Professional Powder Handling

Kockums Bulk Systems

Providing Australia’s most comprehensive range of in-house designed powder handling products is just one reason why Kockums Bulk Systems should be the first choice for any client with a need to handle powders.

Kockums Bulk Systems is a company that came from the ship builder group, Kockums, based in Malmo, Sweden. Kockums has a solid history as a ship builder and is still at the forefront of marine and naval technology today. Although Kockums Bulk Systems is no longer associated with the original Kockums, the company has maintained a reputation for applying superior technologies in systems to move powdered or granulated material.

“Kockums developed their dense phase pneumatic conveying technology in the fifties,” explains Francois Steyn, the company’s General Manager. “At the time, the Swedish Group only had representation for sawmilling and logging equipment in Australia and Ivan Price introduced the dense phase technology for the development of bulk road tankers in the sixties and seventies.”

The technology for pneumatic discharge tankers led to the development of a rail system for transporting nickel concentrate from mines in Central Australia to the Western Australian coast for refining and bulk cement by sea from Tasmania to Melbourne and Sydney. This was a result of the Swedish technology being able to unload at a rate of hundreds of tonnes per hour. Kockums pressure discharge road tankers dominated the Australian market throughout the seventies and eighties.

Kockums sold the Australian division in the mid-1980s and Kockums Bulk Systems came to being in 1989 when Ivan Price orchestrated a management buyout of the Powder Handling Division. Kockums Industries Pty Ltd continues with the manufacture of road tankers while Kockums Bulk Systems Pty Ltd supplies systems for the bulk materials handling industries.

Francois Steyn explains that the company now employs over forty people and enjoys a turnover of approximately ten million dollars per year. “Historically, the company doubled in revenue every five years since inception. Our aim is to continue growing although we realise it may be at a more modest rate given the current downturn in the industry.”

Today, the company produces systems that can receive powder in various forms (in sacks, bulk bags, tankers or containers) and blend it into another product, repackage it, palletise and wrap it ready for sale. Much of the company’s technology uses compressed air to typically convey several tonnes of powder an hour. Kockums Bulk Systems works with some twenty different international suppliers who have been chosen because they offer proven quality equipment for the Australian market, says Francois.

Along the way, the company acquired companies that have assisted in its growth. The acquisitions of Control Automation Pty Ltd and Delis Power Systems Pty Ltd not only aided with manufacturing, they also brought new products into the fold to augment Kockums’ original equipment line and have enabled the company to broaden its operations into powder handling for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

“The ‘bought-in’ technologies complemented our existing range and provided good synergy with existing product ranges which were eventually rationalised and fine-tuned,” explains Francois.

Key relationships with overseas suppliers of packaging machines have seen the company expand its offering into the packaging market for fertilisers, agricultural and garden products, bird feed, kitty litter and a range of other products. “The packaging line complements the powder handling line in that it gives us the ability to provide front-to-back turnkey systems for our clients.” This is, Francois adds, “what we’re all about”.

When Kockums Bulk Systems gets a call from a prospective client, the process begins by making sure that the client needs are understood. The projects that Kockums prefers to undertake are those projects where out of the box systems won’t necessarily work and some specialist skills are required. Francois explains, “We feel that we have the ability to take on those special and unique projects that might be a bit of a challenge for our competitors”.

Another unique feature of Kockums Bulk Handling Systems is the in-house test bay. When a client comes in and asks for a powder handling system, the company usually requests a sample of the product for testing to determine the best technology to convey the product.

Jason Groves, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, explains the importance of the test facility: “We carry out a lot of hands-on material trials using pneumatic conveying, mechanical conveying, feeders and IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) handling equipment. Our goal is to simulate the client’s application as close as we can before we move to the design and build stages. The last thing anyone needs is problematic equipment on site. It’s expensive and frustrating for everybody involved so we take care of addressing the issues at the earliest stage possible. Testing is a critical part of the engineering and design process for any system.”

While the equipment itself is fairly straightforward and the technology is well known, the application is a bit of an art form and Kockums Bulk Systems has years of experience when it comes to applying it. “Our experience, combined with our wide variety of technologies, puts us in the ideal position to provide clients with advice on the best solution,” says Francois.

“We’re proud of our good name out there,” he continues. “We’re also proud of the fact that we’re honest with our clients and if something comes along that we can’t find a solution for, we will point the client in the right direction to find a cost effective solution. We really don’t want problem projects and, even if the part that we don’t feel we can handle is just a small part of a project, we can always outsource it and then incorporate it into our own design, no problem.”

Most powder conveying equipment needs to run flawlessly for twelve to twenty-four hours a day with as little downtime or maintenance as possible. There is no reason to increase that maintenance bill by installing the wrong equipment. At the end of the day, the right solution wins over a fist full of dollars as there is no greater satisfaction than a happy client. And, for Kockums Bulk, a happy client is priority one.

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December 16, 2018, 3:52 PM AEDT