature, working across national borders requires close cooperation and coordination. FLSmidth's automation section already had a well-established global project execution system. In this specific case, however, there was a higher than normal involvement from the client—as well as the client's consultants—through all phases of the project execution. The cooperation between FLSmidth, the client and the consultants was very intense with all parties focused toward one common goal: to make this project a success for both UMK and FLSmidth.

Always dedicated to the quality of deliveries, FLSmidth chose a well-proven panel-builder with whom it already had a working relationship. The factory acceptance tests for all five machines' EC&I deliverables were done at this supplier's premises.

The factory acceptance tests included not only hardware and I/O testing, which is usually the minimum, but also the complete software test and parameterization of frequency drives and instruments. The machine sequences, internal interlocks and even the communication interfaces and interlocks with the client's overall control systems were all fully tested. The factory acceptance tests were performed in full cooperation with the UMK automation consultant to ensure that all control philosophies and interlocking would be easily integrated with other systems at the mine site.

To secure a smooth handover from engineering to startup at site, the FLSmidth engineer in charge of the startup participated in the factory acceptance tests. This method had several advantages: the engineering was checked by an engineer who was not involved with the process prior to that. Moreover, this engineer was highly motivated to ensure that the complete delivery was well-functioning before it arrived at the site. And finally, since there was close cooperation during factory acceptance tests, the site engineer was very well known by the engineering team and vice versa. This eased the process of communicating experiences from the site to others, for use in future enhancements on similar projects.

Fast startup on site

The close cooperation between the FLSmidth offices was very useful in the process of identifying an appropriate electrical contractor for the on-site machine installations. The previously existing relationships in South Africa made it possible to take on a contractor with good experience in systems similar to this project. The contractor's experience, combined with the highly detailed installation engineering level from FLSmidth, resulted in a smooth and fast erection period and high-quality results. During the last phase of the installation, the contractor was assisted by FLSmidth's site supervisor to ensure that all quality management procedures were followed.

The quality of the electrical design and the cooperation and engagement from the electrical installation company are areas that, together with the well-prepared software programs and the detailed and accurate factory acceptance tests, contributed to FLSmidth's success during installation and commissioning of the stackers and reclaimers. From the time the machines were turned on, it took only a few days before the first stackers were running with materials. Such a short start-up period is not typical within the industry for this kind of machinery, so it was a pleasant surprise for all external parties involved. The client was very satisfied.

The next step will be to implement a system for remote access from FLSmidth to the individual machines. This will ensure immediate assistance in the event of unforeseen problems. Moreover, the remote system allows calculation of certain relevant KPIs including overall equipment efficiency (OEE), for each of the stockyard machines. Such information can then be used by both UMK and FLSmidth to monitor the performance, intervene and optimize if and when it may be required to ensure the optimal utilization of the installed machines.

Feedback from UMK

Though the project is not yet fully commissioned, UMK is more than satisfied with the delivery and the cooperation with FLSmidth. This is a stepping stone to the solutions FLSmidth can offer in other areas. After a meeting discussing the commercial quality maintenance of manganese, UMK placed an order with FLSmidth for a stockyard quality control system for the run-of-mine stockyard. This type of system combines the use of online analyzers with FLSmidth's proprietary stockyard blending and optimization software from the QCX/BlendExpert™ suite of products. This FLSmidth® product has been used quite commonly in the cement industry for a number of years, and FLSmidth now sees a growing demand for it in certain stockyard applications within the mining industry.


The UMK material handling project is a good example of operational excellence among a globally distributed project team. The benefits of working with FLSmidth are clear from its commitment and dedication to projects, as well as its high level of professionalism. The QCX/BlendExpert stockyard management system will be commissioned later this year, and both UMK and FLSmidth are looking forward to seeing the effect this will have on the quality of the final manganese product.

CONTACT: Tina Knudsen