Ontrak on the right track

Ontrak Engineering, an underground mining equipment designer and supplier from Maraylya in New South Wales, has grown from a two-man operation servicing old locomotives and man cars, to a 25-strong company designing and manufacturing its own reclaim feeders and chain conveyors.

Ontrak on the right track Ontrak on the right track Ontrak on the right track Ontrak on the right track Ontrak on the right track

Ontrak Engineering

While managing director Steve Lewry has held the reins since starting the company 20-years ago, he is now readying for a change of the guard and will soon propel son Shannon and god-son Adam Lees into more active management roles at company headquarters in Maraylya.

The young men are understandably nervous about filling the shoes both their fathers have worn so well, but, as Shannon told Australia's Mining Monthly, it was time for Adam and him to step up and come into the office more, to take the pressure off and learn new things.

Shannon said while he was nervous it was about time, as he and Adam had spent the past 8-10 years running the workshop and overhauls, and both of them are now excited to be learning something different.

Shannon added the shoes will take a lot of filling, as Steve especially ran such a good team, so they will both have to scrub up well and work even harder.

He said Ontrak was an inspiring place to work at, as the small, close-knit group of people working there all love what they do, and staff and their wives had only just returned from a company trip to Fiji, which was put on as a thank you for all their hard work.

Shannon and Adam are both avid water-skiing enthusiasts and are hoping for big wins for themselves and other family members at the upcoming Bridge to Bridge water ski classic on the Hawkesbury River.

 And while they readily admit they work just to fund their expensive hobbies, both admit they love their work-place and can't wait to clock on in the mornings, as their work colleague aren't  just workers, they are friends.

Adam said this is what makes Ontrak so successful; the small group of people who do quality work and keep the customers coming back for more.

Ontrak offers underground and run-of-mine open cut feeder breakers, reclaim feeders, specialised crawler tracked equipment and chain conveyors for use in underground coal mines.

The company is spearheading the fight to keep Australian manufacturing at the forefront of underground mining, both in Australia and overseas, and provides some unique machinery for development and installation work in both coal and hard rock mines.

Shannon said Ontrak has its roots in coal, which is gentler on equipment, but still operates on some harder ground.

Ontrak designs feeder breakers for open cut, tunnelling or reclamation work, like the OFB-10, the OFB-30 and the Ontrak OFB-30-IR.

The OFB-10 is custom-designed for out-bye work where space is limited, while the OFB-30 is regarded as the benchmark in Australian underground coal mines, with around 38 OFB-30 feeder breakers currently in service.

The Ontrak OFB-30-IR, meanwhile, is a spin-off unit equipped with a German manufactured breaker gearbox that is used on harder jobs.

Reclaim feeders and chain conveyors are also according to specification, based on round link mining chain or engineered chain.

Specialized equipment, from crawler tracked auxiliary fans and mobile boot ends to 100 tonne shearer carrier trailers can also be designed, and Ontrak can also supply track side frames and complete track systems with platforms, and anything else that can be mounted on tracks.

Crawler track systems available include the H6T & H8T systems, which are designed to be used by smaller and more manoeuvrable types of equipment, auxiliary fans and drill rigs; and H30T & H50T systems, for mid-range machinery like transformers and smaller longwall pump stations.

Additionally, the H75T track system is available, with its design registered braking system, as are the H90T & H120T systems; which are designed for longwall shearer transporters and other heavy duty applications.

Ontrak also offers a machine overhaul service to re-design drives and functional systems of older machines to make them compatible with the equipment on the new OFB-30 feeder breakers.

The 20-year-old business has also spawned two new off-shoots: Ontrak Electrical Engineering and Ontrak Feeder Rentals, and expanded into India and Indonesia.

According to Steve, Ontrak faced some tough times around ten years ago and, after repairing and overhauling anything that came out of a tunnel or mine to keep the cash flow turning over, they decided that if the business was to keep going then it would ultimately need a product of its own.

This led to development of the Ontrak Track system for the longwall pump and transformer stations, which now range from six tonne to 180t.

The company then moved into Feeder Breaker overhauls, and worked out that if they took a piece of each feeder breaker on offer around the world they could come up with a local product that challenges the other manufacturers.

So after a full year of design work on an old drawing board the Ontrak OFB-30 Feeder Breaker was born, and immediately on-sold, to Peter Ross of LDO, who appreciated that Ontrak had invested every cent it didn't have to build a Feeder Breaker that it hadn't yet sold.

At Maraylya, two development machines designed and built in the factory have been delivered to Anglo American's Moranbah North mine, and a third unit is due to be delivered in March next year.

These machines carry an eight outlet distribution control box on top next to an operator platform for tram function and include a conveyor belt tail piece with flexible functionality, and the auxiliary fans to service the panel are track mounted on Ontrak H6T tracks and have their own on-board power units for tram function.