Saturday 16th Jan, 2021

Acquisition broadens horizons for Kockums

Back in May, ABHR reported that Australian company Kockums Bulk Systems (KBS) had been acquired by Premier Tech Chronos (PTC) of Canada. Here, the managing director of KBS speaks to ABHR about what has happened since then and the company’s plans for the year ahead.

Francois Steyn, who took over as managing director of KBS in 2012, says, “Since the acquisition in March, our team has remained the same, the founder Ivan Price is still consulting to us and Kockums has progressively been integrated into the Premier Tech organisation.

“The packaging line complements the powder handling line in that it gives us the ability to provide front-to-back turnkey systems for our clients,” he said.

“Apart from a number of administrative changes which are to expected in any take over, not a great deal has changed yet.  Our sales team has been exposed to the new range of PTC equipment available to customers in Oceania and a small number of them have spent two weeks training on the range in Europe and at the world headquarters in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec.”

The KBS support team has also been busy discovering their new extended local installed base and has worked alongside Canadian and European PTC service engineers in Australia and New Zealand to pick up first hand experience with the servicing of the PTC machines.

“To date the feedback from existing PTC customers has been very positive in response to the new level of local service available to them,” said Mr Steyn.

“PTC told us they will not interfere in the first year and I must say they were true to their word. They have invested time with us, trained us but also listened and learned from us. There are a number of unique ideas they picked up from us, particularly in the way we support customers with service, training and parts. There is no doubt we have much to learn from them in the coming years.”

PTC has a substantial range of packaging machinery for the food, agricultural, organics and industrial markets, most of which KBS did not have in its stable before.

“Their installed base combined with ours provides significant growth potential for our already busy customer support business,” said Mr Steyn, adding that PTC’s local packaging customers were very pleased to learn about the availability of local support.

“Our packaging sales team have understandably become very busy almost overnight and there is no doubt the team will expand over time. The new range gives us access to markets we weren’t servicing before from a packaging perspective.

“Interestingly though we have served a number of our ‘new’ packaging customers before with manual handling equipment and/or powder handling solutions.

“So we know most of them already and are now able to offer a more comprehensive scope from the infeed of raw products right through to the final product packed and wrapped on a pallet,” said Mr Steyn.

“We are also working on expanding our range of powder handling solutions for export to markets served by PTC across the globe. So both locally and globally, a host of new opportunities have opened up for us.”

Kockum Bulk Systems’ customer support business has been bolstered by joining with Premier Tech Chronos.
Kockum Bulk Systems’ customer support business has been bolstered by joining with Premier Tech Chronos.

Prior to the acquisition, KBS had reached a plateau and saw little growth potential in its mainstay powder handling project work in Australia.

Mr Steyn reports, “The market for our traditional powder handling work in cement, fly-ash and plasterboard is still limited in Oceania even though we’ve seen an increased level of activity in the last 12 months.

“Ultimately, the plan is to connect with the PTC global network… even though we have only been a part of PTC less than a year, we have already visited PTC offices in Europe and Canada on three occasions and we’ve had six visits by PTC specialists and senior executives to Australia,” he said.

“That shows a serious commitment by them to understand KBS and its market. We are already starting to feel like part of the global organisation.”

In terms of recent significant projects, KBS has continued to build on its reputation in the rail industry for supplying a reliable and efficient sand filling system for locomotives.

“We are currently working on the second large installation for a mining customer in northern WA. We have also delivered a substantial cement conveying system to a customer in South Australia, a fourth bagging line for sand and potting soil to a long term customer in NSW and a host of small to medium projects in powder handling, packaging and lifting,” said Mr Steyn.

“Our customer support team has delivered a number of substantial remediation projects with most of these projects leading to long term partner support agreements.”

The focus for the year ahead is threefold according to Mr Steyn. The company plans to grow the packaging business in the industrial, nutrition, organics and agricultural markets; develop the powder handling offering for export; and aggressively grow the support business to cover all the KBS and PTC installations in Oceania.

Innovative locomotive sanding system

As a specialist in the field of bulk materials handling with specific expertise in pneumatic conveying, KBS was chosen to supply a ‘super low velocity’ dense phase conveying sanding system for a company in Western Australia.

Complementing KBS’ conveying experience is its in-house engineering capabilities, providing the ability to customise designs and elevate the system to meet typical mining specifications including the ability to withstand cyclones.

Locomotives carry sand in sand boxes to assist with traction and braking. The sand is dropped on the track in front of the wheels to increase mechanical traction which helps the train moving forward on wet tracks and for climbing inclines. Operators told KBS that sand is almost as important as fuel to a locomotive.

A locomotive will have multiple boxes suitably located near drive wheels. These are often at different elevations, meaning the old way of manual filling using a bucket is difficult and could result in strain injuries to the operator.

KBS has supplied a number of these fully automatic super low velocity dense phase conveying systems, and developed a bowser type nozzle filling arrangement for ease of operation.

Sand is typically delivered by road tanker or bulk bag, and then depending on the system duty and sand delivery logistics, a suitable storage facility such as a silo is provided. A MicroveyorTM is used to transfer the sand from the storage to the Local Transfer Units (LTU’s), which are strategically placed around the shed to cope with different models of locomotives, with the option of two locos coupled together, and across multiple tracks.

LTU’s have conveying hose connections that are generally counterbalanced for ease of operator handling and include local dust extraction and some unique safety features to provide the best possible experience for the operator.

The bowser system is as simple to operate as the fuel filling nozzle and requires significantly less physical effort and time compared to traditional methods.

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