Despite the company now being recognised as a full systems OEM provider of underground mining equipment that includes continuous miners, shuttle cars, battery scoops, roof bolters and feeder breakers, the manufacturing of parts, and refurbishing and repair of these components and machines, constitutes the major portion of the company’s production capacity.
CEO Danie van Wyk and Sales Director Reuben Mabumda
Unfortunately, much of the news about South African mining in recent years has been negative. Since its peak in 1980, when it contributed 21% of the country’s GDP, mining in South Africa has been overtaken by the finance, government, trade and transport industries. However, it continues to be a critical economic activity as it is the country’s sixth largest economic sector.
It was not so long ago that mining, gold in particular, was the number one revenue and foreign currency earner in South Africa. Gold is now only the fourth biggest selling commodity in South Africa, with coal, platinum group metals (PGMs) and iron ore all bringing in more money than gold. Iron ore is having a stellar time thanks to massive international price increases caused by the dam wall that broke in Brazil leading to Vale suspending production at one of the biggest iron ore mines in the world. This fuelled worries about iron ore supplies and this led to massive price increases. Gold is in the sunset period of its lifetime in South Africa. And it is becoming less and less important in the overall mining industry of South Africa.
With demand dropping for gold and the cost of mining gold haven risen dramatically in South Africa, coal has replaced gold as the number one commodity mined in South Africa. According to Stats SA coal contributed 25.4% of total mineral sales in 2019, making it the most important mineral in the South African mining industry. South African coal production edged up by 0.5% in 2019, following on from a 0.4% rise in 2018.
However, the South African mining industry requires a revitalisation to regain its lustre.
The J.A. Engineering Wildcat JAE42A continuous miner, which has a high local content of 90%, is currently being shipped to Australia where it will be final assembled and brought into operation in May 2020
J.A. Engineering carries a healthy stock of spares for gearboxes
Helping to put the shine back into the South African mining industry is J.A. Engineering, a company that has seen significant growth in the last couple of years and believes there is still opportunity in the mining industry.
“Despite the world’s call to change to renewable energy, which we don’t disagree with, South Africa’s energy supply is a long way off getting to the required figures. World demand for coal fell for the first time in two years in 2019, according to The Guardian (quoting a report from the International Energy Agency). European countries and the United States continue to replace coal-fired power plants with renewable alternatives, driving down demand. It remains to be seen, however, whether this is the start of a long-term trend. Coal is currently the main source of our South African energy requirements and it will remain so for some time,” believes Danie van Wyk, CEO at J.A. Engineering.
“J.A. Engineering has over 30 years of experience as a leading South African manufacturing engineering business that offers advanced engineering solutions to the coal mining industry. The company history reflects this with the development and manufacture of our battery scoops last century. Battery powered mining vehicles were introduced in the 1980s, but it is only in recent years that large-scale adoption of the technology is being considered. Our battery powered scoops improve the rate of coal clearance in underground mining. The flameproof battery powered unit, which complies fully with SANS 1654, features an innovative mechanism that allows for easy battery changeover. It is designed to be used in typical low seam coal mining applications either for a utility clean-up or as a production support machine,” explained van Wyk.
J.A. Engineering’s OEM gearboxes are painted in their own distinct colour
The CNC lathe department at J.A. Engineering
“We believe that J.A. Engineering now has approximately 80% market share for battery scoops in the South African coal mining industry. It was the company’s first venture into the manufacture of a mining vehicle. We have subsequently designed, developed and manufactured five other machines for the coal mining industry. These include two variations of continuous miners, shuttle cars, roof bolters and feeder breakers, all of which are powered by grid electricity or large generators. We now have a significant number of battery scoops, continuous miners, shuttle cars and feeder breakers that we currently support, and that operate as production machines in drill-and-blast environments. They are manufactured in various configurations and specifications according to customer requirement. These could include AC, DC, height, bucket length, ground clearance, payload, load capacity and many other variables.”
“All our machines have an African feel to them in that they are named after – wild life. Our JAE42 continuous miner, which we introduced in 2016 is known as the Wildcat and our JAE Twin Roof Bolter, which we introduced in 2018 is known as the Honey Badger. We are also developing our JAE Caracal Shuttle Car with advanced driver assisted features. We are in the final stages of design for our Low Seam Continuous Miner the JAE38 Wildcub.”
“The paw of an African wildcat has also been incorporated into our logo representing our belief in sustainable mining solutions in the South African context.”
Engineering solutions provider
“All of the OEM equipment we manufacture has evolved from what was the original core focus of the company and still is – innovative engineering solutions and manufacturing of gearboxes, as well as the refurbishing and repair of these products. Our experience in this field made us realise there is a market for designing, developing and manufacturing our own OEM equipment, specifically for use in South African underground coal mining.”
The company has Goodway and Feeler CNC lathes and four big Kafo horizontal and vertical boring mills. Four TOS W100A machines have all now been through an extensive rebuild and refurbishment, including the electronics, to upgrade them
Although the machine sizes limit J.A. Engineering to certain machining they are still able to machine relatively big components
“It is a challenge because the mining industry does not believe that South African companies can be innovative and manufacture a product that what we believe is superior to what is being imported or assembled locally.”
“This misconception, we believe, we have overcome, and has evolved into us now exporting our first machine to Australia. Our Wildcat JAE42A continuous miner, which has a high local content of 90%, is currently being shipped down under where it will be final assembled and brought into operation in May 2020.”
“Our client in Australia has developed a disruptive technology for all other mining methods and is poised to fundamentally change the nature of the mining of coal. Penetrated Block Extraction Mining System (PBE) is a remote-controlled underground mining technology that utilises military standard inertial navigation and guidance systems integrated with advanced positioning and situational control systems.”
“With PBE, coal is remotely mined in an environment where personnel are not exposed to the mining hazards of rock fall, dust or gas emissions. PBE requires much lower capital investment than other mining methods and is a high productivity system with much lower mining costs than other methods. The system is also referred to as a punch mining system.”
Components machined by J.A. Engineering
Some more components machined by J.A. Engineering
“While the Wildcat JAE42A continuous miner has the high cutting force essential to cut through South Africa’s hard coal, it will be deployed in Australia’s softer-coal environment, which could well result in enhanced performance. Roof-bolting will not be required for the punch mining system, as people will be located away from the vulnerable areas.”
“Diversifying J.A. Engineering’s design success into hard-rock mining and taking on more opencast mining challenges are options the company is now considering.”
“We’re living at an exciting time with the endless opportunities that technology and manufacturing evolution are affording us. Our imagination is the only restriction,” said van Wyk, who also emphasised the company’s extensive repair and rebuild capability. This includes the electrical and mechanical upkeep of underground equipment and surface mining blasthole drills, rope shovels and walking draglines.
Facility in Jet Park, Gauteng
“We have a very well-equipped 8 000m² head office facility in Jet Park, Gauteng that comprises engineering, administration, machining, assembly and dispatch. 2015 was a big year for the company because we doubled our factory space by purchasing the 4 000m² building next door and we also purchased a company that was doing the majority of our smaller CNC machining work. Along with the purchase came Goodway and Feeler CNC lathes and four big Kafo horizontal and vertical boring mills. Four TOS W100A machines have all now been through an extensive rebuild and refurbishment, including the electronics, to upgrade them.”
J.A. Engineering’s conventional lathe department
J.A. Engineering are capable of machining relatively large shafts
“Our machining capabilities are limited to the size of our machines and any larger components that we need to be machined is shopped out to a local company that has the machines to satisfy our requirements. Our manufacturing strategy has always been to form strong bonds with our local suppliers. With our partners, we manufacture everything, from pins and gears to steel structures, with the main import being electronics.”
The high local content of J.A. Engineering is reflected by direct imports amounting to a mere 9.7% of procurement spend, with the main import component brought in from the company’s Australian partner, and electronic control systems provider.
“Our local content may vary between 80% to 90%, depending on what we manufacture. All our castings and forgings are sourced locally, for example, as well as our plate and material that we machine from solid. Large housings for the gearboxes will also be outsourced locally.”
Castings and forgings ready for machining
Despite the company now being recognised as a full systems OEM provider of underground mining equipment that includes continuous miners, shuttle cars, battery scoops, roof bolters and feeder breakers, the manufacturing of parts, and refurbishing and repair of these components and machines, constitutes the major portion of the company’s production capacity
“Besides the CNC department we also have an extensive range of conventional lathes and mills. The nature of our business is not high production runs but more focused towards specific componentry, including shafts, used in gearboxes and large traction planetaries.”
“The receiving department is a very integral operation in our repair and rebuild division. All equipment or large componentry that we receive has to be dismantled and captured, inspected to see if we repair or replace with new and then decisions and work allocation are communicated to the other departments.”
“As previously said, we are very committed to local content and this has resulted in us being able to offer product and services cheaper than our international competitors. Even though we are constantly looking at ways of improving quality and reducing costs, the gap is narrowing. Last year I attended the EMO 2019 exhibition to look at new technologies such as robotics and data collection to improve our efficiencies and deliver a solution for the lowest cost per ton for customers.”
“Government needs to address the local manufacture and beneficiation situation, especially in the steel industry, if it wants local companies to remain competitive and create more employment opportunities.”
“J.A. Engineering has put a great emphasis on equipping and providing our employees with the tools to be more efficient and productive. And by tools I don’t just mean in the physical sense. Training and thereby equipping our employees with the knowledge tools for the job has made our operation more efficient because each employee understands what is expected of him or her and the outcomes of understanding their input to their work situation and actions. This has only been achieved by constant communication and an understanding from both sides – a partnership.”
Local content may vary between 80% to 90%, depending on what J.A. Engineering manufacture
The receiving department is a very integral operation in the repair and rebuild division. All equipment or large componentry that J.A. Engineering receives has to be dismantled and captured, inspected to see if they repair or replace with new and then decisions and work allocation are communicated to the other departments
“I have been with the company for 16 years and have worked in every department so I have a good understanding of what is required. With a workforce of 206 it is important to harness the synergy throughout the whole company and extend that synergy to our local supply partners with an indirect local employment of more than double that of JAE to the benefit of the overall enterprise.”
“In business, when a department becomes too insular, rarely communicating with colleagues in other areas from whose insights they could benefit, it’s known as creating a silo. This can happen in any business when different divisions become so focused on their individual goals that they neglect to share observations and expertise, or fail to create a channel of communication that would be helpful to the business as a whole. In most instances, each department would benefit from eliminating the walls that separate them.”
J.A. Engineering does not just do the machining of their OEM equipment – it includes the electrical and mechanical upkeep of underground equipment and surface mining blasthole drills, rope shovels and walking draglines
Besides the CNC department J.A. Engineering also have an extensive range of conventional lathes and mills. The nature of the company’s business is not high production runs but more focused towards specific componentry, including shafts, used in gearboxes and large traction planetaries
Long known for both designing and manufacturing new gearboxes, as well as its gearbox repair service, J.A. Engineering is a stronger company because of the close relationship it has with its employees and local suppliers. Part of the OEM division’s success strategy is to remain at the leading edge of new developments in coal mining equipment manufacturing, whether that involves new materials and designs for producing better, stronger machines, or the latest machining technologies for producing better quality components more quickly. By sharing the knowledge gained in each area with the other, the company is able to streamline its internal operations while providing customers with a depth of institutional knowledge that is constantly evolving and expanding.
Another milestone in the company’s history took place in 2014 when it put into place a B-BBEE structure which included ownership. The company is now 30.5% black owned and 20.1% black female owned, which enables it to comply as a Level-3 contributor.
For further details contact J.A. Engineering on TEL: 011 397 3237 or visit www.jae.co.za