The purchase of a mixed Shantui fleet has ensured that Lonfin Plant Hire is able to meet the varied demands of its projects in the mining sector; with maximum uptime.
Lonfin Plant Hire provides a comprehensive range of earthmovinge quipment for hire to civil engineering, construction and mining projects, with a full range of mining and construction equipment, including: articulated dump trucks; rigid dump trucks; excavators; bulldozers; front-end loaders and graders from a variety of 0 EMs.
From his offices in Rustenberg, Johnny Lang, CEO, Lonfin Plant Hire (part of the Advanced Group of companies), is more than pleased with his recent equipment purchases and CEN finds out exactly what constitutes this level of satisfaction.
Johnny explains that his background in the mining sector has equipped him with many years of experience and over time he has had opportunity to work with a number of excellent OEMs. He says, "Coming from the mining sector, my belief (as well as the majority of players within the industry) has always been to go with the well known, well-marketed, 'western' brands --each OEM specifically chosen for a specialist piece of machinery."
Prior to the global recession, used equipment enjoyed a significant market, with the established OEMs being able to recoup their costs in the re-sale of machines. After the meltdown however, the machines that came onto the market had often passed their 'sell-by' date, as companies tried to eke out the last use for their fleets, with extended maintenance plans, in an endeavour to overcome having to replace them. This resulted in the used equipment sector taking a serious knock, and often, machines that entered this sector were rather sold cross-border than used within the South African market.
However, Shantui's used machines too, are growing in popularity, as recently, the used equipment market has slowly started to show an improvement, with more Chinese OEMs entering the sector.
Johnny continues:"Our company does not buy machines to merely do a job but rather as an asset for the company.When we decide to sell a machine, it obviously has a certain book-value, but a profit can only be assured if the initial cost is low. While other OEMs produce far more costly machines, Shantui Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd's machines have a markedly higher resale value as they cost us between 20 and 50% less than other OEMs' equipment. So, once a project has come to an end, we are assured of a higher profit, should we sell the machines on."
An added bonus, to Johnny's mind, is that the machines are not highly specified, in that, while they are rugged and able to withstand the arduous South African working conditions, they are not "driven by computers", which obviates a highly technical skills base to get a machine that is standing,and moving again. All the pieces of equipment land specified to South African conditions, for example with the filters changed. The only additional adaptation is retro-fifting the bulldozers with air conditioners and exchanging bigger buckets (from 4.2 cubic metres to five cubic metres)on the loaders as they are utilised in the (lighter weight) coal environment.
He feels strongly that Shantui offers him individualised service and while he is "a smaller operator" he says that this high level of care and after-sales service is not the norm with the larger OEMs. "Where the bigger, befter known OEMs may take two to three days to aftend to a machine that is down, Shantui will send a technician out within 24 hours to get the machine back up again, which means befter productivity for my operation."
Johnny assures that as Shantui keeps a vast selection of parts, there is never a problem should anything be required: "We can get a part within 48 hours" he says and adds, "If,in the unlikely case that a part is not available, they will even resort to taking it off one of their stock machines to ensure that a customer's piece of equipment does not stand; and that, in my books, is extreme customer service!"
If a machine incurs a serious breakdown Shantui will send a replacement machine for use until the broken piece of equipment is mended, "No strings aftached" he grins. He states that availability was also an influencing factor in the purchases and says, "If we order, we can get the machine within two weeks." He adds, "However, equipment is only as good as the backu p you get once you have purchased the machine. He has a full maintenance contract on the front-end loaders, viz up to 8000 hours and on the bulldozers he has an hourly maintenance contract in place. "Our mechanics handle daily maintenance and any minor breakdowns, he explains.
Johnny stresses that despite Shantui's equipment being rugged, reliable and well priced, financing machines continues to plague the yellow metal sector, with banks ignoring a client's standing and track-record, insisting on bureaucratic red-tape, that hinders every potential purchase. "However, equipment Is only as good as the back-up you get."
"Gone are the days where proof of a contract secured finance from the banks," he comments disconsolately. "We waited close on six months to secure finance for the bulldozers," he adds with distaste and says, "Making an outright purchase negatively affects a company's cash flow, so finance is the obvious route to seek and my understanding is that Shantui is moving in the direction of offering in-house finance to alleviate this problem."
With the strict safety regulations on the mines, all the operators have to undergo SETA-accredited training, which in Lonfin Plant Hire's case is conducted through Transvaal Training Academy, as presently, Shantui does not offer operator training. "The upside here is, that all our operators have SETA- recognised certificates," he adds.
Last year, Shantui Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd established a branch company in Johannesburg to befter support the existing dealers and Johnny believes that this has contributed positively to their ability to offer the high calibre of after-sales service that they do. "We needed to know that once we bought the machines we could be assured of the relevant back-up, that the company would be here for a while yet," he states. In conclusion he says, "In South Africa, Shantui are not merely taking on a franchise; they are com miffed -- they are here to stay."