Australia’s sugar industry, like many other agricultural sectors, is largely reliant on weather conditions. Year 2020 was not an easy year for the sugar growers as the La Nina disrupted rainfall patterns and threatened to affect the yield. 

Despite the challenges and delayed rainfalls in parts of Queensland – the state where 95% of Australia’s raw sugar comes from – the sector managed to maintain a steady yield throughout the year. The Australian Cane Farmers Association (ACFA) reported in December that growers in Queensland had crushed 29 million tonnes of sugar cane in the harvest season, slightly up from the previous year’s 28.4 million-tonnes yield.1

This year is forecast to bring more positive news for the industry, with the global agribusiness bank, Rabobank, predicting a 1.7% year-on-year recovery in global sugar consumption in 2021 and the onset of La Nina bringing about early rainfalls in most of Australia’s cane growing region, setting the foundation for improved crop yields in 2021.2

With the sugar mills working full steam ahead and accelerating production efforts to meet demands and recoup profits, the need for reliable suppliers and on-hand support has never been more critical to the industry’s success.

CBC, Australia’s largest distributor of bearings, power transmission and associated technical products and services, works closely with major sugar mills to offer hands-on engineering support and quick delivery of parts and components when necessary. 

CBC Power Transmission Application Engineer Brad Shepherd says CBC’s unique services to the sugar industry could best be exemplified by a recent scenario where CBC experts, in partnership with their supply partner, Bonfiglioli, helped resolve an urgent gearbox replacement at a major Queensland sugar mill, helping the mill to resume production with minimum delay.

The mill, a long-term client of CBC’s Townsville branch, had been forced to stop production due to the unexpected shutdown of an out-dated planetary gear unit in one of their mud filters, as Brad explains. 

“The mud filter is a critical part of the sugar milling process and with the gearbox down, the operation was hampered. The mill required a quick solution that would get it back to normal operation, while meeting the high standards required by the mill engineers to ensure a reliable and safe solution was put forward,” says Brad.

Upon receiving the enquiry, the CBC power transmission application engineering team in Brisbane analysed the drive details, noting down details such as the hours of operation, ambient temperature, mechanical and thermal ratings and the best and easiest method of retrofitting a new gear unit based on photos and dimensional information available from the old unit. After that, it was not hard for Brad and his team to identify the right gear reducer to fit the application. 

“Our premium partner, Bonfiglioli, offers a wide range of planetary gear reducers that are very well known in Australia and around the world for their robustness. In this example, we found the perfect fit in a 300 series planetary gear unit. Apart from having the right dimensional size, the mechanical and thermal ratings of the Bonfiglioli unit were also more than suitable for the harsh conditions and 24/7 running time performance required by the mill during the crushing season.”

“The measurements of the new unit were close to the original unit and the shrink disc shaft connection was similar. We also found that the existing torque arm could be utilised. All these factors resulted in  minimal installation time adding to the cost saving.

The robustness of the Bonfiglioli 300 series planetary gear units, as Alan Young, Bonfiglioli Manager for Queensland and Northern Territory explains, comes from the product’s unique spheroidal cast iron design.

“The units come with four basic output designs to suit all applications. This versatility means the units can be assembled to many ratios to be used in both industrial and mobile applications, with an electric or hydraulic power source,” says Alan. 

Once the CBC team identified the right product, timely delivery to the mill was the next important step. 

“The Bonfiglioli team in Sydney, led by Project Engineer Rickie Ly, was very quick to respond to our query. Even though the unit had to be built from stock components, they had it built within the same day and dispatched it to the mill via air freight for a next day delivery. Because of the robustness of the unit itself and with help of detailed technical instructions provided to the mill engineers, they were able to replace the old planetary unit easily and get the operation back up as quickly as possible,” says Brad. 

“This is an excellent example of how CBC and its premium partners such as Bonfiglioli work together. Without the experience of CBC engineers and their ability to identify the best-fitting gearbox in time and the quick response and delivery by the Bonfiglioli team, the customer would be burdened by a much longer delay in production.”

Bonfiglioli’s power transmission solutions for the sugar processing industry are not limited to planetary gearmotors. The company offers a complete range of products including high power, compact gearmotors, planetary and combined gearmotors, and multi-drive solutions complete with inverters for speed control and synchronisation. 

Martin Broglia, Managing Director for Bonfiglioli ANZ, says responding to urgent product orders is incorporated into Bonfiglioli’s fabric as a business. 

“Breakdowns happen in all industries. As a key supplier of gearmotors, drive systems and planetary gearboxes to a wide range of industries in Australia and New Zealand, our production teams always have buffers to account for urgent deliveries while adhering to their day-to-day production schedules. Once the specific product is assembled, we also ensure that the necessary tests are completed before delivering it to the customer.”

Maintaining a large local stockholding is another key strategy for Bonfiglioli in ensuring responsiveness, according to Martin.   

“Through our sales offices in Brisbane and Perth and our assembly plants in Melbourne and New Zealand, we offer a large stockholding worth millions of dollars. This is backed up by our team of local experts who support companies across every industry. Our customer application engineers are prepared to offer any type of customised solutions that our product end users might require.”  



2. Rabobank Global Sugar Quarterly Q4 2020

Key benefits of Bonfiglioli 300M Series:

• High torque density

• Extreme speed reduction and high output torque

• Low maintenance cost

• Extremely customisable 

• Flexibility

• Usable in explosive environments