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If you want a model of how small business keeps the wheels of industry turning, you need look no further than Conveyor Innovations International.
 
Conveyor Innovations, is a Central Queensland based local manufacturer of conveyor idler rollers, a key supplier for BHP particularly within their Queensland Coal operations.

“If it wasn’t for BHP’s Local Buying Program, our business would not be in that position” said Justin Geddes, a Director of the company.

In his experience, the Local Buying Program empowers BHP employees to make decisions to use local manufacturers and suppliers. This enables them to address the needs of mines and ports directly, by supplying quality components and equipment, that are suitable for the task at hand.

Rollers might seem like a simple piece of equipment, but in fact there is real engineering expertise that goes into developing a good quality product. “Each roller plays a vital role in the movement of millions of dollars of commodities, such as coal and iron ore.

An average mine site conveyor system has about 20,000 individual rollers, while a port system can require up to 160,000.  It is not unusual to also have 20 or more different roller types. 

With so many rollers, it is easy to assume that a breakdown in one or two rollers isn’t an unusual occurrence. Roller failure not only results in unscheduled downtime but can cost a mine up to $400,000 an hour in lost production. In some cases an idler roller failure can cause catastrophic damage to a conveyor belt that in turn may lead to millions of dollars in lost production,” he said.

“The benefits to mines and ports using our products are that they significantly reduce unplanned stoppages, enable the mines to extend the periods between planned shutdowns and reduce the need for significant amounts of inventory to be held on site. 

Being locally manufactured means, in the case of an unforeseen part failure at a local mine involving a conveyor, we can manufacture products and deliver them to the mine within hours. That wouldn’t happen with a manufacturer from overseas.”

“BHP operations involve large contractors however there is still a place for the smaller business community to provide to BHP particularly with innovative products or services. It’s this innovation at all levels that will continue to increase competitiveness of the mining industry in Australia. Small business is very much a part of this and at times it is also at the cutting edge.”  he explained.

“Once BHP started to see the innovation, quality, reliability and cost efficiency of our products, they approached us to join the Local Buying Program, and with the help of this Program we were able to become a direct supplier.”

Since the Program began in 2012, it has injected over 230 million dollars into local businesses across Australia, through more than a thousand registered suppliers.
 
The Local Buying Program is delivered and administered through a cost-neutral organisation called C-Res, short for Community Resourcing for the Future. The platform of the Program operates through a public website, accessible to both BHP employees and local suppliers at www.localbuying.com.au
 
“The effect is we have been able to keep jobs in Australia, grow our business and reinvest in development to our business and the local economy” he said.
 
“We are about to release the first ‘intelligent’ roller that gathers information and sends messages to operators electronically, providing real-time data about the performance and cycle of the roller.”
 
Geddes said there was no doubt the Local Buying Program’s positive impact had been an inflection point for their business. As a result, it is a step closer to realizing the global ambitions held within its name.


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