Tuesday 26th May, 2020

Altra Motion Australia’s quiet achievers

Altra Motion Australia Managing Director Mark Phelan.
Altra Motion Australia Managing Director Mark Phelan.

ABHR speaks to Mark Phelan, Managing Director of Altra Motion Australia, to find out how the company’s brands are being used across the country.

One of the largest power transmission and motion control systems manufacturers is working in the background of the Australian market, though many may not even know it.

Altra Motion Australia, the local subsidiary of global company Altra Industrial Motion, has been active in the bulk handling space for more than 85 years. In fact, according to the company’s Managing Director Mark Phelan, its components can be found in conveyor systems and bulk handling equipment right around the country.

The secret behind the company’s growth has been a number of acquisitions. It has strategically purchased high-profile, quality brands to add to its portfolio of mechanical, hydraulic, electromechanical and pneumatic power transmission and motion control components and systems.

These brands provide speed, torque, positioning and braking functions for myriad bulk handling machines. They are highly diverse and used for conveyor braking systems, drivetrain couplings in extreme conditions, power take-off for precision motors and even specialised bearings embedded into medical robotics.

However, because the company’s brands are marketed under their own names, the parent company itself has stayed out of the spotlight. This is set to change, according to Phelan, who says the new objective of the business is to combine the strengths of all the brands to offer the right solutions for customers across Australia and the Oceania region.

“Each of our brands is committed to the guiding principles of providing the right solution in collaboration with our customers, supported by the best possible ongoing technical support, with a relentless focus on continuous improvement and customer satisfaction,” he says.

Altra has around 10,000 employees located in countries across the world. In Australia, its team is supported by an extensive authorised reseller and service centre network, which is set to develop even further.

All international staff are trained within the company’s manufacturing facilities, through structured training programs to ensure they can exceed the company’s standards and provide the best engineered solutions.

Phelan says collaboration and consultation are the key strengths of the business, not simply filling an order book.  He sees the value of long-term relationships with its customers and partners.

“Every employee that has direct contact with our customers are engineers, driven to find new ways to solve problems with our array of equipment,” he says.

“There is a specific focus on research and development in addition to technical customer collaboration. We don’t spend our time developing what we think the market will desire, we develop the technology based on what our customers are asking for.

“We also aim to create the most innovative solutions, with the latest technologies, materials and engineering designs. As a result, Altra’s products provide the most economical total cost of ownership.”

Customer collaboration

Altra’s technology has been used to great effect across a number of Australian projects. An example can be seen when a major Australian energy company needed reliable replacement low speed backstops (LSBs) for use on six incline conveyors.

The conveyors moved coal out of a mine and into an adjacent power station, but the existing LSBs often needed to be replaced due to premature failure after two years. With around 20 LSBs on site, costs and downtime – including labour, large crane requirements and the new backstops – associated with the frequent replacements grew significantly.

The customer consulted with several clutch original equipment manufacturers before ultimately deciding to work with one of Altra’s brands, Stieber. One of the main requirements was that the new backstops had to fit in the same envelope and use the same mounting and anchor points as the existing competitor units.

Stieber’s engineering team worked closely with the customer to develop a cost saving drop-in replacement backstop that used most of the parts of the existing torque arm arrangement. The new backstops would only require an initial inspection after a full five years of service, significantly reducing costs when compared with the previous LSBs. Stieber’s backstops were designed to be easily overhauled at least four times, giving them an estimated service life of around 20 to 25 years.

Phelan says customers have a great deal of respect for the way Altra helps them find solutions.

“Customers are the catalyst for our success, which is why we put all of our effort into ensuring they get the best quality product possible,” he says.