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The Engine Room

The Engine Room
This article was published by Ben Hailes on 23 November, 2020

In the world of mining, three engine manufacturers rule. Caterpillar. Cummins. MTU. Albeit Liebherr’s advances in building out their own range of engines, they are still some way off matching it with these titans.

While many would argue that Cummins and MTU create a far superior product as engine specialists, Caterpillar are the masters of their domain. Managing all elements of their machine builds, Caterpillar has, despite their said shortcomings, developed an enviable brand across the full suite of mining equipment utilised by miners today. Unlike Cat, the success of Cummins and MTU in mining ultimately relates to the accomplishments of the mining partners they power, that in Australia include Hitachi, Komatsu and Liebherr

As the heart of any mining machine, the measure of an engine’s worth relates to its availability, lifecycle costs, fuel efficiency and service life.

As miners increasingly push the service intervals of their powerplants, the results are revealing given the life of an asset can range upwards of 80,000 hours. With service lives running from as low as 16,000 hours up to circa 38,000 hours, it easy to understand just how critical the engine selection is when selecting a fleet of new mining machines or, which is increasingly the case, repowering existing equipment.

Such is the current battle between Cummins and MTU with miners increasingly changing out engines in favour of the competitor with significant cost savings achieved. Perhaps most telling MTU’s first-time inclusion in Hitachi’s new EX3600-7, a move that must have MTU’s HO salivating at the chops.

Despite their relatively short service lives, where Cat prosper is the secondary market they have created for their equipment including equipment brokers, rebuilders and suppliers of used and rebuilt components.

This secondary market creates capacity, providing customers with a reliable supply of product and service options in their time of need. With the service lives of their engines matched to their other components, Cat has mastered the market for rebuilds that few other brands have achieved. Comparatively speaking, the secondary market for MTU and Cummins is not as deep with rebuilders and suppliers of support services harder to find meaning, that for Cummins and MTU, their performance in frontline machines, becomes paramount to capturing the hearts and minds of miners.

This article was originally published by the Components Only team in the November 2020 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.

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