Atlas Copco Power Technique General Manager Matt Le Cornu on the Future of Mining

7 May 2020 (Last Updated May 13th, 2020 10:11)

We talk to Atlas Copco CEO Matt Le Cornu about this history of the company, its products and its future in the mining sector.

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Atlas Copco is a global industrial solutions provider with nearly 150 years’ of history, being founded in 1873 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Over the years, Atlas Copco has constantly innovated, focussing on R & D to evolved into the global market-leader that it is today. Whilst there have been many milestones with name changes etc in the early years, one of the first strategically important international acquisitions was of the Belgian compressor company Arpic Engineering in 1956. Over the coming years, the majority of Atlas Copco’s compressor production and development was carried out at the Antwerp plant obtained during this acquisition. An additional important Swedish acquisition was made in 1960 when Atlas Copco purchased Craelius. Up until this point in time, Atlas Copco was still pretty much a Swedish focused company.

Atlas Copco’s major foundation for strong international expansion was laid with the “Swedish Method” of drilling, which allowed a single operator to use a single mining drill and which achieved major international success during the 1950s. Atlas Copco did not sell its tools and its method through agents but instead chose to establish foreign subsidiaries. From here, global expansion developed and formed the basis of the Global footprint that Atlas Copco enjoys today.

This led to product development for the mining sector – Atlas Copco has for a most of its history had a pedigree in the mining industry with the first handheld underground rock drills being produced in 1905 – mining is part of our DNA, you may say. Over the years leading up to the creation of the Mining and Rock Excavation Technique business area in 2011, when the company decided to put increased focus in the diverse segments in which they operated, they have pioneered both surface and underground drilling operations.

How are your generators performing in 2020?

Actually, this year has been a phenomenal growth year for our Power and Flow business, generator orders are well up on the same point in 2019 and there is no sign of slow down at this point, even with the current situation.

What about your handheld equipment?

It is fair to say that handheld equipment has seen a couple of flat years recently, in part due to the move of factories which needed to take place as part of the split with Epiroc and the divestment of the Road Construction business. We are now, however, back to 100% operational capacity and our supply chain is solid, meaning we are all set to see the trend bend into a more positive situation throughout the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Recently, we have launched new patented products and innovation and we are very excited about the future of tools in Oceania.

How are your compressors performing?

Our compressor business is going well all things considered although we have seen a slightly flat trend in the small and medium air size due to all the issues prevailing at the back end of 2019 and start of 2020. Fires and droughts have had a negative impact on demand in Australia but we are confident that we will see this equipment grow in the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

On the other hand, our large and speciality air business has remained exceptionally positive and we are very excited about our new Compact Booster which is due to launch in Australia in June 2020. This machine is a reincarnation of an older product previously produced at our Hurricane facilities in the US, now taken back to Antwerp in Belgium and reengineered for the new age.

I understand that Atlas Copco is now entering dewatering in a big way, can you tell us a bit about this strategy?

Sure, this is an area where we saw a global opportunity to apply our engineering prowess with the specific dewatering knowledge and experience obtained through the acquisition of the Italian pump company Varisco back in 2015. Over the past five years, we have been able to develop a full range of dewatering products that have allowed us to become an exceptionally strong player in dewatering markets throughout the world. We are very proud of what we have achieved since our first steps into pumps and now have a world-class range of surface diesel and electric submersible pumps that conform to our core production ethics of sustainability, reliability and low total cost of ownership.

Our pumps business continues to grow nationally, and product ranges continue to expand with designs built to tackle the harshest of environments and the toughest applications.

The continued expansion within the dewatering market has helped to make our offering in Power, Light and Flow one of the most comprehensive on the market. Coupled with great support from our partners and our local team, we are going from strength to strength, despite the most challenging market most people have ever seen.

How does Atlas Copco ensure continued cost saving for your clients over your competitors over time?

Atlas Copco has always believed in Total Cost of Ownership as a driver of value in our products. Whilst I am not ashamed to say we cannot always offer the cheapest product in the market, we are confident that with our huge commitment to R&D and continuous innovation being one of our core values, we always offer the most cost-effective and efficient products when considering the full impact of operational costs in conjunction with production efficiency. When you also add in the important considerations around environmental impacts at both operational and production levels then I strongly believe we really cannot be beaten in terms of value.

How does Atlas Copco equipment maintain its efficiency and effect on the environment for your clients?

Again, I refer back to our operational costs and attention to sustainability which means our machines will continue to operate with minimal fuel consumption, minimal environmental impact and, assuming they are maintained correctly, maximum efficiency for the expected life of a product and beyond. We have a long, proven history in making products that continue to perform year after year after year. We have a national service network with trained technicians available 24/7 to ensure that every machine in the market is given the best chance to operate well into the future. Maybe it’s the result of having such a long history but after nearly 150 years in the business I think that we, at Atlas Copco, realise that the only way to continually grow is to build long-term, sustainable partnerships with customers.