Meet Petra Grandinson, General Manager at Epiroc UK & Ireland

16 December 2020

Mining and construction giant and SCC patron Epiroc, is going through a technological shift that will be fuelling the business with new competence and bring about a renewed image of the industry as a result. The Link met with Petra Grandinson, General Manager at Epiroc UK and Ireland, to discuss technological advancements within the industry, the drivers and why people are the greatest asset of the company: “We want to show that we are a business that cares about sustainability, about health and safety and that wants to use all of this new technology to drive things forward.”

Some 15 years ago, when Epiroc still was part of Atlas Copco, Petra joined the group in another industrial part of the business. “The first seven years I was working with industrial tools that are used in for example assembling cars and white goods. During this time, I got curious about the rest of the group, which at that time consisted of five different business areas. I eventually moved to a position in China for the mining side, which now is Epiroc.”

Coming from a family of engineers, working for tech businesses such as Ericsson has been a common thread running through Petra’s career. “When I look back and try to see what the common denominator is between the different industries I have been in, I have always worked for very innovative companies with top-notch technologies. Whether it has been in telecom, automotive or heavy industry, it has always been the market leader when it comes to the technology in their niche.” Petra believes that being a leader in technology and having a high level of ambition goes hand in hand. “I think that is probably what I enjoy with these companies. You want to be leading not only in technology, you want to do a good job in the other parts of the business as well.”

World-leading within mining
Until three years ago, Epiroc was part of Swedish industrial company Atlas Copco. With a presence in 150 countries worldwide, Epiroc is today a world-leading manufacturer and supplier of equipment and solutions for the mining and construction industry. “You would see us in all type of niche equipment where our technology can really make a difference, for example in underground mines. In our region we have a really big mine, Boliden Tara Mines in Ireland, but we also have a number of smaller gold and chemical mines,” Petra explains. “You would also see our equipment on the surface. In the UK and Ireland, it is mainly in the quarry and the aggregate industry.” What might not be so well-known outside the industry, is that Epiroc also has a strong offer of hydraulic attachments. “That is what you see in front of an excavator where you can have for example a hydraulic breaker, grab bowl or a magnet.” To give an idea of the type of equipment she is working with, Petra gives an example: “It's kind of powerful and quite amazing in a way, when you're standing next to a mine truck and the tires and the wheels are larger than yourself.”

Strong withing construction
While many of the company’s bigger markets are mining dominated, Epiroc in the UK and Ireland has built a strong presence within construction. “We do have several mines that we are serving, but we are much bigger on the construction side. For us, the challenge is about how we serve that market. The market logic is quite different from serving mines to serving thousands of different small customer sites with equipment.”

Shift in the industry
Currently, the industry is going through a shift technology-wise, which according to Petra also has positive side effects on the image of the industry. “It's an extremely interesting time for the industry right now. There are a lot of things happening when it comes to automation, digitalisation and electrification. I think it's an important shift also affecting the typical image of heavy labour where you have to be underground for hours in a dangerous environment. Of course, this development is driven by productivity, but it's also very much linked to health and safety and is very much requested from our customers. We want to show that we are a business that cares about sustainability, about health and safety and that wants to use all of this new technology to drive things forward.”

Accelerated development
As part of its move towards battery-powered equipment, Epiroc has been running tests of its generation one battery-equipped machines in Canada for more than five years. Now, generation two machines are being tested on several trial sites around the world. “It is quite impressive when you see an 18-tonne loader that is completely silent because it's all battery-powered. This is a big shift in the industry and it's very much required from the market.” Similarly, the development of automated solutions has accelerated over the last five years. “With these solutions, you control the vehicle or the equipment remotely. We also have equipment that is running totally autonomously and you're sitting in a control room monitoring it. This means that instead of being next to a machine or having it next to the face, you can sit in a control room either somewhere else in the mine, or you could even be a hundred miles away from the mine and control the equipment.”

Connected machines
Telemetrics is one of the areas within digitalisation that is most clearly linked to productivity. “You can have the machines reporting back on drill metres, fuel consumption and send error reports. This data can be used to optimise for example how you're drilling or optimising the loading pattern. Epiroc in UK and Ireland is one of the regions that has the highest percentage of machines that are connected.”

Bridge the knowledge gap
With new technologies comes the need for new capabilities and competence among the people in the organisation. Petra believes that attracting the next generation to the mining industry will be one of the biggest challenges going forward. “We have thousands of years of aggregated experience within the company around the world when it comes to the traditional drilling, loading and hauling kind of business that we are in. But if you're moving into automation, digitalisation and battery equipment, you do need some new skill sets. Just one example could be the service engineers that are very good in mechanics and hydraulics but may not have so much experience in electrics. I think that the biggest hurdle is to find people with the right background and knowledge, but also to bring the current staff on to bridge that knowledge gap and to bring us into what will be the technology and the requirements for the future.”

People the greatest asset
According to Petra, it is the people that forms the greatest asset of the company. “My experience from Atlas Copco and Epiroc is that there are really good people with a lot of drive, wanting to change things for the better.” And with a presence in more than 150 countries comes a diverse workforce bringing different ideas and innovation to the table. “The atmosphere is very international. I have discussions with teams in Sweden, we have people from Russia, from Africa and Asia – all in the mix. That brings us a lot of valuable experience, but also different perspectives.”

Localising Swedish culture and leadership
Having worked in three different countries for Atlas Copco and Epiroc, Petra says that the leadership and the culture within the company are very much Swedish, which she sees as an advantage on the markets outside of Sweden. “The transparency, being responsible for your own career, making sure to drive things forward, but also to act when you see that things are not working is something that people enjoy. People become both loyal and successful, I could see that both in China and here in the UK. The leadership is still demanding – you need to show results – but it's also human.” Although the ‘Swedishness’ can be an asset, Petra believes that both culture and leadership style need to be localised in order to be successful. “You need a good mix, and that is what I have tried to do – to see what in our culture I absolutely wouldn’t compromise with and what we could do better by bringing in local culture and leadership.”

Unique collaboration between mines and suppliers
Another thing that has left a Swedish imprint on the business, is the established collaboration between the mines and Epiroc and competitors on the market. “If you look globally, the collaboration in Sweden between the equipment suppliers and the mines is quite unique. I think that is one of the things that has been an important part of forming Epiroc throughout the years.”

Service organisation – the foundation of the business
Like many other industries and businesses, Epiroc has endured the uncertainties surrounding Brexit for several years. When the coronavirus pandemic struck earlier this year, the service organisation was put further to the test. “We need to make sure that we are in the best possible way, supporting our customers in this difficult situation. We are not only selling machines, but we are also selling solutions and productivity to them. It is very much linked to also having a functioning service organisation, making sure that they can get their spare parts and their consumables in a short time. This should be the foundation of the business, but I think right now with the circumstances, both with Covid and with Brexit around the corner, that basis can become crucial to our success.”

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