Tag Archives: Hitachi

Mine automation starting to take hold, RFC Ambrian says

In its second report in a series on innovation and new technology in the mining industry, RFC Ambrian has tackled the subject of autonomous mining equipment, which, the authors say, has reached an “important level of maturity”.

The report considered both surface and underground equipment, but most notably surface mine haulage trucks where there has been an area of significant focus for major mining companies.

As the authors said: “This has reached an important level of maturity, although it is still evolving and its penetration across the industry is still in its infancy.”

AHS

The Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS) have evolved from improvements in GPS for positioning and navigation, developments in sensors and detection –particularly radar and LiDAR, improved computing power and on-board monitoring, faster and more reliable networks and internet connection, and the development of effective and accurate algorithms and software, the authors said.

“AHS has appeared , first, at large mine operations where the benefits have the largest impacts, due to the high component of fixed costs in an AHS operation, and in developed countries where there is a shortage of skilled workers and labour costs are higher,” they said.

Outlining the potential benefits of AHS is straightforward, but finding hard data to support it is more difficult, according to the authors.

“Companies have made suggestions about the scale of improvement, but they are light on detail, definitions are not clear, and the data varies between companies,” the authors said.

Suggested improvements in productivity have come from Caterpillar (15-20%), Fortescue Metals Group (30%), Komatsu (15%), and Rio Tinto (15%), according to the authors.

“These improvements are still meaningful, and corporate companies would argue that every mine is different and that the mining companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that have so far implemented AHS have the right to guard this proprietary information and hold on to the competitive advantage,” the authors said.

Autonomy in other surface equipment

The authors said they are also now seeing this same technology used to automate other operations in the surface mine. This includes drill rigs, dozers, loaders and ancillary equipment.

“Much of this equipment is currently, at best, semi-autonomous, although a few mines have implemented fully-autonomous drill rigs and dozers,” they noted.

“Moving this equipment to full autonomy offers significant production improvements, although the scale of actual savings is not likely to be as great as those achieved with AHS,” the authors said.

“However, we have not yet seen quantified the downstream benefits of the resultant improved drilling and blasting.

“The automation of earth moving machines provides another step to increased productivity within the mine. However, loaders face additional challenges as a result of the variability of the loading face and the risk of collisions with the haulage trucks.”

Due to the complex nature of the bucket-media interaction, developing automatic loading functions that are better than or equal to expert manual drivers with regard to performance is a highly difficult task, according to the authors.

“As a result, fully-autonomous loading is not yet commercially available. Some observers suggest that the implementation of fully-autonomous surface loading is still some five years away, while others believe that full automation is unlikely.”

Underground mining

When it comes to underground mining, the authors of the report said, as with surface mining, full autonomy remains the goal.

“Mining companies and contractors are constantly looking to use technological developments to better utilise their investment in equipment and human resources and improve safety,” the authors said. “Particular features of traditional underground mines are: long unproductive periods caused by re-entry times required for operators after blasting; and higher health and safety risks due to geotechnical and environmental challenges.

“The use of autonomy underground aims to increase the productivity of the equipment and improve the safety of the operators.”

While the aims remain the same, full autonomy in the underground mine is not as advanced as in the surface mine, according to the authors.

“Haul trucks are used less frequently in underground mines, although a few mines are using haul trucks with AHS. More underground mines perform a short cycle of loading, hauling and dumping from a draw point to a tipping point with LHD equipment.

“Implementation of autonomous systems underground for LHDs is occurring, however, as with surface loading, one of the major hurdles to automating LHDs is replacing human judgement required for filling the bucket.”

This has seen full autonomy being used for the hauling and dumping cycle, but semi-autonomy usually used for loading, according to the authors. “Successful trials of fully- autonomous LHDs have been achieved and Sandvik i-series now offers an automated bucket filling assistant as a standard function,” they said.

Underground drilling operations, meanwhile, are achieving increased levels of autonomy but are also presently only semi-autonomous.

Robotic rail operations

The authors then looked at autonomous rail haulage systems, a segment of the market that has gained in prominence in the past few years thanks to initiatives such as Rio Tinto’s AutoHaul in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The authors said: “There has been some form of automation on worldwide metro systems for many years, but one area where autonomous technology has yet to gain a foothold is rail freight. Trials are underway in Holland and Germany but implementing autonomous train driving on a complex rail network, with passenger trains and freight trains, is more difficult than on a metro system.”

The one exception to this is in the mining sector and AutoHaul, they said, where Rio has completed commissioning of the world’s first fully-autonomous, long distance, heavy-haul rail network which is now in full operation.

Pace of implementation

Despite the acclaimed success and the relative level of maturity of the technology, the wider implementation of AHS does not appear to be happening very fast, the authors argue.

“The systems of both the two main suppliers (Caterpillar and Komatsu) are well proven and have delivered positive results, although, according to consultants, both systems also have examples of less-than-expected performance.

“Nevertheless, the technical issues appear relatively minor and there is interest right across the industry but, in spite of the potentially significant benefits, more mines are not now using AHS.”

There are a number of likely reasons for this, the authors said, explaining that one of the most important is a lack of skilled personnel.

“We believe there is a lack of in-depth knowledge of the technology and limited personnel with the requisite experience, skills, and training throughout the industry’s hierarchy,” they said.

“Further, there is a shortage of skilled autonomous operators, developers, and consultants, some of who are moving to the autonomous auto market.”

Important factors in the success of AHS appear to be the level of management commitment, planning, and focus in the implementation, with the best results reported from well-operated mining sites, the authors said.

“Another factor is likely to be limitations on equipment supply from OEMs for new equipment and truck conversions, either due to manufacturing backlogs or maybe market caution, limiting investment. This is allowing the OEMs to be more selective in their customers.”

The authors cautioned: “However, if the existing suppliers do not develop additional capacity quick enough this could create opportunities for additional entrants in to the market.”

Capital availability in the mining industry could also be an issue holding back AHS advancement, they said, although it is less tight than it has been in recent years.

“Certainly, some lower-margin operations might struggle to finance the capital, although the uplift in relative profitability could be transformational, with relatively quick paybacks,” they said.
And the historical conservatism of the mining industry is also likely to be a factor, the authors said.

“There is still a natural reluctance within the industry to adopt new or unproven technology due to the high capital cost involved and the potential operational and reputational risks involved.

“This will be compounded if the organisation has limited experience and limited access to the technology.”

You can read the full report here.

Mobil lubricant switch pays off for Russia limestone quarry

A Russia limestone quarry has achieved an annual saving of €7,900 ($8,764) after switching its Hitachi excavators to Mobil DTE 10 Excel™ 46 hydraulic oil, according to ExxonMobil.

The use of this hydraulic oil, which, the company says, is specifically formulated for use in modern mobile equipment, extended oil drain intervals by 25% and also reduced filter replacements.

ExxonMobil said: “The mining company was having to drain its existing hydraulic oil every 4,000 hours but was aware that a better performance might be possible for the excavators, which weighed between 80 t and 115 t. It therefore approached ExxonMobil in the hope of extending oil life while maintaining hydraulic pump efficiency.”

Sarp Degirmenci, EAME Offer Advisor at ExxonMobil, said the company’s field engineering services (FES) team worked with the customer to identify the most suitable lubricant.

“As a result of this, they suggested a switch to Mobil DTE 10 Excel 46 hydraulic oil, which was developed to provide a long oil life and minimise deposit formation, even in hydraulic systems operating in severe conditions.

“Our engineers also recommended implementing Mobil Serv Lubricant Analysis to monitor the in-service performance of the oil.”

Regular testing revealed the optimal drain interval for Mobil DTE 10 Excel 46 hydraulic oil was 5,000 hours, an improvement of 25% on the previous grade, according to ExxonMobile. “It also revealed enhanced hydraulic pump efficiency, a reduction in deposit formation and reduced filter clogging.”

There was no unscheduled downtime during the test period, according to the company, which helped boost productivity and cut maintenance costs. The combined annual saving was estimated at €7,900.

Degirmenci said: “Mine owners need to ensure the reliable performance of all their equipment as any unscheduled downtime can damage bottom line performance. Using high performance oils and grease, in partnership with a next generation used oil analysis service, can help guarantee uptime, cut costs and improve equipment performance. This combination can help operators gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive industry.”

Whitehaven starts testing Hitachi autonomous haulage system at Maules Creek coal op

Whitehaven Coal confirmed in its half-year results that initial on-site testing of Hitachi’s autonomous truck haulage system has commenced at the company’s Maules Creek coal mine in northwest New South Wales, Australia.

The two companies, in July, published an official announcement of the automation tie-up, which entailed scoping the delivery and commissioning of phased Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) deployment for the fleet of Hitachi EH5000AC3 trucks at Maules Creek and the establishment of the physical and technological infrastructure to support AHS capability.

In Whitehaven’s six-month results presentation, today, it said: “Work continues with Hitachi on the autonomous truck haulage system with initial on-site testing having commenced.”

Maules Creek produced 6.2 Mt of run of mine coal in the six months to end-December and is expected to meet guidance of 11.8-12.2 Mt ROM coal for the full year to end-June, 2019, according to Whitehaven.

The company also said the negative cost effects of longer hauls and increased elevation at Maules Creek – as the working area continues to be opened up – would be reversed in the medium term with “in-pit dumping, cast blasting and with the introduction of AHS”.

National Group brings Hitachi and Liebherr excavators to Bowen Basin coal mines

The National Group has delivered a pair of new excavators to two coal operations in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, Australia.

The first of these excavators, a Hitachi EX5600 (pictured below), was added to BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s Peak Downs site where the National Group previously handed over five Liebherr Ultra-Class T 282C Trucks in September.

The second excavator, a Liebherr R 996B (pictured above), was delivered to its sister mine Poitrel, part of BHP’s other Queensland joint venture, BHP Mitsui Coal. The excavator is the first piece of equipment National Group has at the coal mine.

National Group Founder and Managing Director, Mark Ackroyd, said: “We have been working with BHP for some time now, especially at Peak Downs, so to be adding more equipment there is a testament to the machines we currently have operating for them and speaks volumes of our team on-site who do a great job with maintenance when needed.

“Poitrel, on the other hand, we are very excited to be adding our first piece of equipment there and for it to be the ever reliable Liebherr 996 digger. We’re confident they are going to love this machine and hope it is just the beginning of things to come.”

Bringing such big equipment to this part of Queensland is a complex process. National Group says it has the capabilities to handle all transport, assembly and delivery, giving customers peace of mind when securing these long-term rentals.

Ackroyd said: “We know how difficult it can be to get the bigger gear to Australia first of all, let alone having to worry about everything else once it arrives here. That is why we have worked very hard to build brands that complement each other in the entire journey of port-to-pit.”

National Group is coming off one of its best years to date, it said, however the company has no plans to slow down in 2019 with future plans already to invest in technology and enter the automation space.

Ackroyd said: “The mining industry is now following the technology trend around the world and automation is at the forefront of this. It is all about finding different ways to help your customers succeed and embracing innovation to get that edge over competitors.”

ABB reaffirms four pillar strategy following Power Grids sale to Hitachi

Hitachi has agreed to acquire 80.1% of ABB’s Power Grids division in a deal that come with an enterprise value (EV) of $11 billion.

ABB says this divestment is an expansion of its existing partnership with Hitachi that dates back to 2014. The EV is equivalent to an EV/operating profit EBITA multiple of 11.2 x 1, ABB said.

ABB said: “Since 2014, Power Grids has been significantly improved under the ownership of ABB. The latest results (Q3, 2018) are at the target margin corridor, having more than doubled margins, with positive third party base order development recorded for the last six consecutive quarters.”

The Power Grids division serves utility, industry, transportation and infrastructure customers and is focused on addressing key areas such as the integration of renewable energies, growing network complexity, grid automation, and micro-grids.

ABB continued: “In the fast-changing world of energy infrastructure, with a shifting customer landscape and the need for financing and increased government influence, ABB believes Hitachi is the best owner for Power Grids.

“As a stable and long-term committed owner, with whom ABB has developed a strong business partnership since 2014, Hitachi will further strengthen the business, providing it with access to new and growing markets as well as financing. Hitachi will accelerate Power Grids to the next stage of its development, building on the solid foundation achieved under ABB’s previous ownership.”

As part of the deal, ABB will initially retain a 19.9% equity stake in the joint venture, but the transaction agreement includes a pre-defined option for ABB to exit the retained 19.9% share, exercisable three years after closing, at fair market value with floor price at 90% of agreed EV.

The joint venture will be headquartered in Switzerland, with Hitachi retaining the management team to ensure business continuity.

ABB says this deal is all part of its efforts to simplify its business model and structure. Effective April 1, 2019, ABB will discontinue its “legacy matrix structure”, allowing its four leading businesses to serve customers even better, it said.

These businesses are the Electrification, Industrial Automation, Robotics & Discrete Automation and Motion.

“Each business will be either the global #1 or #2 player in attractive markets with strong secular drivers. ABB’s established domain know-how, world-class engineering and technology expertise, will position the four businesses well to deliver innovative products and solutions for enhanced customer value,” the company said.

“Based on ABB’s common digital platform ABB Ability™, the businesses will provide tailored digital solutions, driving enhanced customer value. Building on emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and its strong software offering, ABB Ability will meet the increasing demand from ABB’s customers for digital solutions in the rapidly changing industrial world.”

ABB CEO, Ulrich Spiesshofer, said: “Our four newly shaped businesses, each a global leader, will be well aligned to the way our customers operate and focus stronger on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. The continued simplification of our business model and structure will be a catalyst for growth and efficiency in our businesses. Our businesses will be further supported through the transfer of experienced resources from today’s country organisations.”

The Electrification business, which presently has an addressable market of $160 billion, will have strong exposure to rapidly growing customer segments including renewables, e-mobility, data centres and smart buildings, ABB said. It will be led by Tarak Mehta, currently President of the Electrification Product division.

The Industrial Automation business will include ABB’s industry-specific integrated automation, electrification and digital solutions, control technologies, software and advanced services, as well as measurement and analytics, marine, and turbo-charging offerings. The addressable market of $90 billion is expected to grow on average by 3-4%/y over the long-term. The business will be led by Peter Terwiesch, currently President of the Industrial Automation division.

The Robotics and Discrete Automation segment has digital solutions and services that provide customers with enhanced safety, efficiency, up-time and speed, and cater to the growing customer demand for flexible and integrated manufacturing solutions, ABB says. It will be led by Sami Atiya, currently President of the Robotics and Motion division.

The Motion business, meanwhile, will provide customers with a range of innovative electrical motors, generators, drives, and service, as well as integrated digital powertrain solutions. It will be the number one player in the sector and be led by Morten Wierod, currently Managing Director Business Unit Drives.

ABB intends to host a strategy update alongside its December quarter results, expected on February 28.

Hitachi and CSIRO seal ties with R&D and social innovation pact

Hitachi has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) aimed at cooperating in areas of research and development and social innovation.

Examples of potential cooperation identified in the MoU include research and development activities in the fields of autonomous systems, digital twins, material tracking, urban systems, security, artificial intelligence, digital transformation, and IoT sensing across primary industries.

Anand Singh, Executive Director and Director of Operations Hitachi Australia, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with CSIRO as we continue to invest our efforts in introducing technologies and systems across Australia that will impact social wellbeing. This partnership will also enable collaborative efforts with a variety of different stakeholders who are in alliance with CSIRO from different industries and academia.”

The MoU was executed by Atsushi Konishi, Managing Director of Hitachi Australia, and Dr Larry Marshall, Chief Executive Officer of CSIRO, on November 19. This coincided with the return of the Hitachi Social Innovation Forum in Sydney. The forum looked into developments around big data analytics, digitalisation, smart cities and automation.