Tue, 27/08/2019 - 08:59
Current Issue 77
By supporting clients with expert remanufacturing services, Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia is ensuring reliable machinery makes its way to vital infrastructure projects across the country
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Zambia, somewhat against the regional grain, is home to a sturdy construction sector at present.
The well-documented headwinds faced by fellow Southern African neighbours, especially South Africa, appear to be shielded against for a number of reasons.
Public infrastructure projects and investment in commercial buildings and residential housing have ensured a continuing pipeline of demand, shown by the fact that Zambian cement production increased by 10 percent in 2018 according to figures from the Africa Development Bank.
The country’s construction industry is a vital contributor to GDP, which grew by around four percent last year and is forecast to expand by 4.2 percent in 2019 and 4.3 percent in 2020.
Also crucial to the sector’s current and long-term stability is a resolute mining sector, something which Scott Johnston, GM of Operations for Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia (HCMZ), recognises as a positive backdrop that the company is operating in.
“We are still seeing investment in the local construction and mining industry,” he says, “and with the rise of demand on electric vehicles we only foresee the demand for copper to increase. We therefore look forward to rejuvenated activity in 2020 and also see the trend that customers who sweated their assets from the last global recession are now starting to look for replacement equipment.”
Indeed, much of HCMZ’s activity is focused on remanufacturing key Hitachi machinery components throughout their lifecycles, its specialisms including hydraulic pumps, motors and cylinders, electric motors for excavators and alternators, wheel motors for diesel electric trucks, and transmissions for trucks and excavators.
Its customers are involved in various projects in Zambia, including dam construction, housing projects, specialist projects that include the improvement of water reticulation, and agricultural developments, among other activities.
“Our philosophy is to provide reliable solutions,” adds Johnston.
“One way this is achieved is by working closely with the customer, listening to their needs and then acting on them. This then provides the solution the customer needs as opposed to trying to tell them what they need. At the end of the day, reliable machinery is key to our clients. They need peace of mind that the machine is going to keep their construction tasks on time and on budget.
“In addition to this, Hitachi has invested heavily into Zambia and its customers through its remanufacturing centre.”
Based in Lusaka, the remanufacturing centre has recently undergone an expansion which has increased both technical and physical capacity to carry out work. Further, it has also elevated the facility to a status whereby it now serves Europe and Middle Eastern markets, as well as Africa-based clients.
Another development made since Africa Outlook last spoke with HCMZ centres around new Hitachi machinery being launched.
Johnston reveals: “We have released our latest generation dump truck into the Zambia market in the form of the AC-3. This model is a totally new generation of truck which unlocks production and provides increases in safety for its operators.
“In addition to this and our expansion of the remanufacturing centre in Lusaka, we have welcomed the new -5A series wheel loader, a series of models which match well with our construction sized excavators. Last but not least, we have recently launched the -7 mining excavator which has up to 10 percent fuel saving compared to the previous model, while maintaining the same production levels.”
New equipment is also backed up with technology to optimise the maintenance and repair process, the concept of predictive maintenance an important one in that it ensures minimal downtime of machinery.
Hitachi Construction Machinery Zambia thus utilises a system called ConSite. A digital remote condition monitoring solution, it sends real-time alerts to email and mobile apps, effectively allowing HCMZ to keep watch over a machine’s health on behalf of the customer.
Given much of the company’s equipment is used on sites located in remote areas, the ability to detect a fault early is paramount to keeping downtime at a minimum, with owners alerted at the soonest opportunity.
This is just one example of technology futureproofing the operations of HCMZ and its clients, however.
Johnston cites several other examples, adding: “As you know, we are just at the start of the IoT revolution. Hitachi Construction Machinery is fortunate to have the parent company of Hitachi Limited, which is one of the global leaders in innovation.
“This allows us to provide the customer with innovative safety and production technology. Some examples are our aerial angle object detection systems, trolley line guidance systems and ConSite for mining operations.
“Our autonomous haulage solutions are also making great leaps and we recently made an announcement on how Hitachi intends to change the stereotype of autonomous haulage by making our system an open operating ecosystem.”
Johnston is referring to a platform called Solution Linkage, Hitachi Construction Machinery’s IoT solution that works in partnership with customers to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce lifecycle costs.
ConSite falls under this umbrella, as does the FMS mine management system, geared towards creating a network of partners that integrate their systems alongside existing mine infrastructure and encouraging new tech entrants into the mining sphere.
By supporting a multi-vendor approach to autonomous construction and mining vehicle operations, Hitachi is enabling clients to reduce costs and take advantage of the freedom to choose vendors independent of their fleet management systems.
Such advances will help Johnston and HCMZ in their bid to achieve the remaining objectives for 2019 and the longer term, the GM of Operations stating a desire to increase the company’s construction customer base, while at the same time ensuring it can supply feasible solutions to international customers long into the future.
On a personal level, having moved from Australia in 2011, he very much looks forward to the next chapter.
Johnston concludes: “I have enjoyed my time in Zambia over the years and have witnessed many changes in the industry during my time here. I am sure I will continue to enjoy the challenges and rewards that operating in Zambia and Africa have to offer.”