A Global Mining Giant
As the biggest of three divisions for the Glasgow-based Weir Group PLC, Weir Minerals is a leader in delivering and supporting slurry equipment solutions for the global mining industry. The company provides an impressive portfolio of machinery and equipment across the mineral processing space, which makes up around 80 percent of its business.
Weir Minerals’ global footprint and the excellence it brings to slurry handling help the company reduce the total cost of ownership for many of its clients.
“We don’t pretend to be the cheapest on the market,” said Dean Jenkins, Melbourne-based divisional managing director, in an interview with Venture Magazine. “But we will be the cheapest for the total cost of ownership, helping to make our customers more efficient and productive, and we’re second to none in this space.”
Although Weir Minerals’ business is concentrated in mining, the company is also involved in oil and gas—specifically oil sands in Canada—dewatering, and construction.
With approximately 9,000 employees operating in six continents, resilience in the market downturn, and 1.1 billion pound turnover annually, Weir Minerals is currently investing not only in acquisitions and technology, but its people as well.
Acquisition of Trio and Other Investments
For many companies involved in the mining industry, and particularly the mining industry in Australia and North America, it is a difficult time to invest in growth. Weir Minerals however has made it a high priority.
October of last year saw the company acquire Trio Engineered Products, a Chinese-American manufacturer of crushing and separation equipment for the mining and aggregates markets. Jenkins shared that the company is very happy with the way the integration process is going particularly in China, where Weir is integrating two large manufacturing facilities.
Trio is involved in an earlier process in mineral processing called comminution. While Weir deals in slurry—a semiliquid mixture with particles suspended in water—Trio and others involved in comminution work in dry projects. Specifically, once any kind of ore is removed from the ground, it needs to go through a series of crushing and grinding before it gets to the slurry stage. By acquiring a company like Trio, Weir has diversified its offerings in a way that will help it become an industry leader in different stages of mineral processing.
“The acquisition of Trio is part of a carefully considered strategy which will accelerate our move into comminution while at the same time using Weir’s established global capability and technology leadership to bring Trio to new markets,” Jenkins said. “With machinery like crushers, screens, and conveyors, Trio also opens the attractive aggregates market for Weir and helps to diversify revenues at a time where miners are reducing the amount of capital they spend on new equipment. With Trio, we can bring our technology to industries like construction where it will help crush rocks to make construction materials—and into regions like China and North America in sand and aggregates.”
Weir Minerals’ rigorous integration process for Trio is about 80 percent complete, Jenkins shared. Around 70 people have overseen the completion of over 2,000 integrations tasks, and the business is very close to being up and running as a normal part of the divisional portfolio.
But Trio is not the only way Weir plans to populate the comminution segment: the company has signed an ongoing license commitment with KHD for high-pressure grind rolls to help further diversify its portfolio.
“We’ve deliberately developed a comprehensive comminution portfolio and are confident we can make a difference to this market,” Jenkins shared.
Outside of comminution, Weir Minerals recently announced a 70 million pound investment in Malaysia for a manufacturing hub. The company already has around 300 people in the region, and is looking to double the business in the next 5 to 10 years.
“We want it to become a global supply hub, particularly for smaller parts for our businesses across the world,” Jenkins commented. “Malaysia is an excellent economy to invest in, with a good education system and a local workforce that is willing and keen to travel.”
A foundry in South Africa rounds out the company’s recent investment projects.
Training and Management Excellence
Internally, Weir Minerals has been working hard for years to offer their employees the best in terms of training and management. Many of their programs have been in effect for several years, but the company is not slowing down with development of this portion of the company.
We’ve deliberately developed a comprehensive comminution portfolio and are confident we can make a difference to this market.
- Dean Jenkins, Melbourne-based Divisional Managing Director
Weir’s Global Graduate Programme manages graduates as a global pool. In this program, graduates participate in a rotation program which often requires each to commit to a six-month period overseas somewhere.
“I think international experience is fundamental for future leaders,” Jenkins said.
And it doesn’t stop there. This program also has graduates taking part in understanding a different part of the company, growing experience not only globally, but across fields and departments.
The company also provides two MBA programs. The Weir Business Management Programme is effectively the first half of an MBA, which is run in tandem with Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland. It is Weir-focused and allows employees to experience the company’s proud Scottish heritage which dates back to its foundation by brothers James and George Weir in 1871. The second—the Weir MBA Programme—is not a formalised degree, but allows employees to develop their individual leadership styles.
To encourage leadership, Weir also runs its Frontline Leaders program, which focuses on taking employees who are not in traditional leadership roles and giving them the skills to lead. Employees on the shop floor, performing technical duties, in the finance department or the like are trained in how to transition into a leadership role. Although this program is in its infancy, it has so far garnered positive feedback and has encouraged members of the Weir team to communicate more openly.
With Weir Mineral’s global footprint, technology that allows and encourages collaboration across country lines is a must. That’s why the company is currently working with SAP Software Solutions to integrate software that would connect all components of the business in one system.
Currently the company operates on 15 different systems and is keen to reduce this number to just one. When fully operational, the new system will help the company work even more closely together, speeding up decision making and improving performance.
“Decisions that take people’s brain power currently will be able to happen automatically,” Jenkins shared. “SAP is a global leader of the ‘big-business’ system, and we’re happy to be working with them.”
In regards to the company’s slurry machinery, Weir just unveiled the new Cavew 700CVX Hydrocyclone. Jenkins shared that this new design addresses a particular gap in the company’s product range, and increases throughput capacity far beyond what its competitors can provide. The smaller, more space efficient body can fit into existing cyclone clusters for easy retrofitting to increase capacity.
The unique shape of the Cavex hydrocyclone allows the slurry to follow a natural path without encountering any shelves, edges, or corners. This reduces turbulence inside the hydrocyclone which helps maximise separation efficiency, hydraulic capacity and wear life, while minimising localised wear in the feed chamber and vortex finder.
Weir Minerals’ current investments will help the company not only maintain its top spot in the slurry market, but will allow for future success in comminution and global offerings.
“We want to get to the point where it won’t matter where our customers are in the world: they will always want to turn to Weir for their solutions,” Jenkins said.
The company is also committed to encouraging diversity in the industry and is actively looking at ways to ensure it gets access to the best talent in an industry, which has been traditionally male-dominated.
“We’ve got a long way to go. This isn’t something one company can tackle, the whole industry needs to get involved, and we want to be a leader in this regard,” Jenkins concluded.