Fairchild International, a major manufacturer of underground mining equipment, has found success by creating one satisfied customer at a time. David Soyka digs up the facts on how this independently owned-and-operated business partners with mining companies to maximize productivity and safety with cost-effective products.
Global market demand for coal is higher than ever,” notes Jack Fairchild, Jr., vice president and general manager for Fairchild International. “There has been an 8 percent increase over the previous year, and a 92 percent increase during the past 25 years. Two factors are driving this recent increase in demand. First is the surge in oil prices and the consequent push toward alternative energy sources. Second is that technology has improved to the point where it is now possible to safely reach coal seams that mine operators wouldn’t have touched just a few years ago. As coal prices rise, it becomes more economical to mine difficult-to-reach seams.”
Increased demand for coal is good news for any manufacturer of underground mining equipment, especially Fairchild International. The company’s unique continuous miners, haulage systems, scoops, longwall shield haulers and maintenance vehicles are ideally suited to meet today’s mining challenges. In fact, Fairchild International produces the world’s only system that mines coal selectively by using an articulating miner that cuts and loads the low-ash coal on the first pass before cutting and loading rock, highash, or high-sulfur coal on the second pass, without needing to reset the miner. This feature allows coal preparation to start at the mine face, which enables more seams to be mined profitably.
PROUD PAST, BRIGHT FUTURE
Fairchild International was founded by Jack R. and Myrleen Fairchild in 1965. Today, Myrleen is president and CEO. The Fairchild family started its business in Beckley, W. Va., and moved across the state line to Glen Lyn, Va., in 1986. Before relocating, Fairchild received the West Virginia Exporter of the Year Award.
“We have customers in Brazil, China, Great Britain, Mexico, Poland and South Africa,” notes Fairchild. “For the last 10 years, we’ve been focusing primarily on our domestic markets. That wasn’t from lack of opportunity, but because of a strong dollar. As the value of the dollar declines and coal’s popularity grows, there’s increasing overseas interest in our products. Our relationships with agents to represent us overseas positions us for growth abroad while our direct sales force focuses on North America, where we maintain warehouses in Beckley, W.Va.; Dryden, Va.; DuQuoin, Ill.; and Indiana, Pa.”
IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH INNOVATION
One of Fairchild’s signature products is the all-gear drive F330 Ultra-Low Vein Continuous Miner, with shearers as low as 24-inch cutting diameter, along with a chassis height of 23 inches and a machine weight of 36 tons. These features enable the operator to mine coal seams selectively and to cut excess mine roof or floor when additional clearance is required. When equipped with remote control, the F330 can take deeper cuts, thereby increasing the machine’s production by reducing the number of place changes.
“It improves safety on the section while increasing overall production,” says Fairchild. “Our goal is to help customers improve their productivity without increasing labor costs in a very competitive industry.”
A companion haulage system can be operated manually or by remote control to transport the mined material to the main beltline. The Fairchild Model 26-30, Hi-Cap XL Conveyor has a stacked height of only 26 inches to operate in 30 to 52 inch seam heights. Each remote-controlled mobile bridge conveyor has an overall width of only 6 feet 6 inches and incorporates dual articulating, 4 x 4 crawlers that rotate 180 degrees or 90 degrees in either direction. Its superior design allows each mobile bridge conveyor to have 11 feet more effective reach per operator than competitors’ products offer.
“The Hi-Cap XL is recognized as the most flexible continuous haulage system in the mining industry,” Fairchild says. “Its modular design offers improved mobility, dual crawler continuous haulage, and has the ability to position the rapid-haul rigid rail structure into correct alignment, reducing belt move times.”
The company also manufactures the industry’s most complete line of battery- and diesel-powered scoops. Fairchild scoops combine maintenance-friendly hydraulics and electronics with state-of-the-art design that has earned industry recognition as “Simply the Best.”
Fairchild’s maintenance vehicles and maintenance centers provide mine personnel with the resources required to maintain and repair mining equipment safely and efficiently. The maintenance units feature a 4-ton jib crane, air compressor, air tank, air tool capability, electric P.T.O., on-board bonder area, adjustable area lighting, oxygen and acetylene tank storage, various toolboxes/vises and hydraulic/gear oil tanks with hose reels. Each unit is customized to the operator’s specifications.
Besides improving technology that allows miners to excavate safely and cleanly in difficult geological conditions, Fairchild International partners with its customers to provide the most productive equipment for any given mining application. “Everything is built-to-order,” Fairchild explains. “We are committed to achieving excellence in equipment design, production and service to meet the needs of underground miners worldwide. We also provide our customers with a lot of training to help ensure they operate our equipment safely and optimally to achieve their objectives.”
TAKING PRIDE IN QUALITY
According to Fairchild, “Being the best doesn’t come easy. It takes commitment, integrity and the kind of hard work that only a miner can appreciate. At Fairchild International, we’re no stranger to hard work. Our employees have been in the field and in the mines their entire careers, working beside coal operators to build tough, reliable equipment that can withstand the harshest conditions.” Fairchild International has earned a reputation for exceeding customers’ expectations and achieving the industry’s highest quality, service, and performance standards.
“Our people, our history of developing high-quality products and our technical ability to continue developing state-of-the-art equipment give us the strength to serve customer needs,” Fairchild points out. “We offer products that the mining industry can use to maximize productivity. Because our customers make a huge investment in our equipment, we work tirelessly to make certain that the investment pays off for each of them.”
That approach is one that Fairchild International continues to mine successfully.