Few people are familiar with Lively, Ontario, but when you associate the name Sandvik with it, most of the world would guess that the town must have something to do with mining.
In fact, the name Sandvik gives it away, because that name alone has been synonymous with mining since 1862, so it’s obvious that Lively must have something to do with mining too.
And, to a degree, it does because it’s located about 10 km southwest of Sudbury just off Highway 17, in the heart of Ontario’s richest mining districts; but aside from that, it’s also the place where Sandvik has chosen to refurbish equipment for the miners in the area.
From its hill-top office and sprawling 11 acres of land, complete with two service and maintenance buildings totalling more than 50,000 square feet of shop and warehouse space, Sandvik’s Lively operation is near “where the action is” insofar as mining in Ontario is concerned; and by setting up shop close to its customers, the company can provide a quick turnaround on most parts, repairs, or entire equipment replacements.
In fact, it prides itself on the fact that often repairs can be made the same day, and when it comes to parts availability, Sandvik’s proximity to Highway 17 and other major provincial highways, plus the Sudbury airport, makes shipping and receiving easy.
As mentioned, the Lively facility is a sprawling operation where heavy mining equipment is either maintained, or in some cases, brought back to life, even to the amazement of some of the technicians in the shop.
There’s a “never say die” attitude with the technicians who work in the shops, because as one them said during Canadian Mining Journal’s recent tour of the facilities, “What may look like a ‘write-off’ to many is what keeps the adrenalin going because the worse shape a piece of equipment is, the bigger the challenge.
“The guys around here love the challenge of fixing a really beat-up piece of iron and seeing it go out the shop door and back to the customer.”
“Fixing” is the main focus of the Lively operation, but total rebuilds (including new OEM parts) are also part of Sandvik’s business; and, again, the crews (including apprentices) work in teams. From the moment a piece of equipment enters the shop, it’s analyzed from top to bottom to determine what exactly needs to be done to get it back to the mine site.
A high-pressure wash-down is the first step in every operation because, as the technician quoted earlier jokingly said, “We don’t want to get our hands dirty.”
Levity aside, stripping all machinery of dirt and grease tells the true story by revealing what’s bent, broken, and needs repairs or replacing.
Taking a machine from broken to beautiful again can take weeks or even months, and it is a process that involves almost every skill on the shop floor because most rebuilds need varying amounts of welding, transmission, axle and hydraulic work, plus hose, pumps and miles of wiring, before they go back to work.
And all of this involves the use of computers and state-of-the-art software programs to help ensure that every weld, every gear, and even the paint when the machine gets ready to leave the building, are up to OEM specifications.
Sandvik even has its own on-site equipment-training room where technicians work with a simulator to learn and understand how each machine should “feel” so that when all of the pieces are put back together on the “rebuilt,” they’ll know what to expect. They’ll know if the job has been done right. As well, being an OEM, Sandvik has a direct link to factory engineering. This gives the company the ability to install all technical and safety-related upgrades that arise, a capability not possible by non-OEM rebuild shops.
It’s one thing to repair or totally rebuild a piece of mining equipment, but if it doesn’t perform properly, time and money have been wasted; so to further ensure that all equipment leaving the shops is ready to go back to the customer, Sandvik also puts the machines to the test at its on-site proving grounds.
Slope testing puts the transmission, hydraulics, and brakes through a workout while a stockpile of crushed rocks serves for testing breakout forces and welds and because of the geological make-up of where the Lively plant is located, there’s an ample rock face perfect for putting drills through their paces.
Like all facilities of this nature, modern technology plays a major role in the production and repair process, but it’s the people on the shop floor who do, in fact, “get dirty” doing what they do to keep the machines running but it’s “pay dirt” (again, to quote the technician mentioned earlier), and they wouldn’t have it any other way.