by David Friend, The Canadian Press Posted Sep 17, 2013 2:12 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Incoming Tim Hortons CEO reviewing everything from coffee cups to doughnuts OAKVILLE, Ont. – Everything from coffee cup sizes to doughnut selection is under the microscope at Tim Hortons (TSX:THI) as the company’s new chief executive settles into his role and begins a widespread review of the chain’s operations.Marc Caira is looking for ways to boost the reputation of the already iconic company, and he wants to improve how customers feel about their experience at the counter, which he calls “the moment of truth” for any quick service restaurant.“If you make a mistake there, then you’re impacting the consumer, and today’s new reality is you can’t afford to do that,” he said in a recent interview at the company’s headquarters in Oakville, Ont.“You cannot give consumers permission to go somewhere else.”Before he joined Tim Hortons, Caira held various executive roles at Nestle’s global operations where he helped expand the company’s hot and cold beverage division. He says his experience with Nestle means he comes to Tim Hortons with an open mind and thinking like a customer.“The beauty of my role is that I can ask as many questions as I want,” he said.Hardly two and half months into his tenure at the Canadian chain, Caira is still learning how Tim Hortons operates. So far, he has travelled to more than 20 cities across the country to talk with franchisees, and he’s been catching up on how the 49-year-old company has evolved.His office smells of a fresh coat of paint and new leather chairs, and hints of his roots at Nestle are scattered around the room. A collection of KitKat chocolate bars behind his desk are branded with his image, a personalized option for the Japanese market.In his new role, that type of creative quirk could come in handy. Tim Hortons has faced an onslaught of competition from coffee chains like Starbucks and fast food restaurants like McDonalds, who have offered deep discounts to their customers along with loyalty programs.While Tim Hortons still dominates Canada’s coffee market, the company has weathered uneven same-store sales growth this year, and expects to fall short of its target ranges.Overall same-store sales, a retail industry barometer, have improved somewhat, rising 1.5 per cent in the second quarter. Yet the numbers suggest that fewer customers are coming through the doors and overall they’re spending less money. Tim Hortons does not provide specific traffic data.A study from the NPD research group found that Tim Hortons’ share of the $4.6-billion coffee chain market fell to about 76 per cent in May, a decline of about two per cent from 2009 before McDonalds launched its McCafes.At least part of the difficult market can be attributed to slower economic growth and reduced spending by many Canadians in a fickle market. Caira wants to ensure that customers don’t walk out of his stores baffled by a complicated menu or feel like they’ve waited in line too long.“Future battles are not going to be won, in my view, with who has the best strategy or who has the best innovation,” he said.“The companies that will win will be the companies that can execute flawlessly at the store level.”While nothing has been decided yet, changes will likely involve simplifying the company’s menu, which at this point includes a rotating selection of more than 60 types of doughnuts, and no less than five different coffee cup sizes.At a conference held by Scotiabank on Tuesday, the 59-year-old executive told analysts that Tim Hortons needs to ensure its menu defines the company, rather then reflects the same products offered by its competitors.“Everybody sells smoothies,” he said, singling out one of the more recent additions to the Tim Hortons menu.“You walk into a number of any restaurants you want, look at the menu, they look familiar.”Numerous other options are being considered as well, including an expansion of Tim Hortons products into vending machines and agreements with new partners to take its brand outside of the restaurant.Already the company is trying to speed up the process at its counters, including double-lane drive-thrus and beverage express counters that shuffle customers away from the cash register while they wait for their drink to be prepared.While Caira wants to be different, he knows that sometimes traditional mainstays are what work best. His favourite doughnut is the Boston Cream, which he enjoys with an iced cappuccino.“I like chocolate,” he said.Tim Hortons needs to consider launching innovative platforms it can build on, rather than just new products, he said. Hot lunches have been a popular focus for the company over the past year, and soon it could expand into more options angled at dinner-hour customers.“The panini started out as a platform for lunch, we can easily take it into breakfast,” he said.And while Caira hasn’t made any specific decisions for changes to the menu or the company’s operations as a whole, he plans to unveil a new strategic plan before the end of the year.Activist investors have been pushing for the company to make major changes to its U.S. expansion plans and boost its leverage to buy back more shares. Caira has already responded to some of the demands from Scout Capital Management LLC and Highfields Capital Management LP, though he says he won’t necessarily react to all of their suggestions.“We will listen and engage, but there are times where we will agree to disagree,” he said, pointing to suggestions that Tim Hortons should exit the supply chain as one area where he won’t budge.“I don’t agree with that at all,” he said. “That’s part of our business model, so we need to protect that.”Edward Jones analyst Bobby Hagedorn said he is confident that Tim Hortons has a strong enough reputation in Canada to overcome any short-term economic challenges or attempts by other companies to trample its market share.“Despite what we would consider a very tough operating environment, we do think these guys have the locations, customer loyalty and the brand that allows them to succeed in that environment,” he said in a phone interview from St. Louis.“People are going after their core breakfast segment, so we do think the company needs to get back on track. We do think they’re going to be able to do that.”Tim Hortons shares rose 19 cents to close at $59.27 Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
A $13 million cooperative effort with America’s Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) over the past seven years has resulted in the successful demonstration of a novel technology that addresses a problem plaguing coal operators and environmentalists alike: separating fine coal particles from water and their ultimate use as a significant energy resource. Researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg have developed and patented an advanced technology called a hyperbaric centrifuge that can successfully remove water from very fine coal slurries. During recent prototype tests at Arch Coal’s Cardinal plant in Logan County, West Virginia, the technology reduced the moisture to a level that the waste coal can now be marketed commercially. The result is significant in that coal producers each year discard large amounts of moisture-laden coal fines that can potentially be salvaged for energy use while simultaneously cleaning up the environment. “We are heartened by the success of Virginia Tech’s technology because it represents a major step forward in clean coal separation technology while addressing environmental concerns associated with waste coal impoundments,” said Dr. Victor K. Der, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. “The continued success and application of this technology holds promise for converting millions of tonness of ‘lost’ energy into a valuable resource for the US energy consumer.” Virginia Tech received the award from NETL as part of the Office of Fossil Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuels program. Virginia Tech used the grant to develop the prototype centrifuge, evaluate its operation and design, and demonstrate it at coal-cleaning plants in Virginia, Alabama, and West Virginia. Several other technologies were also developed as part of the $13 million cooperative research effort. Virginia Tech’s Center for Advanced Separation Technologies (CAST) tested the centrifuge at three operating plants, including the most recent test at the Arch Coal plant, where waste coal slurry went through the centrifuge at a rate of 30 gallons per minute and was dewatered to 13-19% moisture with coal recovery greater than 97%. Virginia Tech, in conjunction with West Virginia University, formed CAST in 2001 under the sponsorship of NETL to develop advanced separation technologies. The prototype unit tested at the Cardinal plant was constructed by Decanter Machine as part of a license agreement with Virginia Tech. Based on the successful test result, the company is currently building a full-size commercial unit with a capacity of 600 gallons/minute. Virginia Tech holds a US patent on the technology, as well as international patents in seven countries. Dr. Roe-Hoan Yoon, the lead developer of the technology at Virginia Tech, explains that the centrifuge applies a combination of air pressure and centrifugal force to successfully reduce significant levels of moisture in fine coal. He said that the idea came from basic research. The success of the hyperbaric centrifuge is significant in the overall scheme of clean coal research in that the high moisture content of fine coal waste forces coal producers to discard the waste in storage areas called waste impoundments. Estimates indicate that these impoundments nationwide hold about 2,000 Mt of fine coal in abandoned ponds and an additional 500 to 800 Mt in active ponds. Technology that can recover these wastes would produce valuable resources to energy supplies. Removing moisture from very fine coal particles left over from the coal preparation process has been difficult in the past. Conventional methods such as thermal dryers or mechanical dewatering have either been too costly or have been unable to dewater ultrafine coal particles (0.1 mm or less). The hyperbaric centrifuge has successfully addressed those issues. Virginia Tech researchers explain that the centrifuge, when combined with another Virginia Tech-developed clean coal technology called Microcel, can remove both ash and water from the fine coal discarded at impoundments. These technologies will not only help coal producers minimise waste generation, but will also create small businesses recovering coal from existing waste impoundments.
Minerals Engineering International’s (MEI’s) Comminution ’18 conference has wrapped up for another two years, and Barry Wills shared some of the highlights of this year’s contributions on his recent blog. CEEC picked out some of these in particular.Wills said that with higher needs for fine grinding combined with advanced flotation, reducing energy and water in comminution and other mineral processing was becoming even more critical. The Comminution ’18 conference is a key to how industry can tackle this challenge. He said new ideas shared at Comminution ’18 included new crusher developments, HPGRs, fine grinding devices and circuits – “all offering new approaches and much hope for the future.”“Liberation, achieved through comminution, is one of the most relevant aspects in ore processing. The global efficiency of a plant often depends on the performance of the grinding circuit, so there is a compromise between particle size, energy consumption and liberation. An adequate prediction of the liberation of grinding products can be helpful in reducing overgrinding, and therefore, reducing energy consumption without disturbing downstream operations,” he said.Modelling and simulation to achieve the best outcomes are an important part of the solution, with many speakers sharing new work and new approaches.Presenters included many CEEC sponsors, such as Bianco Foggiatto and Rajiv Chandramohan of Ausenco, Hamid Manouchehri of Sandvik, Haijie Li of FLSmidth, Chris Steyn of Anglo American, Greg Anderson from Glencore Technology, representatives from Metso and more.CEEC was pleased to again be an industry advocate for this conference. Nick Wilshaw, CEEC Advocate and Mike Battersby, CEEC Director attended the conference and talked to many about CEEC’s not-for-profit work. Wilshaw’s Grinding Solutions team contributed throughout and Battersby shared information on the Ro-Star mill for ultra-fine grinding, highlighting the critical collaboration path towards commercialisation in Europe.Emmanuel Asakpo, of Newmont, shared how improvements were made at the Ahafo operation in Ghana, supplementing last year’s CEEC Medal winning paper by Aidan Giblett and Steven Hart of Newmont. Mark De Geus shared a new ‘virtual sensor’ approach for SAG mill performance using operational data, helping reduce scheduled liner wear stoppages and optimise ball charge levels. Markus Stapelmann and Hakan Benzer of Loesche described the first application of a vertical roller mill in a sulphide copper-gold ore project.Leading researchers presented from around the world, including the participants from the Global Comminution Collaborative. Hakan Benzer of Hacettepe University, Turkey, talked about how novel energy efficient comminution circuit flowsheets can incorporate energy efficient dry comminution technologies such as HPGR and Vertimill for significant energy savings. Holger Lieberwirth, of TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany, asked a question in his keynote lecture “will SAG mills still be relevant in 50 years’ time?”In introducing Hamid Manouchehri from CEEC sponsor Sandvik, wills noted that mining is energy intensive, and grinding was responsible for consuming about 40% of the energy in the whole mining chain.“Inefficiency in grinding has long been an outstanding problem, in particular when production of fines and ultra-fines are considered. Unlike milling, crushers are much more energy efficient, therefore it is logical to push the comminution process towards the crushing stage for energy efficiency. Furthermore, crushing is done dry which reduces water consumption and related potential water contamination,” he said.Manouchehri’s presentation shared new crushing chamber technology to tackle these challenges.