A family-run business headquartered in Dalby is now responsible for manufacturing ball and ring castings that play a key role in keeping the lights on for Queensland.
Inside a coal-fired power station, coal needs to be pulverised before it can be converted to steam and used to power the turbines that generate electricity. The coal is pulverised using large steel balls that rotate while held between rings, essentially like a gigantic set of ball bearings; this crushes the coal until it’s ground as fine as talcum powder.
Stanwell recently put out an open market tender for a new supplier of the ball and ring castings that are used inside these pulverisers. In keeping with Stanwell’s local procurement policy, local manufacturers were sought out and invited to participate in the process.
Amanda Lingard, a Category Specialist (Materials) with Stanwell’s Procurement & Supply team, says Stanwell’s procurement process has been designed to help the company buy locally.
“We put weighting into our tenders with regards to local content,” Lingard says.
“If they’re based in Queensland, that gives them an advantage with regards to our scoring mechanism.
“After our tenders close, we interview all of our applicants to get a sense of how they work. It’s not just about being headquartered locally – it’s about manufacturing locally, employing locals, and what they give back to the community.”
Securing these components locally also ensures surety of supply for Stanwell, and eliminates risk at a time when the global supply chain continues to experience unprecedented disruptions and delays.
White Industries, a supplier of castings and components that has been based in the Darling Downs region since 1960, were successful in winning the tender.
The company is headquartered in Dalby, where they play an active role in the community by sponsoring the Dalby State High School Trade Training Centre with funds to purchase tools and equipment, and offering tours and work experience for students.
White Industries recently acquired the Ipswich foundry that was used by a previous Stanwell supplier to cast ball and ring castings before they took their manufacturing operation offshore.
The Ipswich foundry produces balls and rings with a specialised chrome iron high-wear material that has the strength to withstand the pulverising conditions they’re employed in.
Michael Shelford, Business Development Manager of White Industries, says the company has been able to re-hire the key technical staff that were previously employed at the Ipswich foundry.
“The Stanwell work has been the bread and butter of this plant, traditionally,” Michael says.
“So winning this tender has given us the grounding to move forward with confidence.”
Having re-established the manufacturing process to produce the balls and rings for Stanwell, White Industries have now begun to offer the product to the broader market. And at a time when many regional foundries are closing, they’ve been able to grow and employ more staff.
“Now that we’ve started back up, using the same technical staff that were here previously, we’ve had several large global companies that have now come on board as well, because they know what this plant is capable of,” Michael says.
“We’ve been able to double our staff in the 12 months since our first pour at the Ipswich facility, going from 17 to 38 employees. We’re continuing to grow very quickly, and we’ve got another 10 or so employees starting in the new year.
“There’s been a lot of activity to increase staff levels and get the foundry up to speed, because of the production that’s starting to flow in.”
White Industries’ relationship with Stanwell also includes recycling opportunities in the form of a buy-back scheme for decommissioned castings. Once castings have been used at Stanwell Power Station and Tarong Power Station, they’re loaded onto White Industries trucks and sent to the Ipswich foundry for remelting. That material is then used for the next batch of castings.
“It’s basically a credit system,” Michael explains.
“We offer Stanwell a price based on what it’s worth to us to process the material at the foundry and re-melt it, and that credit is then offset against their next invoice for new castings.
“Rather than having to purchase new materials every time, we can recycle the castings to make the same products again, which is both more cost-effective for us and Stanwell and better for the environment.”
Moving forward, White Industries will continue to invest in new equipment, methods and training to keep up to date with rapid changes in foundry technology – and Stanwell will continue to support local industries, employment and communities as it powers towards the future.