As the economic pinch continues in sectors like construction and mining, there has been an alarming increase in the number of companies let down by underperforming crushing and screening equipment, spares support and technical aftermarket support, according to Pilot Crushtec director of sales and marketing Francois Marais.

“We have fielded a growing number of calls recently from companies using other manufacturers’ equipment, requesting urgent assistance in providing alternatives or support to help them meet their contract obligations,” says Marais. “It appears to us as if many companies have selected equipment based purely on price, rather than its suitability for their application.”

He highlights the devastating impact which these constant – and sometimes catastrophic – technical failures and lack of spare supply have on the performance and reputation of these crushing service providers. With crushing contracts being invariably linked to strict time and output requirements, any downtime can place delivery and fulfilment at risk.

“Even if the equipment can be kept functional, these unexpected repair and maintenance costs can end up rendering a project unprofitable,” he says. “What is happening in these cases is that any savings from the capital expenditure on the equipment is being eaten up by fast-rising operating expenditure.”

The irony is that it is often the companies whose profitability is already marginal, who try to survive by purchasing low-priced equipment upfront. He points out that this exposes the business to dangerously high levels of operating risk, as any unexpected downtime quickly wipes out the narrow profit margin.

“One bad purchasing decision can push these players over the edge,” says Marais. “There is a mistaken belief that they can ‘save their way’ to profitability – which simply does not make financial sense in this competitive sector.”

He emphasises that successful crushing contractors recognise the vital importance of mission-critical equipment in their enterprises and contracts. They earn their success and reputation by top-class performance, ensuring the production levels that customers demand – and thereby winning the return business necessary for sustainability and growth.

“The economic environment certainly makes many firms risk-averse, and this tempts them to trim their capex budgets to unsustainable levels,” he says. “This suggests that they are incentivised by the wrong metrics, and may not have a proper alignment between their procurement mandate and their strategic business objectives.”

He notes that this challenge is also reflected in a prevailing business culture in which buyers feel they are only justified in purchasing after the price is substantially reduced.

“Our approach at Pilot Crushtec has always been clear: we provide the assurance of performance, so that customers do not put themselves at unmanageable risk by purchasing our equipment,” he says. “With this approach, we try to set them up for success, and support them in meeting their own customers’ expectations in turn.”

Marais argues that Pilot Crushtec can achieve this because of its 30 years of experience, and the proven quality of its equipment, service, spares stock holding and backup support. The company invests heavily, for instance, in its on-site stockholding, so that customers do not have to wait usually for parts. It also configures its equipment with everything that customers need, so they are not left stranded in the middle of a project without mission critical features.

“Our decades of experience in the field means that we know what our customers use to improve performance, and we supply these features as standard on our equipment,” he says. “When you consider all the added features that our machines come with as standard, it is easy to be impressed by the value for money that we provide.”

By way of example, he points to the Metso Lokotrack LT120 mobile jaw crushing plant, which comes standard with a hydraulic rock-breaker which is a very expensive item to include as a standard. The unit also boasts the innovative Metso lifting tools system for changing the liners on the jaw crusher, saving more than half the time to replace liners. It also has 30% less hydraulic oil, making for considerable savings that the average customer would not expect. Pilot Crushtec has been the local distributor for Metso for the past six years.

“By saving on downtime and enhancing safety, we help customers remove excessive risk from their projects, so they can build sustainable brands and successful businesses,” he says. “It is no coincidence that the top five contractors in the crushing space rely predominantly on equipment from Pilot Crushtec.”