High country expectations

Wyoming’s L&H Industrial recently worked with two major western clients on a customized solution for their hydraulic equipment – and what ended up being a tailored outcome for one was a perfect fit for the other.

By Donna Schmidt

From the copper mines of Arizona to the coal mines of Kentucky, mining equipment works hard – until it doesn’t. Then what? Wait for days, with money and downtime lost, for technical and mechanical aid to arrive? That scenario is probably first in a long list of nightmares for any operator.

L&H Mobile Equipment Product Line Manager Dan Miachkov has seen some of these bad dreams in action, and told NAM more about a recent customized hydraulic solution it developed and installed for a customer that had it off and running again – then realized the very same answer was the key for another of its clients in another commodity hundreds of miles away.

The western U.S. manufacturing and repair company, which does a large percentage of its industry work across all major OEM products and on nearly all kinds and models of mobile equipment, said the victim at its major operating customer’s mine in California was a wheel loader.

“The material that they were digging was causing issues for their hydraulic system,” Miachkov said of the situation at the open-pit mine, noting that the material was sticking to the cylinders, wreaking havoc when it entered the insides of the cylinders and causing the system to fail. The mine approached L&H with the problem, seeking ways to address it after trying designs in-house and with the machine’s OEM.

After a review by its engineering team, L&H’s solution was a customized seal designed specifically for the working environment. It worked alongside the supplier’s seal partner to find a design that seated better, was made of a more appropriate material and had wipers that could help keep loose material on the outside where it belonged.

“It drastically reduced the downtime of their of their machines,” he added, pointing out that the company is still waiting for statistical data from its time in operation. Since the work was done in mid-2022, that should be forthcoming, L&H noted, since the redesign it is nearing its targeted life span.

“The number-one failure in hydraulic systems statistically is contamination; if you can keep contamination out, you will extend the life of your hydraulic system. That’s what they were struggling with, and our role in the project: how do we make this…more robust so that they can keep that contamination out for a longer period of time?”

Headed north
Miachkov said the company was brought another hydraulic problem that, as details emerged, appeared more and more like the California customer. This case involved a major Canadian miner at an oil sands complex and was centered on a hydraulic excavator.

That project (the results for which are still being evaluated in testing at press time) left the company with its work cut out for it due to the mined material.

“You would think it’s a lubricated environment, but it’s the opposite. You’re essentially wet sanding every time you dig something, so it’s very abrasive,” he said, adding that it worked again with the seal company partner to design a specific, customer sealing solution.

In this Canadian case, the problem was found more organically, he pointed out. While working on another project for a rebuild, it was noticing the contamination trend, and shared the details of the California case success with the mine owner. By September 2023, they were hard at work, and installation was completed in early 2024.

In both cases, Miachkov said L&H was proud to do what it has missioned itself for: a niche that allows it to step in, no matter the location or commodity, and offer help to a struggling customer. He said that extends even beyond mining, and to any equipment where hydraulics keep the unit moving.

The western feel
Miachkov said it has been very fruitful, and logically sensical, for L&H to concentrate on customers’ needs in the western region. It is able to take engineers to the site personally, and conversely easily have customers come to its shops when in the depths of a project.

“It makes it easy to have that connection and get everybody on the same page. You [could] do it over a long distance, but it’s kind of a different feel,” Miachkov said.

“We have good relationships with the customers that we service out here. I think each mine has their own challenges…but I feel like [the west] is a pretty broad set of challenges in itself.”

And therein lies the aforementioned niche.

“We like to differentiate ourselves as problem solvers, not just the run-of-the-mill rebuilder. We try to take trends and take note of what is failing and how it’s failing so that, if there’s a better solution out there, then we can propose that to the customer and try to implement it.

“There have always been problems with equipment; nobody can make the perfect piece of machinery nobody ever will. But I think there’s also a bigger focus on reliability, on technology and being able to track data much more than even 10 or 20 years ago. There’s more emphasis on having something that is reliable having something that’s suited for the environment, having something that performs the way it should perform,” he said.

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