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Competing Cost-effectively and Efficiently in the Mineral Products Sector

First published in the July 2019 issue of Quarry Management as Driving Innovation

With the mineral products sector becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace, businesses today have to be able to compete cost-effectively and efficiently, as well as ensuring they have a fully competent and health and safety-conscious workforce. QM spoke to Paul Holmes, managing director of Wirtgen Ltd, about the company’s customer-driven approach to meeting these demands and the importance of delivering equipment-management solutions and aftermarket service offerings 

At bauma 2019, Wirtgen Group and US parent company John Deere shared a stand for the first time at a trade fair, showcasing their wide range of leading machinery solutions and application technologies, including those from specialist brands Kleemann, Benninghoven, Hamm and Vögele. 

The triennial exhibition in Munich, which took place in April, clearly demonstrated that the complementary product ranges of Wirtgen Group and John Deere are a perfect fit. Equally important, it also highlighted the total solutions nature of their combined product portfolio and marked out Deere as the industry leader in global road construction, following the acquisition of Wirtgen Group in 2017. 

Headquartered in Windhagen, Rheinland-Palatinate, in Germany, Wirtgen Group continue to operate under their five product brands – Wirtgen, Kleemann, Benninghoven, Hamm and Vögele. Last year the company achieved a turnover of more than €3 billion and supplied products in more than 100 countries through a global network of company-owned and independent dealers. 

Since its inception in 1961, the Group has continuously improved its offering to customers by establishing a ‘360o product portfolio’ – a one-stop-shop for all equipment in the road construction and mineral processing markets. 

Whether helping customers to carry out motorway rehabilitation projects using more recycled asphalt paving (RAP) content, or building new airport runways, Wirtgen Group have a vast line of products encompassing the whole process chain in pavement construction, from processing, mixing and paving to compaction and rehabilitation.

One of the biggest challenges facing the extractives and mineral-processing industries is to achieve the lowest cost-per-tonne production in the most environmentally friendly and safest possible way, and in today’s marketplace many aggregate producers are looking for modern, flexible and cost-effective solutions that can help them enhance productivity, minimize machinery downtime and reduce operating costs while maximizing profitability. 

‘Businesses in the mineral products sector now want a lot more than just construction machinery with proven reliability, capability and green credentials,’ commented Paul Holmes, managing director of Wirtgen Ltd, the UK sales and service subsidiary of Wirtgen Group. ‘We’re finding that many plant operators are looking at the bigger picture when it comes to optimizing their equipment performance and seeking increased returns from their investments.’ 

Wirtgen Group have a long-standing reputation for manufacturing high-quality road construction equipment and helping customers to find the best materials-processing solutions. Thanks to the continuous expansion of the Group’s infrastructure, new subsidiaries and a growing number of service locations, customers can purchase all the products they need for their applications locally, whilst service and support for their equipment is often available from a single source. 

With these advantages, Wirtgen Ltd have demonstrated in the UK market that they are well equipped to meet any challenge in road construction, and the combined force of their highly regarded specialist brands forms a key part of the subsidiary’s current and future commercial success.  

Customer service and care have always been, and continue to be, a cornerstone of Wirtgen Group’s business-growth strategy and this complements the company’s key focus on developing new products and processing solutions by supporting customers and driving technological innovation and operational best practice. 

‘It just makes commercial sense to look after your customers, and our customer-support service has always been a significant company objective,’ said Mr Holmes. ‘Wirtgen are, of course, a well-known equipment manufacturer around the world and we’ve invested heavily in the five premium product brands to ensure the Group not only designs and builds the best machinery, but also has the right service and support infrastructure in place so we can provide a wide array of service offerings for our customers.’

Wirtgen Group’s after-sales support services already cover the entire life cycle of machines in their extensive product lines, but to meet the changing needs of their customers the range and scope of these services has steadily increased in recent years as end-users have demanded ever-more effective equipment-management solutions that allow them to optimize the performance and reliability of their machines.

‘The aim of our after-sales service and product support is to make the life of our customers easier when it comes to purchasing, operating and maintaining equipment by lowering costs related to wear and spare parts, inventory, servicing and improving delivery times,’ explained Mr Holmes.

‘We are 100% committed to ensuring customers in the road construction, maintenance and mineral-processing sectors get the most from their equipment. Our broad range of differentiated support services, ranging from inspection and routine servicing to product-protection plans and customer-training programmes, can be individually tailored to client needs and cover the whole life cycle of their equipment assets.’

Mr Holmes firmly believes Wirtgen Group’s client-focused approach, advanced engineering expertise and ability to deliver tailored equipment solutions puts them in a perfect position to meet the long-term needs of customers in the mineral extractives industry and equipment-related sector. Another key strength of the Group is the vast availability of resources on hand to meet the equipment challenges across the sector, which, according to Mr Holmes, gives Wirtgen a real competitive edge over their competitors.

‘Last year we opened a new UK headquarters in Newark [Nottinghamshire], which demonstrates Wirtgen Group’s strong commitment to continued growth in the UK and Ireland market across all our machine types and brands,’ he commented. 

‘It’s a fantastic state-of-the-art facility that I am very proud of and provides a perfect base from which to develop and expand our business and 120-strong workforce. Importantly, the premises will support our highly skilled engineering team in delivering consistent, industry-leading, bespoke equipment solutions for our customers.’

Representing an investment of £12.5 million, the Wirtgen UK headquarters houses modern office workspace, two fully equipped training rooms and a large service workshop capable of providing maintenance and repairs for the company’s biggest machines. 

The new site has also strengthened Wirtgen Ltd’s aftermarket parts support in the UK and Ireland, thanks to a spare parts warehouse facility that stocks around 8,000 different items. In addition, there is an outdoor training centre where customers undergo practical training on some of the group’s machinery products, such as road pavers and planers.  

‘With the product-support capability of our engineers in the region and the improved parts availability the UK headquarters complex will deliver, we will continue to provide customers a superior level of after-sales support in the in the UK, Ireland and European markets,’ said Mr Holmes. 

‘When you consider our ambitious growth plans over the next few years, it became very clear that we needed to invest in our logistics and parts support in order to maintain and further improve the levels of service that our customers have come to expect from us. 

‘We are all delighted with the new state-of-the-art facilities in Newark and this substantial investment not only meets the needs of today, but also factors in plenty of capacity for any future growth plans.’

Supply-chain collaboration 

As sustainability and health and safety continue to play an important role in the way the mineral extractives sector operates, high on the agenda for most companies too, is innovation. 

Technological product innovation, for example, is key to meeting the UK’s current and future infrastructure challenges and many construction material suppliers are already exploring and developing customer-focused innovations that have a direct benefit to infrastructure delivery in terms of production, efficiency and safety. 

Wirtgen Group have enjoyed great success working closely with their customers in the road construction, quarrying and mining sectors, and Mr Holmes believes everyone in the wider supply chain has a role to play and that means greater collaboration between clients, manufacturers, contractors, materials providers and other suppliers.  

‘As equipment manufacturers, it’s certainly the approach we take,’ he commented. ‘Collaboration enhances the implementation of innovative ideas and solutions by creating joint ownership. As innovation is embedded at the heart of our business and applies to every aspect of our operations, we work very closely with customers to support them early in the decision-making process of their projects and help them develop the right equipment strategy.’

Mr Holmes continued: ‘Working alone can only achieve so much; but closer collaboration, sharing of ideas and combining the strengths and expertise across all the organizations involved will help us to reduce sudden machinery breakdowns, ensure the highest end-product quality and secure continuous production, all of which will deliver more profitable outcomes for customers.’ 

Leaders of the pack 

Wirtgen Group’s investment in product enhancement and research and development has always been strong, as the company constantly looks for new ideas, products and innovative solutions to help customers address challenges and deliver construction projects as effectively as possible. 

The Group always strives for continuous improvements across its equipment range to ensure its specialized product brands are at the top end of the market in terms of quality, reliability and cost-efficiency. And to achieve this, Wirtgen Group invest heavily in R&D: implementing new innovations and technologies; and responding to the evolving needs of road construction contractors and aggregate producers more efficiently and rapidly than before. 

‘It is no secret that in order to thrive – like all businesses in the market – we must focus on innovation, research and product development,’ said Mr Holmes. ‘We are fully committed to bringing in new advanced technologies, solutions and best working practices to the table, so having the opportunity to offer new cutting-edge products with our own research and development is invaluable.’

Indeed, Wirtgen Group’s latest products and service offerings – which included 18 global premieres and no less than 25 technological innovations – were showcased under the theme ‘Smart Synergies and Innovations’ at bauma 2019. 

With around 120 exhibits on the Group’s stand, a huge line-up of new machines and systems from all five brand segments was on display, including the latest Wirtgen W 210 Fi cold-milling unit and Vögele SUPER 3000-3(i), which can pave asphalt over an industry record-breaking width of 18m.  

Other exhibits included Benninghoven Eco asphalt mixing equipment, as well as specific models from their TBA family of transportable asphalt mixing plants, which can now be configured with a hot-gas generator for RC additives.

Under the Hamm brand, the Group presented the ‘future of compaction’ with new tyred rollers in the HP series, a revolutionary split oscillation drum and numerous other new products for asphalt and earthwork applications. 

Meanwhile, Kleemann showcased their latest developments in mobile crushing and screening technology, including the MC 120 Z Pro mobile jaw crusher. Rounding off the stand were a number of John Deere exhibits, most notably the 622GP and 672GP motor-grader models, both of which are now available in the European market. 

With a core focus on developing industry-leading machinery and a company-wide emphasis on supporting and providing customers with total solutions to their business requirements, Mr Holmes has every reason to be optimistic about Wirtgen Group’s future; as the company continues to strengthen its position as a technology market leader in the mineral-processing and road construction equipment sectors. 

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