With the pyrometallurgical industry continuously evolving, smelter campaign life spans have extended from a two- to three-year furnace campaign cycle to a ten-year campaign cycle, consequently driving foundry and heavy engineering company Thos Begbie to exceed its current limitations in terms of manpower in the year ahead.
To meet the demands of the new ten-year campaign-cycle life span, Thos Begbie sales engineer Esli Bantjes says “great emphasis” will be placed on studies in engineering that will enable the company to find ways of meeting these demands efficiently and cost effectively.
Thos Begbie has been a vital part of the furnace campaign cycle with various design houses.
Management and the sales engineers have been fortunate enough to assist with designs by highlighting areas of concern regarding the design of furnace components, as there are various furnace designs and no two furnaces are alike, says Bantjes.
To further aid its capabilities in meeting the new ten-year campaign life span in reference to smelters that Thos Begbie supplies to, the company’s business model is structured in such a way that different departments can support other departments in terms of productivity.
“We have a foundry, general engineering works (machine shop) and coil division. In previous years, the designs of furnaces consisted of copper-rolled slabs that required only machining.”
This meant that the foundry witnessed less activity in terms of production activity, but now, the balance is equally divided, with Thos Begbie manufacturing just as many castings as rolled copper coolers.
“This balance indicates that consulting and engineering have evolved in such a way that the copper cast components we produce can now be implemented in various smelters globally.”
This has been a significant milestone in the company’s plans to expand and develop, as it allowed for global expansion.
Currently, the company has a client base in 23 countries worldwide and has capitalised on the European market by expanding its footprint to some of the biggest copper smelting plants, such as in Germany.
The company has adopted a live tracking system that provides the engineers with precise information about how manufacturing is progressing.
With every project, end-users start with the furnace rebuild then Thos Begbie’s sales engineers assist in terms of engineering advice for the furnace rebuild projects. The consulting engineers working on these projects will use this information and plan various activities so that the date for practical completion is met.
“Thos Begbie is renowned for its capabilities to manufacture components that seem impossible to manufacture,” he boasts.
Bantjes says this presents its own challenges, as it makes Thos Begbie responsible for providing expertise on viable and realistic options for customers to prevent premature failure of critical components in the furnance such as matte and slag tapholes, owing to design flaws.
“We have had a few occasions where the end-user has contracted a design house for the design of a furnace, in line with the criteria that the end-user had envisioned. “Most of the time, our quotes/offers are aligned with current activities on our plant and a lead time for completion of the manufactured components play a vital role in terms of turnaround time.”
In this instance, the design house will issue Thos Begbie with a conceptual design based on a few parameters, such as weights and dimensions, he adds.
However, without having the final design, it is nearly impossible for the average manufacturer to provide an offer without the correct scope of work and detailed drawings.
Thos Begbie submits offers to customers based on conceptual designs. As soon as the design has been finalised, it is then requested to revalidate its offer and, more often than not, the only factor that influences the price is that of the copper materialprice index as indicated – at the time – on the LME. “This references our capabilities to accurately quote and that the copper price will be the key driver in terms of variance of offer submitted to the customer.”
Bantjes concludes that this is where Thos Begbie thrives, with know-how that it has developed over the years.