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As the price of natural resources continues to stagnate, streamlining and increasing the efficiency of mining management is becoming a major issue in the mining industry. In order to meet these needs, Hitachi Construction Machinery is focusing its energy on research and development and commercialization of mining information and communication technology (MICT) that will generate innovation in mining management through the use of cutting-edge information technology.
At excavation mines, several dump trucks are generally assigned to each excavator, and the mined natural resources are loaded on one dump truck after another and then carried to any of various locations such as a refinery. In order to smoothly and efficiently undertake loading and hauling operations at mines, the dispatcher, who is responsible for dispatching vehicles, issues orders to vehicle operators while judging the state of operations. Efforts are made to increase productivity of mines by optimizing vehicle operation, and these include instructing dump truck operators to move to a different loading site if there is a long waiting time.
The Fleet Management System (FMS) is a MICT tool that makes it possible to conduct integrated management of vehicle and machinery operation and provides dispatchers with the information they need. In particular, the FMS developed by Canada-based Wenco, which joined the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group in 2009, has received high praise in the industry on account of its outstanding operability and cutting-edge technology.
Wenco’s FMS is equipped with functions that make it possible to determine the location of excavators and calculate the number of dump trucks based on the load capacity and speed and to automatically set items such as efficient loading areas and hauling routes by entering targets such as the mineral content per truck and expected productivity for each mine. It is also possible to assist in predicting failures and preventing unexpected breakdowns, to optimize the number of replacement parts and mechanics to be assigned, and to reduce overall operation costs because aspects such as a vehicle’s fuel consumption and condition can be consistently monitored.
We are moving forward with efforts to make use of Hitachi Group ICT and introduce Wenco’s FMS hosted on cloud services. We are holding down system deployment and operating costs by utilizing cloud services and are working to make it possible for a wide range of mining companies to make use of the FMS. This also has the merit of making it possible to conduct integrated management of operation at various mines remotely through Cloud.
Data such as payload derived by signals from sensors embedded in the vehicle, type of minerals, and GPS location is uploaded to the onboard computer and then transmitted via wireless network to the server. The data is analyzed in real time and displayed on the screens in the dispatcher room. Wenco’s FMS includes advance functions that automatically set the destination and travel route and provides operators with instructions based on key performance indicators such as production volume.
In addition to the FMS, Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) for dump trucks is another cutting-edge technology that contributes to a dramatic increase in the operation and energy efficiency of mining operations.
The weight of a dump truck that operates at mine excavation sites can reach 500 or more tons when fully loaded. It goes without saying that operators with advance driving skills and experience are required to safely and efficiently operate these huge vehicles. In recent years, however, it is becoming difficult for mines to secure operators and create a safe working environment because of where mines are located and the harsh working environment.
In order to resolve this problem, we have moved forward with research on and development of AHS that makes it possible for unmanned dump trucks to operate autonomously, and tests for commercialization of AHS dump trucks are now being conducted using multiple AHS trucks at mines in eastern Australia. AHS will be commercialized by making use of not only Hitachi Construction Machinery’s advanced body design technology and controls but also the key technologies from Hitachi, Ltd. on its railroad operation management systems and various technologies, including those related to robot controls and car navigation, that the Hitachi Group companies have accumulated over the years in other industries. Furthermore, knowledge acquired by Wenco through its development and deployment of the FMS is used to safely and efficiently run multiple AHS dump trucks in the same area.
At Hitachi Construction Machinery, we plan to use the results of these commercialization tests to further improve various aspects, such as safety, reliability, and efficiency, and then launch sales in the coming years.
Mines consist of an extremely wide range of facilities, equipment and machinery, including not only excavators and dump trucks used at the mining site but also refineries, port facilities for loading product, and infrastructure for supplying power and water to each facility. In order to increase the overall efficiency of mining operation, it is important to optimize the total Pit-to-Port process.
The Hitachi Group can provide various products, technologies and solutions for the Pit-to-Port process, including not only mining machinery supplied by Hitachi Construction Machinery but also processing machinery, railroad/transportation systems, and power/communication infrastructure. At Hitachi Construction Machinery, we will continue to take on the challenge of providing new solutions that revolutionize mining operation and management by making effective use of the collective strength of the Hitachi Group.