Family Fortunes

The Motive Group

The secret of this company is its size – although The Motive Group sounds like a major corporation, it is a family-run business with all the relatives pitching in to provide products and services for the mining industry.

~

But The Motive Group (previously known as Motive Traction to many miners throughout Australia) packs a punch well above its weight. Even more important, the company, based in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, is adept at coming up with solutions to all sorts of major or minor problems associated with the mining process – some of which their customers never knew existed until the company showed up.

“We are in a transitional period at the moment towards running as a group,” says Chris Taylor, “because we have such a diverse range of products.” The approach is not going quite as far as a one-stop shop, he explains, but – especially in today’s tough market conditions – it is vital to be able to be flexible and responsive and “turn your hand to anything the client needs.”

The family – including founder Brent Jones, Chris’ father in law – has a multitude of contacts throughout the mining sector and related industries and if they don’t have an answer or solution to hand they sure will find it soon. However, a trawl through the pages of the company website – about to be overhauled to reflect the new image – suggests there are more, and more inventive solutions available than you could shake a stick at.

The ‘Traction’ part of the company’s moniker refers to railways, as the company offers a number of solutions for transporting the products of mines, but there is also the minerals processing division which is quite separate. “Our core business is manufacturing and supply for the mining industry,” explains Chris. “The target with rail is heavy mining – customers include all the major iron ore extractors.”

As of this year, Motive has become an OEM supplier for Hydraulink, the New Zealand-based company with more than 70 years of industry experience providing a diverse range of hydraulic hose, fittings, components and 24/7 services to businesses and industrial sectors across New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific regions. “Any application where optimum performance from hydraulic systems and hoses is critical, Hydraulink are there, manufacturing and distributing hydraulic hoses, fittings, couplers, tube assemblies, adaptors and accessories,” says the company.

Motive provides a full mobile service and on site in its factory for Hydraulic Hose and Fittings users (including farmers as well as miners) and also relies on Hydraulink to supply all the relevant components for its innovative HPLV belt cleaners, which are specified by, among others, perhaps the world’s leading iron ore company. The cleaner represents a new approach to the cleaning of conveyor belts, by eliminating Carry Back, the most common problem when moving products via conveyor, and the damage and wear caused by scrapers, and also has numerous benefits including a reduction in dust.It employs a high pressure water spray bar with a range of nozzles to suit the application of each belt and is selling like hot cakes. “The reception in the industry has been far in excess of anything we expected,” says Chris.

Another key product for Motive is the US-made (by member of the Marmon-Berkshire Hathaway Group) Trackmobile, an on-road, on-rail shunting vehicle that cuts costs by replacing a ‘real’ locomotive with a shunter that can quickly move around a railhead and is not stuck half the time idling and wasting time and money. Trackmobile has road tyres as well as flanged railwheels and uses a coupler head that can be operated from the driver’s seat, which raises hydraulically to lift the railcar, transferring the weight of the rolling stock to the wheels of the vehicle for traction so the Trackmobile, though small, can shunt long and heavy trains.

There are around two dozen Trackmobiles in Australia and Chris estimates the team will sell another five or so over the next year, so there are more consistent items to market for Motive if the group is to avoid crippling peaks and troughs of turnover. One of the most compelling brands is the Wilfley Concentrating Table. Designed by Arthur Redman Wilfley, the Wilfley Table has been manufactured in Australia for more than 120 years and today’s models still retain many of the original design features, although Motive has tweaked some of the design in keeping with modern technology. There are imitations out there, but Motive has the only true Wilfley and keeps one of each model in stock (there are numerous sizes to suit individual applications, as well as a laboratory version) for prompt delivery.

This product goes not only right across Australia but all over the world; in Senegal, for example, there are some 66 double-deck Wilfley tables handling anything from mineral sands to zircon. Chris says the strong Aussie dollar has not helped the export drive but in most cases, “if they want it, they’ll buy it.” In recognition of the volatility of currencies and the practicalities of sourcing and manufacturing, Motive Group has a factory in China that handles much of the steel fabrication work that is then shipped to the NSW facility for assembly. Motive is Australian through and through, says Chris. “But the only way to stay competitive is to outsource from countries like China. To keep playing the game you have to cut costs somewhere and China is a key place to go.”

So Motive has partnered with a Chinese company specialising in contract steel structure projects, integrated design, manufacture and construction. Facilities include five modern production bases and a design research centre occupying a total area of 320,000 square metres. One of the main ranges produced in China is the container house (or donga), although the company has a full range of portable housing to suit all applications – mining, construction, domestic, and disaster relief. Single storey and multi storey versions can be supplied.

A useful stock item that keeps ticking over is the pulp density scale. Motive offers a number of options and sells anywhere up to a thousand units per year worldwide. One brand is Clyde, whose Pulp Density Scale correlates the specific gravity of the ore with the per cent solids of the pulp. This information is displayed on a circular scale for several specific gravities by use of a simple weigh scale. The simplicity of the scale along with its many applications have made it a common feature at concentrators throughout the world. It can be used for fast, accurate per cent solids determinations at various points throughout a concentrator, enabling adjustments to be made to keep, for example, a grinding circuit running effectively. The scale can speed up the determination of pulp densities; specific gravities of pulps or liquids; and specific gravity of dry solids. It eliminates errors in reading charts or graphs and prevents errors in calculations, provides greater accuracy and has a wide specific gravity range. The scale gives direct readings of: weight of sample in grams or kilograms; specific gravity of liquid or pulp; percent solids contained in the pulp of any given specific gravity; and specific gravity of dry solids.

Chris serves as Project Manager (though he wears a number of other hats, as befits a true family concern) and spends roughly half his working life on the road, visiting clients and mine sites all over Australia. He readily admits it is a tough business, but he relishes the opportunity to meet the guys at the sharp end, look around and point out things that can be done better. A lot of Motive’s business has been in the iron ore sector which has come in for such dramatic, doom-laden coverage of late, but Chris believes the downturn has been over-hyped somewhat. Cost-cutting is going on and Motive can certainly help clients to do that, but, he believes, in the period after the end of much of the project expansion work, the process work remains and it is not going to go away. For Motive Group, the last few years have seen considerable growth and now is time for consolidation, rather than retrenchment.

Strategic Resources

There are 17 classified rare earth elements, many of which have strategic purposes. Rare in name only, these elements are anything but scarce as they are found all over the world. The challenge rare earth elements pose is during extraction, as they exist in low concentrations and are difficult to separate from one another.

September 26, 2017, 7:16 PM AEST