Automobile giant embodies the future
Alexander Lukashenko has tested the new 450-tonne BelAZ mining truck during a visit to the BelAZ-Holding Management Company
By Denis Krymov
The new 450-tonne BelAZ is a big machine. It’s like a marine cargo ship came ashore. The President personally tested it on the move, after he had cut the symbolic red ribbon in front of the new large trucks assembly shop and a new page in the history of the Automobile Works in Zhodino was turned.
We know that the situation in the world economy today is not favourable to any business, world players of large business; can be counted on fingers of one hand and this industry is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in market. One consequence of the global crisis was a significant decline in the requirement of mining equipment. In the first half of this year, sales have declined by 44 percent. Everybody suffered including big names like Caterpillar, Komatsu and Hitachi. In major companies there were a number of redundancies. Of course, the same problems occurred at BelAZ too. But at least two positive moments suggest that our company does not lose their stability and confidence in readiness to start on the recovery of the global economy.
The first important thing is that the jobs of fourteen thousand staff members are preserved. Moreover, staff numbers are growing now. A new workshop, equipped with the most modern equipment for the construction of heavy haulers, has created nearly a hundred jobs. BelAZ is not only keeping its qualified mechanical engineers, but is also developing new roles.
The second important thing is the launching of a new manufacturing plant and development of vehicles which are unlikely to appear among their counterparts for several years. Designers from Zhodino have managed to invent a 450-tonne crane, a step up from their previous 360 tonne model. Its track and turning radius allow it to working in the same pit sizes as its predecessor, without the need for road widening. Some competitors are now also developing heavy-duty dump trucks, but these have significant increased track sizes and the acquisition of such equipment will require additional investments in the modernisation of pit infrastructure. Because of this, potential buyers today are looking towards Belarus with special interest. Firstly, because we are already several steps ahead of other manufacturers; and secondly, because our vehicles can carry more than hundred tonnes of extra cargo on already existing routes. The advantages of BelAZ are shown by simple arithmetic.
But even more importantly is the fact that this vehicle and its modern production are being created during the world economy fever. At a time when all enterprises were ‘compressing’, ‘reducing’ and ‘optimising’, BelAZ was looking a few years ahead and actively invested in order to emerge from the crisis not, as the same BelAZ in a state of crisis, but as a company of an even higher level and confirming its status of one of the trendsetters in the world production of mining equipment. This is perhaps the most striking manifestation of the state policy aimed at the active modernisation of the industry.
The crisis is a disaster for pessimists. But if we think soberly, it is a convenient pause, allowing for business improvement that may be unavailable during the usual economic race. This is the time to look for new markets and this is what Belarus is doing today by strengthening ties with partners in all continents; from Latin America to Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania.
BelAZ’ flexibility means they have been able to develop a special line of powerful technology for the Australian market where a lot of women work on their heavy-duty dump trucks. Obviously, they have special requirements and the professionals from Zhodino have met their needs. This is the nature of the market. It requires such flexibility and our multi-tonne vehicles have shown themselves to be highly mobile.
However, it is clear that upgrading is not the end. A new level of industry and a more efficient economy are needed to achieve the main goal; to improve the quality of life of people. That is why the conversation between the President and the factory workers came to the logical conclusion: “When times were hard, we did not stop. We live at the expense of real sectors of the economy, rather than at the expense of oil and gas. And when the crisis is over, we will be in a good position.”
They spoke about money, salaries (which, by the way are very high at BelAZ), prices and currency. These are the current issues. And which of these is the most important? The future of the country and its people, of course. The President reminded that we are, for the first time in many years, balanced between mortality and fertility. Very soon we will have a growth of population. Who will dispute the fact that this is not the main issue for the country and the entire nation?
That’s why today, according to Mr. Lukashenko, a draft entitled ‘big family’ is being worked out. The idea is to support all families with children. There are different suggestions. One of them is to open an account with a sum for the birth of the first child. And with the birth of each subsequent child, the amount will grow significantly. The President explained, “Children are the most important thing. If we do not have enough people, then there is no sense to talk about independence.”
The modernisation programme is launched exactly with the purpose that people have children and, when the children grow up, they would be comfortable in their home country, create new families, and give life to future generations. This is not a technical, industrial, or purely economic programme. It is a programme of life which looks many years, or even decades, ahead.