Innovations in technology, increases in worker productivity and streamlined efficiencies in production processes are the only means by which an industry can expand, grow and ultimately survive.
The Australian mining industry leads the world in all three of these areas. Whether it is the advent of autonomous mining, or constant improvements in information management, the companies that look to the future are the ones that secure prosperity.
Companies involved in trailing cable repair often employ standard decades-old repair methods and processes. The sense that if something works well enough, then stick to it, is a common feeling that we all share, but for businesses involved in the high-risk, competitive and capital-intensive world of mining, it is the pathway to obsolescence.
KableX, a partner firm of AusProof, a leading Australian OEM of electrical cable couplers and components, has taken an industry captured by decades-old practices, and has sought to overhaul all parts of the cable repair service process to deliver improved efficiencies across the board.
Its end-to-end service capabilities and innovations in transportation and workshop practices will push the cable repair business into the future.
There are two core components of the KableX service. Firstly, the collection and removal of damaged trailings cables from a mine site and the transportation of these cables from site to the workshop and secondly, the repair process at the workshop.
Each part of the process demonstrates important innovations in cable repair. To begin with, let’s examine KableX’s innovations in collection and transportation.
Collection and Transportation
Unlike other cable repair businesses, KableX has the capacity to collect, load and transport two cable drums at the same time.
This expansion in productivity has come about through innovations in the engineering design of its trailers. KableX is a licensed builder of road-going trailers, and the company has developed its own in-house research and development department to do just this.
From this investment in research and design, KableX has completely re-configured its trailers, engineering them to do more in less time.
KableX representative Bruce Smith said most other companies use a normal rigid truck with a tray back.
“We use a specially-built and designed prime mover and each of our trailers can act as a B Double, and can therefore pick up two cable drums, each weighing up to 12t. Our competitors can take the same weight, but can only take one at a time,” he said.
In effect, the trailers, each with the capacity to carry a single cable drum, have been designed to integrate with a single prime mover. In this way, KableX can collect two drums in one go, doubling the efficiency rate of the standard practice.
The KableX trailers feature specially designed hydraulic operating systems flexible enough to suit a variety of mine sites and operating environments. The loading and unloading process also demonstrates innovation and efficiency gains.
Most cable collection trailers feature a reel permanently mounted onto the truck, which means workers need to manually load and unload cables. This is a time-consuming process.
The KableX method, by contrast, features a crane that comes in and lifts the cable drums on and off the trailer.
“We remove the cassette with the crane. The cassette comes off with the cable, and puts it on the ground. Then a blank cassette goes onto the truck, and then the truck can go back out to the mine site,” Bruce said.
More than this, KableX’s trailers are self-powered, autonomous and remote controlled, which means the company can work on multiple jobs at the same time. The prime mover can drop off a trailer at one site, and leave the operator to load on the cable drum, as it moves to the next site for the next drum.
“We can have multiple operators doing the same job at the same mine site. We can drop a trailer at this mine site and then carry on to the next one. It’s all about efficiency in time and efficiency in dollars,” Bruce said.
What’s more, there is no limit on the cable lengths that KableX can handle. Everything from 100m to 500m cables can be loaded onto KableX trailers.
Efficiency in transportation is matched with efficiency improvements in the workshop phase of the service.
For one thing, KableX’s workers can unroll up to 200m of cable at the workshop and subject the entire stretch of cable to a range of tests, all at the same time. This method ensures a more efficient workflow practice.
High-voltage, splicing, partial brake, symmetrical load and sheath integrity tests are the standard jobs conducted by KableX, though the company has the capability to fulfil a range of other repair tasks.
“We cover any sort of damage from a typical mine site,” Bruce said.
What is unique about KableX is that all of these tests are run on customised equipment, again the end result of the company’s investments in internal research and development.
“We rely on third party suppliers to supply certain components, but we build the master assemblies in-house. We also design and construct our own equipment. We’ve looked into the future, and we believe we’ve been able to design equipment that will satisfy the demands of the market for the next 20 years,” Bruce said.
This focus on doing things in new and improved ways covers every piece of equipment and processing in the workshop, to the point where even the knives used by KableX are specially made to accommodate particular jobs.
“We haven’t copied anything,” Bruce said.
One particular innovation in testing comes through in its high-voltage test process. For this test, KableX has produced a completely new process of repair.
“One of the common pieces of equipment, the high voltage proof test, can be a destructive test. In finding damage or a fault within a cable, you actually create more damage,” Bruce said.
“But our equipment has been specifically designed in a way that it simply cannot do that. It has been electrically designed to mitigate any disruptive discharges that may damage the components of the cable.”
In effect, it’s a new method of applying high-voltages that limits the fault current and thus limits the potential damage to conductors within the cable being tested.
This new design allows KablexX to locate faults at a much lower voltage than traditional current methods. KableX uses a form of electricity that isn’t normally used, and in this way KableX can get around some common technical problems and test much more effectively.
KableX has demonstrated this new process to mine regulators in NSW, and expects it to be recognised to Australian standards in due course.
More than this, KableX’s affiliation with AusProof means that it is also expert in the termination of high-voltage plugs, a skill-set that regular cable repair companies might lack.
“AusProof is the only company in the world that has 35,000V plugs, and we can terminate any of those mining couplers up to 35 kV,” Bruce said.
Another innovation comes through its vulcanising process. The process involves squeezing and applying heat to raw rubber to transform it into cured hardened rubber.
“Our vulcanisers are probably the most unique component we have. They’re different to anything else that’s on the market right now,” Bruce said.
Unlike traditional cable repair companies, KableX’s vulcanisers create no seams or lines of weakness on any vulcanised repair, again the result of new design and innovation techniques born in the company’s research and development branch.
“We squeeze the cable evenly 360o around,” Bruce said.
At present, KableX runs two workshops catering to mines across Queensland and NSW, and it is in the process of expanding operations to cover WA.
Just recently, KableX completed some specialised cable assemblies for a company based in Western Australia, and the work was then shipped on to China.
The design of the workshop itself also reflects an innovative approach to cable repair.
“It’s not just the equipment which is designed to be faster and smarter,” Bruce said.
“Every part of the process is. We designed the workshop to specific ergonomic measurements, to ensure that our workers are operating in the safest and most efficient environment.
“We’re not working on the floor, on our knees, bending and straining throughout the repair process. All of our equipment is set up to operate at normal bench height.
“Even our tooling and the general hand tools we use are on a shadow board that you carry with you. There’s no bending over into toolboxes and picking stuff up off the floor. Everything is designed to be standing up and comfortable.”
Altogether, the efficiencies in the workshop that KableX has created through streamlined processes allows it to complete repairs in less time than a standard repair process might take.
“For complete repairs, we can save roughly 25% in labour time,” Bruce said.
Reduced labour time means reduced costs for companies that opt for the KableX system.
“For smaller cables, we can completely repair and turn them around in two days,” Bruce said.
KableX can work on any cable size. Indeed, their equipment was designed around handling the biggest cable sizes used throughout Australia.
“The biggest cables are 3m, the smallest 6mm, and we can work on all size ranges,” Bruce said.
Looking to the Future
Fundamentally, KableX’s flexibility and efficiency gains in all parts of the repair process grows out of its design philosophy.
Instead of following the crowd, or studying how things had been done in the past, the founders of KableX worked out what they wanted to achieve at the end-state, and then worked backwards to engineer the equipment and repair process to achieve that initial goal.
“The founder Philip Marx basically came up with an idea and then built the equipment to suit what he wanted to do without understanding the industry,” Bruce said.
“Part of the reason we did this is to develop the technology to further enhance the safety of the industry, through better fault location methods and better repair methods.”
The future looks bright for KableX.
Aside from establishing services through WA, the company, in conjunction with AusProof, plans to export its technology to overseas markets.
This is a natural progression for companies that innovate new methods and processes. Develop a better way to do something, and the world is yours.
AusProof and KableX
KableX – 1800 522 539
AusProof – (07) 4978 4000
AusProof – Olivia.firstname.lastname@example.org
KableX – email@example.com
KableX – www.kablex.com.au
AusProof – www.ausproof.com.au