Becker/SMC already is well known for serving the electrical needs of surface and underground mining companies around the world. But what many don’t realize is that it designs and manufactures electrical components, open-type and explosion-proof motor starters, long wall electrical controls and power distribution equipment for a variety of industries including alternative energy, such as wind farms and solar farms, and mass transit.
This diversity enables the Huntington, W.Va., company to grow and thrive despite fluctuations in the market, according to Chief Sales Officer Greg Sanders. “The company is in growth mode,” he asserts. In fact, Becker/SMC has had seven major facility expansions throughout the years and now operates three plants near Huntington, W.Va., totaling more than 160,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Key acquisitions have increased Becker/SMC’s product scope to include transformers, distribution equipment, vacuum switches, connectors and electronic monitoring devices. For instance, the acquisition of Ohio Brass (OB) Systems has made Becker/SMC one of the leading electrical component suppliers to the transit industry, supplying rectifiers, AC and DC switchgear, lighting arrestors, transfer switches, Swartz relay products, trolley hardware and traction power substations to heavy and light rail transit customers throughout North America.
Quality and Technicality
Becker/SMC’s diversity and capability to provide customized services using state-of-the-art parametric engineering and lean manufacturing techniques have earned it a reputation for being a leader in the engineering and production of > highly sophisticated electrical control systems. These include speed switches, push bottoms, Chirp-Alert® and safety circuit testers, capacitor trip devices, connectors, glands, ground fault relays, and high-voltage and isolation switches.
Most of the major innovations, design features and specialized electrical components have been developed by Becker/SMC. “We have several patents,” Sanders states. “We were the first to do a 21.6-kilovolt underground distribution system and automated long wall controls. We have a tremendous engineering and service portion to our business.”
This is what separates Becker/ SMC from its competition, he says. “It comes down to service, our engineering capabilities and our quality products,” Sanders explains. “That’s what it boils down to. It’s our recipe for success.”
Evolution of SMC
Becker/SMC’s roots go back to 1938 through the inception of Ensign Electric. In the early 1970s, it evolved into SMC, otherwise known as Service Machine Co. Inc. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, SMC acquired Power Distribution Products and OB Systems. In 2007, SMC was acquired by Becker Mining America, a subsidiary of Friedrichsthal, Germany-based mining supplier Becker Mining Systems.
With employees based in every major mining region, Becker supplies its products to all of the leading mining companies. Since the mid-1980s, the company has countered the receding mining market in Europe by implementing an aggressive international expansion. Today, the family owned company oversees subsidiaries in France, Poland, Russia, China, South Africa, Australia, the United States, Canada and South America.
Becker’s acquisition of SMC “opened up a whole new world of technology,” according to Sanders.
“We’re able to have a bird’s eye view of new technology from every single market around the world,” he says. “We have centers of excellence that develop new, innovative products, which have been well received by our customers.”
Mine Technology Leader
Becker Mining Systems’ broad product scope is divided into two categories: electrical and mechanical. The electrical division manufactures energy distribution products such as transformers and switchgear based off of a modular technology developed by Becker; automation products that offer comprehensive control and monitoring of all work processes; and communication products, which is a large growth area for Becker, it says.
“Mobile radio solutions enable uninterrupted communication throughout the entire mine,” the company notes. “These solutions are used not only for voice transmissions, but also to transmit data and video signals underground and the main mine control station above ground. In addition, the radio products of Becker Mining Systems provide for greater operating safety in mines [because] the location of men and machines can be clearly determined. In this way, collisions can be avoided and rescue measures initiated quickly and specifically in case of emergency.”
The mechanical division offers transportation and roof support items. Since it was founded in 1964, Becker has been producing transportation systems including chair lifts, overhead monorails and conveying systems. “The systems of Becker are characterized by the fact that they can transport heavy loads at high speeds even on strongly inclined routes,” it says. “Safety plays an important role, too. The company produces support systems for safe face and roadway expansion. The developed hydraulic shields and mechanical support systems – which are sold in the Polish and South African markets – secure faces and roadways during and after excavation.”
With regard to the international opportunities that await Becker/SMC now that it has become a subsidiary of Becker Mining Systems, the company has barely scratched the surface, Sanders explains. “What we are looking at is leveraging the products that we have from our sister companies around the world and introducing those new products in the U.S.,” he states.
“And because of the large footprint Becker has globally, it enables us to take the products and do the same internationally,” he adds. “International trade is a huge growth area for us. Becker is a very progressive-thinking company that has helped us expand our horizons much farther than we could have if we were just SMC.”
Sanders, who has been with Becker/ SMC for approximately six years, says it always has been an entrepreneurial company. “It’s an incredible environment,” he describes. “Management is very accessible, and we are very open and innovative thinkers.”