Mining is an industry that is synonymous with giant machines. From bucket wheel reclaimers measuring tens of metres in diameter to kilometres-long conveyor lines carrying raw and processed material along, it is easy to feel like a lilliputian walking around a mining operation. To consider all those massive machineries rely on the humble bearings for rolling along puts the critical role of bearings into a fresh perspective.

Over the decades, Schaeffler has built a reputation as manufacturer of large size industrial bearings, including being the first company to introduce split spherical roller bearings. Schaeffler’s FAG and INA large size bearings are mounted on various mining equipment across the world, from conveyor belt and pulleys to vibrating screens, vertical mills, roller presses and high-pressure grinding rollers (HPGRs). 

In Australia, Schaeffler large size bearings are available through CBC’s national supply network. This, as Schaeffler Australia Engineering Manager Andreas Pieper elaborates, places Schaeffler in a unique position in terms of supply availability and responsiveness.

“Our stock of large size industrial bearings has three tiers,” he says.

 “We stock them at our own centralised warehouse in Sydney. CBC has a large stockholding at their main distribution centre in Chullora and they also have them available at their branches across the country.”

What this means for mines is that when urgent bearing replacements are required, the CBC local teams can often deliver them the critical spare parts with minimal time. The service, according to CBC Engineering Manager for Western Australia, David Wilson, also includes refurbishment of existing bearings to allow the mines to either continue using their existing bearings or to buy some time as they await a new bearing delivery.

“When any of CBC’s mining customers sends an equipment to an off-site repair centre, the CBC engineering team go in with a Schaeffler engineer and inspect the bearing. We then prepare a report of the inspection, with Schaeffler’s full technical support, and submit the condition report to the customer. Where basic remediations on bearings are needed, we can carry them out at our workshop in Perth. We can also outsource the job to other companies where complete disassembly and assembly is required,” explains David.

The example David uses to elaborate CBC’s services is a landmark gold mine in Western Australia.

“As part of CBC’s contract, we are heavily involved in failure analysis for the mine’s bearings. We recently conducted a failure analysis after a pre-mature bearing failure, wherein we identified that the standard sealing on the HPGR machine’s bearings was not adequate. So, we are working with the customer and the original equipment manufacturer to upgrade the sealing design.”

Apart from the quality of Schaeffler large size bearings, most of which fit into the FAG X-lifeTM performance rating, it is Schaeffler’s all-rounded support that according to Andreas, makes Schaeffler a brand of choice for large size bearings.

“On the supply side, we have a flexible purchasing landscape where we can order the bearing from different Schaeffler manufacturing global plants, facilitating a shorter delivery lead time. We also offer the option of long-term packaging for customers who expect to be storing the bearings for multiple years. A chemical sensor on the packaging indicates if the packaging has been breached and humidity has entered, so we can re-package the bearing accordingly,” says Andreas.

On the support side, Schaeffler also offers refurbishment services, supporting CBC’s mining customers where necessary, according to Andreas. 

“We do quite a bit of refurbishment here in Australia and if more intricate refurbishment is needed, such as raceway grinding or replacing cages, we return the bearings to our factory and get them refurbished there. In many cases, these are to re-commission bearings that have corroded because the mines did not use long-term packaging. In any case, we can evaluate the condition of the bearing and report to the customer,” he says.

Finally, Andreas says Schaeffler is highly active in both online and off-line condition monitoring of bearings. 

“We offer condition monitoring contracts to customers looking to benefit from our expertise in this area. So, it’s an all-rounded support through the whole process,” he says.

With a strong support available through Schaeffler Australia and CBC’s internal expertise, David says there is nothing the CBC team cannot support its mining customers with when it comes to large size bearings.

“That’s what we do. We get involved with customers, we understand their pain points, we help with supply and failure analysis and on-site maintenance. And that’s what makes us different.”