The small and unassuming gold mining town of Elko, Nevada, may just be the start of very big things for Brisbane-based mining equipment manufacturer Durapac.
This week, Durapac clinched its first American order from a miner in Elko for its Australian-designed, built and tested Safe D Lock hydraulic jack, which uses US patented oil-bathed internal locking quadrants that ensure an unrivalled failsafe operation.
“It’s promising. We are working on getting a foothold and more traction in the global market over this next year or two,” says Brett Johnston, managing director at Absolute Equipment, which owns the registered Durapac brand.
Durapac counts Rio Tinto, Downer EDI and service providers like Marathon Tyres, among its customers. In recent months Mr Johnston has employed an export manager based in Sydney who has been actively visiting potential customers in Asia and elsewhere.
Durapac supplies products such as bar cylinders, pumps and hydraulic tools to a vast and diverse client base in sectors spanning construction, electricity, mining, offshore oil and gas, petrochemicals, power generation, rail and shipping.
The team has been selling its heavy lift Safe D Lock jack in Australia for around three years. It was designed by Durapac’s senior design engineer, Tom Prisk, for mining dump trucks, or haul trucks, as they are known in America, although the locking technology component has potential for other cylinder and locking applications.
“It could be in construction, it could be in railways, anywhere really. We are not just limited to that application. We could put the technology into a remote cylinder that might be lifting up a bridge, or whatever the case maybe,” says Mr Johnston.
Unlike a traditional jack, Durapac’s innovation eliminates the requirement for a separate jack stand, saving time but also increasing safety.
“What makes us unique is we can lift up the jack like others do, then we can press a button and we can mechanically lock it out and it is a rated jack stand as well as being a lifting jack. So then the maintenance person can get under that jacked-up mining dump truck,” explains Mr Johnston.
“It has safety implications and it has time-saving implications. These trucks can weigh 200 times as much as your average family car,” adds Mr Prisk.
Locking and releasing processes are done automatically in the jack, processes that people would normally perform manually. This removes potential for error. There is the benefit of being able to have one product instead of two, and the jack itself is lighter and easier to manoeuver, Mr Prisk says.
The jack is manufactured in Australia, and the design and prototyping was all done here, culminating in the US patent being granted early in 2017. More recently, a battery power drive was added.
“Competitors are everywhere but our product is unique and I don’t think there is any one competitor’s product that matches all our features and functionality,” Mr Johnston says.
“We don’t put forward that our jack is the cheapest on the market but we do put it forward is the best jack and the safest. That’s where we come from. We certainly don’t go out with a price-first sort of attitude.”
The team says its strength is in design and application knowledge, and applying that knowledge back to the design. Access to the market through distribution is also given top priority, and post-sale service and follow-up is taken very seriously.
“The last 12 months have really been about forging those relationships,” Mr Johnston says.
Durapac has invested heavily in IP protection via the patent process. The team has also showcased their jack at MINExpo in Las Vegas and is embarking on a sales roadshow in Canada.
Each jack is passed through a press at the Geebung headquarters to vigorously test the locking system mechanism extensively and load test dynamically. The jack has to be tough rather than brittle as it is subjected to shock and the internal locking system has to withstand three times the weight and force of the jack itself.
It is made of a high grade steel that is heat treated. The load bearing cylinders within the jack are made from raw materials sourced from Japan.
“It is critical that those load-bearing elements are done consistently and done well,” Mr Prisk says.
The production is outsourced locally and Durapac does the final assemblies and testing in-house.
“We could outsource it all to China but this is a safety-related product and a lot of things need to be correct for it to work as designed. You are in a much better position if you can do those checks and balances yourself,” Mr Johnston says.