A typical project might involve 200 roof supports and we ship them in batches of 20 to 30, so the frequency of sailings is very important.

These days, companies like Joy Mining Machinery – a global leader in underground mining equipment – design, build and service sophisticated, high-tech machines that make coal extraction safer and more productive.

Joy has been working closely with Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) to ship its equipment, mainly hydraulic mine roof supports, to world markets. It is one of a number of major customers to benefit from the flexibility and high cargo capacity of WWL’s scheduled RoRo services from Southampton, in the UK, to countries such as South Africa, Australia and the US.

With tight deadlines, a complex production schedule and high capital cost projects, Joy is looking for a logistics provider that has technical expertise, operational flexibility and quality customer service.

Neil Williams, Manager, Shipping & Supply Chain at Joy, explains: “These hydraulic roof supports play a vital role, not just in ensuring the safety of the mine, but also as an aid to increasing productivity. By coupling them to the conveyors and installing electronic controls, the supports actually move the coal cutter and the conveyor across the coal face.”

Each support can push a force of up to 1,000 tonnes into the roof of the mine and there could be as many as 200 custom built supports installed on any one project. Each one is designed and manufactured in Worcester, UK, before being trucked and shipped to its final destination.

“Depending on the contract, there will be an end date which we are working to; so this is all about the logistics of the flow from the assembly line, to the port, onto the vessel and then to the end customer,” says Williams.

“We might try to move four or five units a day but there has to be some flexibility because of availability of parts. WWL offers the benefit of frequent, regular sailings to our major markets and they have good transit times, plus they seem to be flexible. They usually manage to find us space, even if we have disruptions to our production schedule.”

A further challenge is that this is not an easy cargo to move. A typical roof support weighs around 30 tonnes, though WWL has shipped supports weighing up to 64.5 tonnes. In most cases, three supports are nestled together on a single 12-metre mafi trailer and then rolled onto the vessel. But sometimes they can be loaded as individual units.

Handling at Southampton is made easier by the availability of WWL’s special forklift, the largest in Europe, which can handle up to 52 tonnes and avoids the cost of hiring cranes. In fact, in the past, WWL shipped a heavy duty forklift to South Africa in advance of a Joy project.

David Twydell, WWL’s Key Account Manager for Joy, says he works closely with Joy’s experienced freight forwarders, a.hartrodt or GenCo Logistics, on the flow of each shipment.

“A typical project might involve 200 roof supports and we ship them in batches of 20 to 30, so the frequency of sailings is very important. Nobody wants these things standing around on the dockside but, with six sailings a month to Australia and 21 a month to North America, we can generally fit into Joy’s production schedule.

“It’s also helpful that we have our own terminal with specialist equipment at Southampton and our own staff who understand the need to be flexible. Sometimes there are delays with road transport or last-minute changes and our people will agree to stay late or come back in. That all makes life easier for the customer,” Twydell explains.

This level of cooperation is important for Williams, who describes the working relationship between WWL and the freight forwarders as “pretty seamless.”

“Between all of them, they make life very easy for us, which is what we want. There are only a handful of suppliers you can say that about and WWL is one of them,” Williams concludes.          

Joy Mining Machinery is a global leader in the development, manufacture, distribution and service of underground mining machinery for the extraction of coal and other bedded materials. With over 90 years experience in the industry, Joy also offers the world’s largest and most extensive aftermarket service and support infrastructure of any underground equipment supplier.
Joy Mining Machinery has customers in more than 14 countries worldwide and employs 6,100 people at 46 locations. Over 240 service engineers provide 24/7 global support for Joy equipment.