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Go big or go home

September 1, 2012
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Technology with 0 Comments

RDH Mining Equipment is bulking up. Known until now for its narrow vein jumbos and loaders, the Sudbury-area underground mining equipment manufacturer will unveil the latest addition to its product lineup, a Muckmaster 800D 8-yard loader at MINExpo 2012.

“It’s going to be one of the first LHDs in the industry with a new, lower emission Tier 4 engine,” said RDH president Kevin Fitzsimmons. “We’ve always been a company that does what others think is impossible. Larger OEMs favour a cookie cutter approach. We pride ourselves on being more innovative.”

The larger LHD exposes RDH to a new market and opens the door to sales that have eluded the company until now.

“We’ve concentrated on narrow vein equipment,” said Fitzsimmons. “Everything’s been small and compact. Now, we’re looking to branch out.”

The decision to target a broader customer base is just one of several changes made by the new ownership team at RDH.

Founder and former president Rick Lemieux sold the company in April 2011 to a foursome consisting of son-in-law Fitzsimmons, vice-president of operations Gustavo Portalier, CFO Neil Edwards and vice-president Jeannot Courchesne. All four have been employed at RDH for several years.

The new owners have signed up dealers in Chile, Peru, Russia and Africa.

“We’re trying to do everything in-house for North America, but everywhere else, we’re setting up dealers to sell and service our equipment,” said Fitzsimmons. “No one knows a market like the people who live there and, often, it’s hard to break into a country if you don’t have a presence there.”

Dealer representation in the major mining markets will provide end users with local support and speedier service while also reducing costs.

“If there’s a problem with one of our machines in Russia, it could cost $25,000 to $30,000 to send a technician from Canada. For a guy who lives there, it might cost $1,200,” said Fitzsimmons.

RDH hosts technicians from other countries for up to six months at a time to train them.

“When the machines are shipped, they’re fully qualifies to diagnose and service them,” said Portalier, a Chilean mechanic recruited by Lemiuex in 2005 and one of the four co-owners.

Last year, RDH had one of its best years ever, churning out more than 60 machines.

“Within the next few years, we’d like to hit 100,” said Fitzsimmons. “We’re trying to make sure the shop is full all the time, that we have a good backlog and that we’re keeping our 72 people employed.”

Another innovative piece of equipment manufactured by RDH is a combined bolter, scaler and screen handler. Designed and built for a customer in Mexico, the unit has two arms. One is designed for scaling and screen handling. The other is equipped with a carousel containing eight rock bolts. An operator in the cab controls the arms from a distance, drilling the holes and inserting the rock bolts or split set under protected ground.

The unit is especially well suited for drifts with a high back, said Courchesne.

A previous bolter manufactured by RDH had one arm for screen handling and a basket boom from which a miner manually installed ground support.

RDH has also developed its own remote control systems for LHDs. Using third party systems creates confusion when something goes wrong and the end user doesn’t know who to call or the third party supplier is slow to respond, said Portalier.

“When a system isn’t performing the way it should, it can be hard to get service,” added Fitzsimmons. “The RDH logo is all over our machines, so if they break down, it’s seen as an RDH problem. Another company may not value service the way we do. We know our equipment and we’ll be right there to fix it or diagnose it over the phone because it’s our reputation that’s on the line.”

www.rdhminingequipment.com

MINExpo: Booth 1751

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