Three ‘whales’ of export
[b]Wonderful girls live in the small Belarusian town of Zhodino: champion weightlifters at world and European tournaments. From where does their passion for the sport originate? Perhaps Zhodino’s reputation for promoting all things strong is linked to its BelAZ enterprise. This August or September, the Belarusian Automobile Works will be launching the world’s largest heavy-duty dump truck, able to carry 450 tonnes of rock or minerals.[/b]
Naturally, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, mentioned this to the leaders of Indonesia and Singapore during his recent visits and preliminary agreements worth $400m have been signed: quarry machinery accounts for a considerable part of this sum.
Like sporting success, production achievements take years to prepare. A few years back, the Belarusian Automobile Works was manufacturing vehicles with a capacity of just 25 tonnes. This grew to 45, 90, 130, 280, 320 and 360 tonnes. The new 420-450 tonne giants (actually, almost 500 ‘short’ tonnes — as used in the West) seemed a distant dream until new technical solutions were found, underlines Piotr Parkhomchik, BelAZ’s Director General. He notes that the giant will have two diesel engines (instead of one) with a capacity of 4,600HP. It will also have two wheels on each side of the forward axle, with all wheels powered by electrical motors, making it a scaled-up version of a ‘4 x 4’ off-roader.
The old workshops at the factory are too small for the production of such vehicles, so two new facilities are being constructed in Zhodino, near the operating plant. Their length and width are huge, to enable them to cope with the size of the vehicles they’re assembling. Moreover, eleven enormous bridge cranes are now in situ, to move components weighing up to 100 tonnes. Tenders are also being conducted for the purchase of metal cutting equipment.
Total expenditure on the sites, which should be ready this year, is $644m, making this one of the largest investment projects in Belarus to date. Throughout 2014-2015, up to 1,000 giant trucks, with a load capacity of 90-450 tonnes, should be made at the new production facilities.
Of course, nobody would produce such expensive vehicles without knowing that buyers were in the wings. BelAZ has several potential clients ready to place orders, with Russian and Latin American companies most likely. Only those with corresponding infrastructure will be able to make use of such gigantic excavators and trucks, so it limits the potential market. Indonesia, for example, is only ready to use smaller vehicles at present; it has ordered five 45 tonne BelAZ vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian Automobile Works has prepared another premiere: the world’s smallest heavy-duty dump truck (90 tonne capacity) to be coupled with electromechanical transmission. This brings ease of control and better efficiency, keeping costs down. BelAZ is also designing a truck which can be ‘driven’ remotely, by radio, to allow the vehicle to travel to sites dangerous to man — such as hundreds of metres below ground.
Such innovations have made BelAZ a confident leader within the market; it already manufactures a third of the world’s heavy-duty dump trucks, including vehicles with a 30-360 tonne capacity and other heavy automobile machinery. In 2012, BelAZ exported to 32 countries, including such European states as Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, which use Belarusian quarry machinery to extract mineral resources (with load capacities of 45-220 tonnes).
Trucks by Minsk Automobile Works (MAZ) are less powerful yet also generate significant export revenue. In March 2013, MAZ signed its first contract to supply 50 right-hand drive dump trucks to Indonesia. Two vehicles were initially sent for demonstration at the Indonesia International Buses, Truck & Components Exhibition in Jakarta, with successful trials following. A delegation from MAZ also visited the South-African Republic, resulting in an order for at least 100 vehicles and, in 2013, the same number of trucks, trailers and pull tractors are to be sent to Ghana, in West Africa.
Minsk Tractor Works’ strategy of conquering world markets relies on assembly production in various countries: over 20 such facilities across 12 states, on various continents. Due to this alone, in 2012, the company managed to supply its machinery to 60 countries: vehicles with load capacities of 9-350HP. Minsk tractors enjoy especial popularity in South-East Asia, for their ease of control and servicing, reliability and high efficiency. Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam, alongside Iran, India and Pakistan, are good markets for MTZ. In 2013, MTZ began to assemble vehicles in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh. They plan to manufacture 500 tractors, in various models, and 500 two-wheeled tractors over the coming year, using vehicle sets supplied from Belarus. The largest batch of Minsk tractors (560 units) was recently dispatched to Venezuela, where it’s also planned to set up assembly, for onward sale across Latin America.
I’ve mentioned only three ‘whales’, which form the basis for Belarusian machine-building exports. However, there are many more such enterprises. Gomel’s Plant of Agricultural Machinery, Gomselmash, is another wonderful example, having recently designed a maize harvester for China, which gathers ears of corns whole. Since the planting distance in China is different, a new harvester thresher design was needed; hundreds of vehicle sets are now to be manufactured in Gomel, for assembly at the joint venture established in China.
By Vladimir Yakovlev