"The impetus of the market has been favorable and we have been able to produce positive results despite challenges to supply chains and temporary closures."
How was 2020 for Robocon and how did the pandemic impact your business?
2020 was a challenging year, as was the case for many businesses In Peru, because we had to pause operations for three months due to the enforced lockdown. We had to implement new protocols such as working from home and stricter sanitary measures; but fortunately today (February 2021), we have returned to pre-pandemic production rates. We noticed demand increases in Q4 2020 related to base and precious metals price increases and our clients’ needs to ramp up production. In a context of uncertainty, the companies with the strongest backbones are able to surpass difficult times and come out stronger.
What are some of the main projects Robocon has worked on in the last two years?
The projects Robocon participates in tend to have long time-frames: we retain the majority of our partners and focus on recurring business for key clients including Pan American Silver and Buenaventura. The impetus of the market has been favorable and we have been able to produce positive results despite challenges to supply chains and temporary closures. For example, maintenance of equipment has been particularly difficult due to issues sourcing parts. However, the mechanization of shotcrete in small tunnels, merging from dry to wet shotcrete, remains in high demand as a service working with the mine or integrated with a contractor.
At Pan American Silver’s Huarón and Moroccan mines we are utilizing robotics for tunnel construction. Projects such as these require large investments; for example, the manufacturing of equipment and testing. For that reason, we have faced some challenges related to health protocol procedures and closures. However, we are striving to move ahead and 2021 has started on a positive note.
Can you explain the benefits of some of the new innovations in the shotcrete market, including laser technology?
Introduction of laser technology has been an important focus for Robocon. We specialize in the operation of small machinery and laser technology is an excellent complement to this. Wet shotcrete technology offers considerable benefits in terms of safety and speed, regardless of the operation’s size. In robotics-led operations, risk is minimized and efficiency is increased.
Speed of processes is key, especially for mines that rely on small tunnels, because it can contribute directly to profitability. Laser technology also optimizes operations because it determines the best processes for a given volume and area; it also helps verify the correct width of drilling.
How is Robocon becoming a more vertically integrated business to better serve clients?
We offer the provision of all the services related to shotcrete. For example, transporting the materials, implementation, construction and maintenance. This allows us to have a bigger impact. We also partner with other service providers to insure our partners have a seamless experience. Finally, Robocon offers services of training for operators – we extend the standards of quality that characterize our workers to third parties. We want to become a point of reference for shotcrete in Latin America.
An important area where we collaborate with clients is in the monitoring of tunnels, as well as in material consulting. Robocon offers pre-manufactured equipment and maintenance services.
Which jurisdictions outside of Peru do you see as having high potential for growth?
Mexico, Colombia and Chile are three markets we are focused on because of the ease in which we can enter and operate. Bolivia has interesting geological potential, however, due to the political context it is now more challenging. For Robocon, business development is less determined by where we want to work than by where our clients choose to take us. For example, Pan American Silver wants us to work in their Mexican operations, and long-term relationships with international mining companies will lead to opportunities further afield.
What are Robocon’s main objectives for the next 12 months?
Service provision is a business of slim margins therefore closures can have a drastic impact on our balance sheet. Risk is very high and our aim is to minimize the possibility of business interruptions by ensuring we accommodate very thoroughly to health protocols and continue to provide the best quality service to our clients. We want to execute the contracts negotiated last year; equipment maintenance and the manufacturing of new equipment will be two key areas.