Christian Ullmann - Head of Global Application Engineering (current position: Head of Technical)

“Products Become Solutions”

One of Sempertrans’ strengths is our focus on adding value and providing full technical support to our customers. Our goal is to make sure that every single customer project is as successful as possible – no matter if it requires initial technical consulting or complete support on their conveyer belt operations from start to finish.

This sums up in a nutshell the ambition of Sempertrans’ Global Application Engineering team. They are comprised of nine multicultural Application Engineers with in-depth expertise in conveyor belt and conveying technology for the mining, cement and steel industry, among others. Their diversified experience is topped off with leading-edge knowledge in specialised fields such as tunnelling or pipe conveyors.

Christian Ullmann, Head of Global Application Engineering,  is leading this team, whom he started putting together in the beginning of 2014. Read below his game plan to create efficient, durable and cost-effective solutions for our customers.

What trends can be observed in terms of conveyor belt technology? How have customer requests evolved?
For the past year or so, the conveyor belt industry has been hit by decreasing demand due to a major global mining crisis, and fragile steel and cement sectors. In reaction to this challenging market environment, customers have been more meticulous with their demands. More than ever is price a dominant factor in their decision-making process. As a result, they are looking for the best techno-commercial offer. This means no over- nor under-engineering if you will. The key for success is to define the offer that will bring them as much value as possible in return for their investment.

This cost pressure goes hand in hand with the growing demand for reducing safety factors in order to save costs. That’s why besides devising the most suitable product, we need to make sure to offer the best overall solution. Defining the adequate splicing technology for example goes a long way towards ensuring high efficiency where there is no room for mistakes. Close cooperation with Sempertrans’ Global Field Service specialists is then crucial to ensure smooth project continuity. They play a key role in making sure the specified product solution and our technical recommendations are implemented correctly in the last step. They also provide valuable feedback directly from the field.

Last but not least, customers have urged us to push the limits of conveying technology. Conveyors are getting longer and longer and are required to be operational for a longer time. At the same time, environmental concerns are given more consideration. At Sempertrans we are prepared to tackle these customer challenges. That’s why our R&D department developed products such as the energy-saving TransEvo and designed custom belts for as complex projects as the aerial structure of the Flyingbelt.

What are the challenges faced by Sempertrans to satisfy these trends?
The conveyor belt industry is today more global than ever. In addition to well-established suppliers such as Sempertrans, a wave of smaller, emerging competitors have entered the low-end market segment. Very low prices, often at the expense of quality, are their main characteristic. As a manufacturer of high performance conveyor belts, Sempertrans strives to find the right balance for each application. This allows us to offer our customers price competitive yet effective solutions. However, at the end of the day all finished belts are black and look quite alike, which makes convincing customers that our conveyor belts are of higher quality an interesting challenge.

Here Application Engineering has to bridge a big gap in what customers expect from our consulting work. Some customers, usually companies operating large conveying systems, are very experienced; they are the ones who make us push our own performance boundaries. It is obvious that their questions and demands are very much different from those customers where conveying makes up only a small part of their production chain. In the latter case, we are fully equipped to support them with our know-how and experience to find the best solution for their projects.

What role does Application Engineering have with regard to these challenges?
As the face of Sempertrans for all engineering-related topics, we are committed to being a solution provider for all conveyor belt applications. This includes working side by side with our customers to develop the best value-added solution for their applications.

Providing a solution goes beyond having the best product. In fact, it goes beyond Application Engineering and involves the whole Sempertrans team. Yet, we made this approach our team motto: “Products become solutions” to underline that we see ourselves as a driver for finding solutions which, I believe, is key to our success. Even if you have the best product, you will not exploit its to full potential without knowledge about the application. Drawing from our engineering know-how and our understanding of our customers’ challenges, we translate these needs for conveyor belt technology into solutions deriving from our current Sempertrans’ product portfolio. If needed, we initiate the development of custom products with the help of our excellent R&D department.

Consulting with our customers as support for our Sales team is essentially the biggest part of what we do and involves calculating conveyors and conveyor belts, providing recommendations on which cover grades to be applied or providing general consultancy for conveying technology, to name only a few.

Can you tell us about examples where Application Engineering was critical to the success of customer projects?
As we work with Sempertrans’ sales team and customers every day, many examples come to mind but let’s talk about some particularly exciting ones. In Bangladesh earlier this year, Sempertrans supplied 34 km of conveyor belt for a conveyor which used to be the longest single flight conveyor in the world. With more than 16 km centre distance it is still one of the longest. The project was carried out in cooperation with our partner Shaw Almex. Both companies’ extensive experience, deep technical knowledge and consulting service were decisive factors for entrusting us with this project. Most specifically the conveyor belt splices seemed to be a concern for the customer. By offering a special “sleep well” package for the splices, including supervision by Sempertrans’ Global Field Service, we convinced the customer of our overall solution.

Sempertrans' belt in Bangladesh

Another memorable project is of course the Flyingbelt, an innovative and environmentally friendly conveying system suspended on ropes up to 36 m high. It was designed for Lafarge-Holcim in Brazil by our partner Agudio. Sempertrans tailored the design and manufactured the 15 km long belt used on the Flyingbelt. This required in-depth calculations and planning by Application Engineering, in this case from the colleagues in France. The biggest hurdle was the very small radii on the pylon stations which support the whole structure. Our belt had to adapt to this very special routing and we found the perfect solution in Sempertrans’ Metaltrans belt with its unique steel carcass construction. Today, the Flyingbelt is running very successfully in south-eastern Brazil connecting a limestone mine with a cement plant. We are very proud of having been involved in this one-of-a-kind undertaking.

Sempertrans' Metaltrans belt on Agudio's Flyingbelt installation

It seems Application Engineering at Sempertrans is a force to be reckoned with. How will you continue to make a difference for the customer?
What customers want is a conveyor belt which not only meets their expectations in terms of quality and reliable performance but also satisfies their cost-conscious mindset. To this end, they need a supplier with excellent customer service and real-world experience to help them overcome even their most complex challenges. This is exactly the type of support Sempertrans has been providing to our customers and we will continue to do just that. While today customers know Sempertrans as a global provider of high-performance steel cord belts and flexible textile belts, we have many ideas up our sleeves. We will grow beyond our current capabilities and diversify. The know-how already exists within our team so the ambition is to utilise these special skills to serve as wide a range of sectors as possible.

Besides expanding our product range, we will also improve our response times. To stay cost efficient we do as much as possible remotely. This being said, site visits at end user locations are sometimes the only way to consult effectively. Already today, our team is ready to support customers globally, be it for a copper mine in Peru or a power plant in Thailand. Still we want to provide faster and local consultant work in all time zones by continuing to grow the Application Engineering team, in line with the overall Sempertrans growth strategy.

For more information on how to benefit from our Application Engineering team’s expertise in order to meet your challenges, contact your Sempertrans Sales Representative. Click here for a summary of Application Engineering's services.

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Flyingbelt in Brazil Up to 36m above ground, 15km of belt - download the factsheet about this impressive aerial structure.

TransEvo cover grades TransEvo allows savings in conveyor belt operation by reducing energy consumption up to 25% compared with conventional conveyor belts.