Normet offers an integrated spray concrete service that enables it to dominate the market in Latin America.
How has Normet’s business in Chile evolved since the acquisition of Semmco?
Semmco started in Chile in 1993 as a spray concrete contractor equipment manufacturer, and after many years of success in Chile, we expanded to Peru and Mexico. In 2008, Semmco controlled 90% of the concrete sprayers market share between Mexico and Chile. At that time, Normet approached us for an acquisition. Since the acquisition, we now have offices in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Peru, and we have sales agents in Guatemala and Argentina. We used to only have equipment and lifetime care business lines, but our focus changed when we acquired a construction chemicals company in 2010. For us, construction chemicals include any chemicals needed for sprayed concrete and injection systems. After adding the construction chemicals business line, Normet acquired DRS, a Norwegian company producing special dynamic bolts for ground support. This was a very important move because it gave us an end-to-end approach and we are now the only supplier who can offer the equipment, support, and construction chemicals required for the spray concrete process. Despite the mining downturn we had a couple of years ago, our business has been growing continuously. Our biggest projects in Chile are at COCELCO’s El Teniente mine and Chuquicamata underground development, and we currently have 110 employees in Chile.
Which Normet products are most widely used in Chile?
Normet’s most popular sprayers are the Alpha 20 and Alpha 30, and our most popular concrete transporters are the Tornado and Variomec. In the Chuquicamata underground project, we introduced our scaling machines, Scamec 2000S, with Zublin and Astaldi, and it has more or less become a standard for all new contracts in CODELCO mines to have a dedicated scaling machine.
What is Normet’s manufacturing capacity?
Normet has two factories, one in Finland and one in Chile, and they produce different products. Chile’s factory has increased production by three times this year, and since October 2016, our production capacity has increased by 50%. We are very busy, but a few years ago we planned to put more people in place and to have our systems and processes ready, which ensured that we were prepared for increased production. Currently, Normet has the capacity to produce 10 machines per month in the Chile factory.
What is next in Normet’s innovation pipeline?
Normet R&D team has many ongoing innovation projects, including our first battery-powered machine. The technology for these battery systems is growing very fast, so it takes time to get the right technology to be able to serve our customers correctly. In the last six years, we have also introduced simulators for spray concrete and scaling, and we have simulators at the mine sites to train operators correctly. Regarding automation, the explosive loading process is not yet mechanized in Chile. We are working with Chilean explosives companies to further develop this technology.
How does Normet mitigate the amount of wasted concrete?
The average amount of rebound we have measured in the spray concrete application is around 30%, but we know the average should be 10%. Through our training programs we have been able to achieve 8-10% rebound. Rebound depends on three main factors: operator quality, concrete quality, and compressed air availability. Mitigating waste is a process. First, we assess the quality of the operators the customer has. After that, we develop a training program, which takes three to six months. Then, we use the simulator to develop the skills of the operators. A key aspect is to review the concrete mix design and make adjustments if needed. Finally, we follow up with the customer to assess the performance of the training program. There are also efficiency opportunities in other processes, such as explosive loading. It is still a challenge to control the precise number of explosives used for each blast, but we have the right equipment for the charging process, which puts exactly the correct amount of explosives into each drilling hole.
What are Normet’s goals over the next several years?
Normet’s main goal is to offer continuous improvement to our partners’ processes for increased safety, productivity, and profitability. In the Chilean mining market, we want to be more involved with CODELCO’s future projects. We know that we need to develop a wider use of the scaling machines. We also have a long way to go with the explosive machines in the mines. Normet’s main advantage is that we are ready to support our customers throughout entire selected processes, as opposed to just supplying machines or other product.