"Our strategy has been to continue with our maintenance and service contracts while we wait for the market to pick up. Companies are extending the life of their assets and eventually that will get to the point where the cost to repair is uneconomical and they will have to look for replacement equipment."
How has Liebherr’s business been in Chile since 2017?
Liebherr’s overall Chilean business has remained stable since 2017. Our excavator fleet has grown from 20 to 32 units. After 18 years, we finished our contract with Chuquicamata in July 2019 as a result of their transition to underground mining. However, we are in the process of moving these trucks to a new project. In 2020, we are involved in the ESTRS trial at Escondida for BHP that has great growth potential for our business.
Our strategy has been to continue with our maintenance and service contracts while we wait for the market to pick up. Companies are extending the life of their assets and eventually that will get to the point where the cost to repair is uneconomical and they will have to look for replacement equipment. We still want to have our employees in place and develop more talent. As a family company, employees are a huge part of our business and we need to make sure that when the market does pick up we have the people ready so we can react quickly and fill our management and supervision positions internally.
In your opinion, how much of the talk about innovation is noise and how much has substance?
If you look at the technology now and the data that is available, from Liebherr’s point of view, it can only get better in providing more information from our machines. Our LNDS system allows us to remotely monitor the vital information on our trucks and manage the maintenance accordingly.
Another technology development that Liebherr will have for our excavators is our “Assistance Systems”, which allows us to increase the levels of safety and productivity of our equipment, reducing operating costs, through different tools such as: the application of a truck loading assistant to continually measure the bucket payload, a self-diagnostic system, an on-board system that automatically computes the KPIs about machine productivity and an application severity detector. This aligns with increased safety, productivity and ultimately lower cost per tonne.
We believe in terms of mobile mining equipment, there is still quite a way to go with some very exciting advancements that we are continuing to develop that will further improve our overall equipment performance.
How far along is Chile in the transition to autonomous mining?
At our testing grounds in the United States, we have a truck running without operators with some advanced features like obstacle detection. We are looking for a partner to start mine site trails in 2020 with our trucks or to retrofit an existing Liebherr truck fleet.
Liebherr has chosen an open protocol system that means we can use any fleet management system, as we believe the industry will look for this flexibility in the future.
How does Liebherr Chile deal with the challenge of retaining talent?
We identify our high potential people and tailor training to that person´s and the company’s goals. We also have a policy where when positions become available we try to promote internally from our existing staff. For all our employees we sponsor further studies where we see a benefit for both the company and our employees. We also use our affiliate companies and factories for training and experience sharing.
Is your Chilean office driving expansion elsewhere in South America?
Yes. We have a separate management team in Peru, but we are relying heavily on our planning and technical support experience from Chile for the initial start-up while we develop our in company capacity.
What would you like to achieve at Liebherr in Chile by 2022?
We want to expand our excavator and truck fleets and introduce our mining bulldozer range. Chile is an amazing mining country and we want to continue to be part of the mining industry. We also aim for the successful completion of the ESTRS trail at Escondida and expanding our strong relationship with have with BHP in other regions especially Australia.
We believe that with our flat management structure that allows our customers have direct access to our senior management team and our factories is a huge advantage. We are willing to work with clients directly to provide the solutions they need to get maximum production at the lowest TCO.