Industrial equipment supplier Fabchem Mining entered into a written agreement to acquire original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) VULA Drilling last month. Fabchem will complete the acquisition once all conditions are fulfilled.
Fabchem Mining manufactures, distributes and supplies underground support solutions for the mining and civil engineering industries. VULA Drilling is the OEM of the VULA range of hard-rock drill bits and the patented VULA full-flushing drill bits.
The acquisition will result in improved manufacturing capabilities for both companies and will provide Fabchem with an opportunity to export more of its products, states Fabchem Mining CEO Freddy Mugeri.
“When you’re selling roof support systems, like Fabchem is doing, you’re also talking to clients who are buying drill bits and other similar equipment, who can now buy from VULA. Combining the two businesses enables Fabchem to supply a wider range of products. It also combines Fabchem’s marketing strength with the scale of the VULA operation, which remains one of the largest remaining drill bit manufacturers in sub-Saharan Africa.
“It’s an acquisition that is exciting for us and enables Fabchem to obtain a larger share of the underground roof support and drilling space,” he enthuses.
The combined manufacturing capabilities will also enable both companies to build prototypes of new products quicker and more efficiently.
VULA’s drill bits have been designed and developed using computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing software to improve penetration rates and increase the flushing of the drill bit, resulting in increased productivity and more metres drilled.
Fabchem uses the same software in its manufacturing processes, consequently allowing for greater synergy and collaboration between the companies in terms of combined manufacturing capabilities, Mugeri notes.
This synergy will also enable both companies to standardise manufactured products using a particular software.
Further, the potential to supplement Fabchem’s machining capacity is an exciting prospect for Fabchem, enthuses Mugeri.
“Fabchem sometimes run out of machining capacity. So, if this occurs, we then capitalise on the synergies between both companies and push the overflow from Fabchem onto the drill bit manufacturing side of VULA, and vice versa."
He says the acquisition also means that Fabchem suddenly has a larger design team, as well as a larger machining team.
Mugeri emphasises that acquiring VULA can provide more opportunities for Fabchem to export its product range into more regions of sub-Saharan Africa and other countries such as South America.
“VULA already exports to Peru, in South America, and we can use our links and partnerships in countries such as Brazil, the US, Finland and Australia to take advantage of these opportunities. We have associate businesses that operate in those regions, so it will not be difficult for us to reach those spaces.”
In addition to supplying the local market, Mugeri stresses that the opening of new mines in African countries such as Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia, as well as countries in West Africa, such as Nigeria and Ghana, also provides Fabchem with opportunities to export its technologies, released this year.
“Our new technologies take the mining sector forward in terms of managing fall-of-ground and the safety of the strata in an underground mine. Our business is focused on strata control.”
For example, Fabchem has released a technology that ensures cable anchors are grouted correctly on roadways and other high risk areas in an underground mine.
The company has developed sensors and registered a patent for the technology and techniques used to read the sensors to ensure that anchors are grouted properly.
“When you install an anchor, cement grout needs to be pumped inside it to hold the anchor and bind it to the rock. Sometimes, installation teams don’t pump the grout to the top of the anchor to cover the whole anchor, and this creates an invisible hazard.”
The technology provides mines with a means of verifying that anchors are installed correctly and safely, which Mugeri stresses is crucial for use in roadways and similar infrastructure at mines, as the anchors are used for the life of the mine.
“We came up with a system that sends an electrical pulse through the anchor at high-frequency and reads the grout back as the electrical pulse comes back. This enabled us to have repeatable and consistent results when we tested it. Our customers are starting to adopt this system.”
Fabchem also registered this technology with global organisation the International Patent System to register the patent in South Africa, as well as in countries such as Canada and Australia.
The development of this technology took about 24 months.
Fabchem has also introduced a lightweight jack that is used for tensioning anchors.
The 15 kg jack is the lightest in the sub-Saharan Africa market, with the jack of the company’s closest competitor weighing 18 kg and higher, Mugeri says.
“We’re also bringing out a few more technologies that will propel the roof support industry into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need to present our offerings to customers and show them how we can help them manage their risk of strata economically,” he concludes.