Big equipment can experience big problems. And that usually means just one thing: costly downtime.
BNI Coal, Ltd., a subsidiary of BNI Energy Inc., operates the Center Mine, loCaterpillared in Center, North Dakota, about 40 miles northwest of Bismarck. BNI mines and reclaims about 200 acres a year to supply lignite coal, producing an average of 4.5 million tons of coal per year to fuel the nearby Milton R. Young Generation Station.
Allen Johnson, BNI Coal’s Maintenance Supervisor for Mobile Equipment, is responsible for keeping the entire BNI Coal fleet up and running. The BNI Coal fleet includes draglines, coal haulers, large front-end loaders and more. Johnson and his team have relied on L&M Radiator for more than 40 years to keep BNI Coal’s fleet in top-performing condition and on the job.
Recently, one of BNI Coal’s large-wheel, front-end loaders, a Caterpillar® 993K, needed an overhaul. The primary application of this machine is loading coal either into haul trucks or belly dumps, which transport the coal to the Milton R. Young Station.
Johnson had planned to take this particular loader out of service for a major overhaul, scheduling 45 days for the work. He contacted Steve Smith, L&M Radiator’s Rocky Mountain Sales Representative, to let him know about his plans, which would involve replacing the OEM radiator assembly, a Caterpillar 252-2475 standard ambient radiator.
“Allen was originally planning for an onsite repair,” said Smith. “But as we analyzed what needed to be done, we recommended that they pull the hardnose with the OEM fan shroud, radiator and charge air coolers, and send it to our headquarters in Hibbing, Minnesota, where we could tackle the project there.”
Beating the Clock
When a loader is taken out of service, the cost to an operation can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars per day. For L&M Radiator’s engineers, the goal of assisting BNI Coal quickly became one of beating the customer’s 45-day deadline. The deadline was imposed based on the extensive rebuild of the loader, which included an engine and transmission rebuild and the replacement of center pin bushings.
“It was a very expensive rebuild of the machine,” said Smith, “that’s why there was some extra time involved.”
Initially, the L&M Radiator application engineers thought the project would involve a standard radiator replacement for which L&M recommended a Mesabi® individual tube, flexible core assembly. But once the Caterpillar 993K hard nose arrived in Hibbing, the L&M Radiator engineers quickly determined there was no physical way to fit a full radiator into the Caterpillar 993K hardnose without assembling it inside the hard nose.
“This project was unique for us because there are no other radiator manufacturers who would be able to replace the original Caterpillar radiator other than L&M,” said Josh Mitchell, a Design and Applications Engineer with L&M Radiator.
Because the Caterpillar 993K uses a modular core design that has large modules that slide into the hardnose small openings, L&M Radiator engineers were able to replace the Caterpillar components with Mesabi radiator components. “We put Mesabi tanks and sidemembers in and then installed genuine Mesabi tubes,” said Mitchell. “As a result, we were able to maximize the space to obtain the best possible cooling performance.”
L&M was able to develop a custom solution for the Caterpillar 993K loader because of its long legacy in developing custom solutions for Caterpillar and other OEM equipment.
“Once we got the hard nose in, our applications engineers met to develop a solution for this particular piece of equipment,” said Mitchell. “We are able to pull from our experience in working on other equipment to design a better solution for BNI Coal’s 993K.”
Better Than the Original
When L&M Radiator engineers get a project like replacing an original OEM radiator, one of the first things they think about is how to make it better than the original. The company has a reputation for building radiators and coolers that last a very long time.
“Because we knew this machine was operating in a coal mine and because it’s a loader, we knew our radiator was going to be operating in a very dirty environment,” said Mitchell.
“That’s really how this all started,” added Smith, “When I was on site in their maintenance shop, I could see a tremendous build-up of trash on the bottom side of the radiator core on the bottom of the tank area. And not just coal dust either. All kinds of debris — plastic bags, plastic bottles, and other stuff.”
“When we saw what we were dealing with,” said Mitchell, “our engineers knew that L&M’s Mesabi V-Tube™ Radiator was exactly what BNI Coal was going to need to lower its maintenance efforts.”
Specifically designed for working in all types of heavy debris industries such as forestry, urban transit, waste management and underground mining, Mesabi V-Tube Radiators feature exclusive clog-resistant passages and tube configuration that allow for the heaviest of matter — up to one-eighth inch particle size — to better flow through the radiator core, minimizing clogs and the associated costs of downtime due to clogging and overheating.
Exclusively designed with a leading edge of the tube finning that is V-shaped for maximum debris flow and reduced matter hang up, the Mesabi V-Tube radiator allows easy tube removal and effortless cleaning externally with high-pressure air or water.
“When properly maintained, our Mesabi-brand V-Tube Coolers stay clean and move dirt like no other,” said Smith.
Held in headers with flexible rubber seals, Mesabi tubes also are repairable in the field and can be returned to 100 percent cooling performance capacity.
“Mesabi radiators are proven to be more efficient than OEM radiators as our customers can pull an engine out, steam clean the Mesabi radiator, pressure test it, qualify it to go back in and eliminate the need for a complete overhaul,” added Smith. “Essentially we are providing our customers at least two engine lives out of one radiator, saving customers big money and eliminating downtime.”
Now that L&M Radiator has developed a radiator solution for the Caterpillar 993K that will actually help the loader perform even better, it can apply this same solution to BNI Coal’s other Caterpillar 993K loader or to other 993K loaders being used anywhere in the world. For mines that use the Caterpillar 993K loader, L&M can provide genuine Mesabi parts as well as instructions on how to complete the repair themselves, or customers can send their Caterpillar 993K hard nose for L&M to install at its factories in Hibbing, Minnesota, Chile or Australia.
Another option that owners of the Caterpillar 993K should consider is buying an additional Caterpillar 993K hardnose and having it fitted with a Mesabi V-Tube Radiator, which can be quickly installed at the time of maintenance.
“By having a swing hard nose,” said Smith, “mining operations can reduce the scheduled downtime for their Caterpillar 993K loaders.”
Beating the Deadline!
Besides coming up with a custom solution for BNI Coal, the L&M engineering team also beat BNI Coal’s deadline by 5 days.
“What was unique about this project was that we were able to complete this major overhaul project for BNI Coal in less than the scheduled 45 days,” explained Smith. “From the time it arrived at our Hibbing facility and got back to the mine site and installed, it was 40 days, beating the deadline by 5 days. We actually had our equipment there before they were ready for it to be back onsite.”
“For more than 40 years, L&M has consistently gone the extra mile for us,” said Johnson. “We value their exceptional custom product ingenuity and their consistent commitment to exceptional service. We consider Steve and the L&M team partners — not just a product or service provider.”