July 25, 2023
- ABB Ring Motors in Bilbao, Spain is now central to the company’s Gearless Mill Drives (GMDs) business
- Factory acquired by ABB a decade ago has created 40 high-quality manufacturing jobs in last three years
- Mining equipment is vital for mine operators’ grinding process as they extract materials for the energy transition
ABB is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary since it reacquired ownership of the gearless mill drive system business this week. The technology leader marks the milestone with record output in the last calendar year and a high for total number of employees, including women in key roles, at the ABB Ring Motors factory in Bilbao, Spain.
ABB is demonstrating that the demand for mining equipment to help navigate the world’s energy transition is accelerating. The company’s largest factory in Spain manufactures enormous ring motors used in Gearless Mill Drives (GMDs), one of the key components of a mine’s grinding mill for processing ores and extracting the metals essential for electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels – copper, gold, and iron, among others. Each motor weighs 400 to 500 metric tons and has a footprint whereby each quarter must be carried on the back of a 40-foot (12 meter) flatbed truck.
To support the record number of motors produced at the factory in 2022, ABB recruited more than 40 engineers, technicians, project managers and administration professionals in the last three years. The facility also has a record number of 12 women in key technical and leadership roles, including engineering, production, manufacturing, quality and health and safety.
Reliable, available, and connected equipment is essential for mining operations, particularly with poorer ore grades leading to deeper underground exploration and higher energy costs driving greater efficiencies.
ABB has continually invested in the Bilbao factory since it was reacquired from manufacturing company Alstom in 2013 and is well-placed to meet the GMD order demand. The durability of the equipment is well-known by mining customers, with the first of its kind delivered in 1969 and still in operation. The technology, upgrades and R&D have evolved to meet today’s requirements. The modern GMD solution includes electric power management, automated control system connectivity and a host of digital and service packages. ABB GMDs have the highest power and availability compared to other driving methods, offering optimum efficiency and power per mill, meaning that mine operators benefit from energy savings and lower operational expenditures.
“We worked at our capacity in 2022 through efficient work practices and 24/7 operations, and in 2023 we remain fully booked,” said Mikel Torre, General Manager, ABB Ring Motors Spain. “GMDs are the workhorses for mines extracting materials that are essential for the electrification revolution that will help to slow climate change, in line with international targets. Our team has greatly expanded to manage this transition and we have people on the ground making real progress every day.”Mikel Torre, General Manager, ABB Ring Motors Spain
“Investment in people, facilities, and infrastructure at our site in Bilbao means we are confident that we can deliver on time and to high levels of manufacturing excellence,” said Joachim Braun, Division President, Process Industries, ABB. “We also continue to invest in digital applications such as artificial intelligence and remote collaborative platforms which mean that our experts around the globe can support our customers quickly and effectively.”
Since 2019, parts of the factory have been refurbished and the management team intends to continue making improvements across the strategically important site near Bilbao’s port. Energy consumption, energy management and decarbonization measures continue to be taken, including with automation, controls and digitalization for compressed air and lighting, photovoltaic implementation and heating upgrades.
ABB draws on over 130 years of experience in the mining industry and is a pioneer in the integration of electrification, automation and digitalization in mining.
ABB is accelerating its growth strategy in the United States by investing approximately $170 million and creating highly skilled jobs in manufacturing, innovation and distribution operations. ABB is committed to growing in the US by investing in its electrification and automation businesses that meet increased demand from industry-leading customers, while supporting the clean energy transition and the trend towards reshoring of production. This commitment is highlighted by the pouring of the concrete foundations for a greenfield drives and services facility in New Berlin, Wisconsin. The US is ABB’s largest market, comprising 24 percent of the company’s annual revenue.