Tag Archives: Wenco

Hitachi moves into a new mining automation zone

Back in 2017 when it was soon expecting to commercially apply its mining truck haulage automation system, Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM) made the bold claim that it had “commenced development of an autonomous haulage system (AHS) that will leapfrog over current market offerings”.

With trials of the technology at its first mine site concluded and the rollout of automated haulage in New South Wales, Australia, ramping up, HCM’s Adrian Hale, Business Development Manager – AHS, International Operations, Global Mining Group, and Greg Smith, General Manager – AHS Business Unit, Client Solutions Division, provided IM with a bit more information about HCM’s AHS technology, the third commercial offering from a mining OEM.

IM: How would you summarise the Hitachi approach to mining AHS versus others in terms of fundamental development, capability, and overall aims?

AH: Hitachi undertakes a broad investment to leverage group entities and technologies within the development of our AHS capability. This has resulted in formation of cross-entity teams, and adoption of technologies that have been applied in industries including high-speed rail to underpin command and control. It’s definitely a new and contemporary approach in delivering our Open Autonomy vision that extends value across all areas of the mining business. Our objective is to drive operational outcomes for our customers.

IM: What advantages do the wider capabilities within Hitachi Ltd, Wenco, etc bring to your AHS system? How easy was it to adapt systems designed for the rail and automotive groups, for example, for the mining AHS sector?

AH: Leveraging multi-industry capabilities from across Hitachi remains a foundation AHS development and this One Hitachi vision is driving the contemporary method of our ongoing investments. As mentioned earlier, adopting permission control technologies from Hitachi’s rail traffic control applications has delivered innovative efficiency in network communications and supports large scale fleet potential. In the case of Wenco, there remains a seamless integration of design and development team that has accelerated our AHS platform. This continues in terms of our objectives to lead Open Autonomy strategies.

IM: Comparisons are always going to be made between the major OEM providers of AHS: can you highlight some of the differences between your AHS systems and the likes of FrontRunner and Command for Hauling (LiDAR/RADAR differences, on-board/off-board computing power, truck speed restrictions, shovel interaction with AHS, etc)?

AH: Without a doubt there will be areas of difference in the baseline capabilities of all OEM AHS platforms. Command & control functions, sensor and technology integration, base truck engineering and design, as well as services methodologies and support delivery will all factor into these differences.

IM: What are the ‘entry’ requirements for Hitachi’s AHS system in terms of networks and connectivity? How has the Rajant wireless mesh network functionality enabled the Hitachi AHS to avoid the connectivity problems that have been an issue in deployments in the Pilbara (ie the trucks stopping and having to be manually restarted every time they lose connection)?

AH: We remain open on our supporting technologies and infrastructures and these elements remain a key focus of discovery as our regional development progresses. There is always a view to collaborate with our customers importantly to utilise already established assets wherever possible.

GS: One of the key advantages of the Hitachi Autonomous Solution is that autonomous haulage trucks (AHTs) can continue to operate on their assigned permitted path, despite intermitted loss of connection. The AHTs have the ability to navigate within their permitted path and bring themselves to a safe and controlled stop at the end of the assigned path, should the network not be re-established prior. Several safety layers above those linked to network stability are in place to ensure safe and efficient operation.

IM: I believe in a 2017 release, it was quoted that “limiting constant communication between the truck and the FMS, Hitachi’s autonomous technology was able to control up to 100 vehicles under the one system”. Is this the ‘ceiling’ in terms of the number of AHS haul trucks you expect to deploy on any one mine site?

AH: While we don’t perceive there would be ceiling limits, it is reasonable to acknowledge AHS fleet will have an optimal design utilisation within operations. This includes, of course, instrumented equipment that is not fully autonomous that has to have visibility within these areas.

IM: How do your TCS and Exclusive Permission Control functions differ to the traffic management and navigation procedures of other AHS systems? Does it enable your AHS system to reduce the number of false positive ODs (object detections) on mine sites?

AH: Without making direct comparison to other AHS solutions, integration of these systems and functions delivers optimised AHS fleet & network management. As a design principle, Hitachi AHS is a complex, contemporary ‘system of systems’ and that platform delivers these benefits.

IM: Outside of the obvious productivity and safety benefits your system will offer, what other external benefits are you expecting (fuel use, haul road degradation, tyre life, etc)?

AH: The basis of AHS technologies from a customer viewpoint reinforces the absolute need to deliver safety and compliance as #1, as well as productivity and efficiency benefits that would include optimisation of input cost areas. Hitachi has every expectation to meet market demand for reducing cost per tonne, optimising production, enabling grade control management and investing in workforce skilling for future mining. These priorities are also strengthened by our corporate sustainable development goal commitment and corporate social responsibility focus.

IM: Is your AHS focus likely to remain with the retrofit or ‘new’ market? Will the system likely become available for EH4000AC3 and EH3500AC3 trucks?

AH: Terminology in this space is quite fluid, regarding retrofit and new market. All Hitachi AC-3 rear dump trucks are designed for AHS and we can confirm the commissioning of these models is now in place. The assembly and commissioning of AHTs (ie on-board hardware) occurs wherever possible prior to customer delivery. Fleets that are already in operation at a customer site can be managed for retrofit without issue.

IM: Do the open architecture of the Wenco FMS and your wider DX initiatives mean you will be able to retrofit AHS on other truck manufacturers’ products in the long run?

AH: Hitachi’s continued R&D initiatives in the mining sector focuses on providing greater technology benefit across the value chain – not solely haulage. Our AHS market growth remains fixed at this time on our own fleet portfolio. Open Autonomy strategy ultimately provides choice and flexibility to the mining community.

IM: You have large haul truck fleets in important markets like Colombia, Zambia, and Indonesia. Is the business case for AHS as strong in these countries?

AH: Our clear priority remains on our commitments in Australia. Developing business value in other markets remains important to Hitachi and we will continue to engage in conversation with all customers.

IM: What can you say about the performance of the initial deployment of a fleet of six EH5000 AHS-enabled in commercial operation? How have these trucks performed compared with the test work you previously carried out on site?

AH: The current phase of deployment has produced ongoing and very encouraging results. Implementing within coal operations as well as the first AHS operation in NSW has also provided some great learnings – working with the customer teams, regulator and our multi-national implementation delivery model. Moving from test to production now validates the performance objectives we had established, and, as the fleet population meets its full size in AHS operation, further operational gains.

IM: How different is the AHS-enabled trucks Hitachi has compared with what you initially presented at Meandu (have any major elements changed)?

AH: There is a continuing investment in terms of engineering and development for our next-generation AHS capabilities, but aligning these priorities with strategic directions. Our supported AHS base truck fleet as deployed at Meandu remains our core platform but we are extending the EH class fleet models and ancillary supported fleet that operate within the autonomous zones.

Wenco fleet management solution to monitor, control production at Antofagasta’s Centinela

Thiess has chosen the Wenco Mine Performance Suite to run its operations at Antofagasta’s Centinela copper mine in northern Chile.

Centinela sits 1,350 km north of Santiago in the Antofagasta Region of Chile. Antofagasta Minerals has contracted Thiess, the world’s largest mining contractor, to develop the Encuentro Oxides pit, which will contribute to the mine’s production of 50,000 t/y of copper cathode for a planned lifespan of 15 years.

To monitor and control this production, Thiess is leveraging the Wencomine fleet management system. The system will optimise productivity and efficiency across the pit’s 56 active units, including 12 high-precision loading units and five high-precision drill rigs, according to Wenco.

Wenco’s data solutions are designed to boost productivity, decrease operating costs, extend equipment life, and give mining companies actionable insights into their operations. Its Mine Performance Suite consists of systems for fleet management, high-precision machine guidance, predictive maintenance, collision avoidance, and mining business intelligence.

Unlike other solution providers, Wenco, a Hitachi Group Company since 2009, has designed its systems with an “open systems philosophy” that, it says, “empowers customers to freely integrate systems to support their unique business processes, data requirements, and reporting needs”.

Thiess chose Wenco for its reputation in delivering strong production functionality and a streamlined implementation process with minimal impact on day-to-day mine operations, it said.

Wenco said: “Expanding the business relationship with Thiess in South America is strategically important for Wenco as well. Contractor-operated sites are common throughout the region and they stand as a significant growth market for the company. Likewise, contractor partnerships form a key part of the open and interoperable ecosystem of partners pushed by Wenco and its parent company, Hitachi Construction Machinery.”

Wenco Regional Manager — Latin America, José Eugenio Saravia, said: “We’re very pleased to implement the Wenco Mine Performance Suite at the Encuentro Oxides development.

“Wenco has worked with Thiess at various mining developments around the world and our solutions are ideal for the productivity improvements and ease of deployment they require. We’re looking forward to a long and profitable business together.”

This sale is another boon to Wenco in the region, following recent sales to Chinchillas and Pucamarca mines and a new partnership with Brazil mining solutions provider Tecwise.

“Contractors like Thiess are a major growth area for Wenco and the industry as a whole. We’re seeing a great many more opportunities of this sort throughout Latin America,” Saravia says.

“As well, we’re seeing more and more customers excited to partner with a Hitachi-owned company like Wenco, who can deliver the reliability and support only available from a major OEM and global mining leader.”

Epiroc and ASI Mining to automate Roy Hill haul truck fleet

Epiroc has signed a contract with Roy Hill to deliver a fully automated haul truck solution for the iron ore mining operation in Western Australia.

In partnership with automation specialist ASI Mining – which Epiroc owns 34% of – Epiroc is to convert Roy Hill’s haul trucks from manned to autonomous use. The two will deliver a safe and interoperable solution for Roy Hill’s mixed truck fleet, with an ability to expand to other mining vehicle types and manufacturers, and capability to integrate with existing Roy Hill systems, Epiroc said.

Epiroc and ASI Mining will also be working closely with Roy Hill and its partners Hitachi and Wenco on truck conversion and integration of the Wenco fleet management system.

The project will see a phased implementation, with testing and production verification of up to eight trucks undertaken in the initial phase prior to the second phase of full fleet expansion from mid-2021.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said: “Epiroc is proud to collaborate with Roy Hill, ASI Mining and other partners to automate Roy Hill’s haul truck fleet, boosting safety and productivity for a crucial aspect of its mining operation. This is a very strong example of how automation will take a mining company’s operation to the next level.”

Roy Hill CEO, Barry Fitzgerald, said the mining company was well positioned to transition to automation. “Our teams on site and in our Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Perth have demonstrated a clear capacity to deliver complex projects, sustainable change and operational excellence with the recent success of our autonomous drill program and fleet optimisation initiatives. Now is the right time to bring the combined expertise of Roy Hill, Epiroc, ASI Mining and Wenco together to convert our haul truck fleet.”

Fitzgerald added: “Care is one of our core values, with safety at the heart of everything we do. Roy Hill’s Smart Mine program is driving innovation across our business, and the automation of our haulage fleet is central to delivering safety and production improvements.”

Roy Hill is an iron ore mining project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Located 340 km southeast of Port Hedland, it has an integrated mine, rail and port facilities and produces 55 Mt/y of iron ore, with approval to increase to 60 Mt/y. Its ROC in Perth provides end-to-end integration of operations, according to Epiroc.

Wenco makes Latin America expansion plans with TecWise partnership

Wenco International Mining Systems has announced a new partnership with TecWise Sistemas de Automação, a provider of technology and communications systems to the Latin America mining industry.

This new agreement makes TecWise the exclusive distributor of Wenco solutions in Brazil, paving the way for customers in the largest Latin American country to leverage “Wenco’s open and interoperable approach to mining technology”, Wenco said.

Wenco’s data solutions are designed to boost productivity, decrease operating costs, extend equipment life, and give mining companies actionable insights into their operations. Its Mine Performance Suite consists of systems for fleet management, high-precision machine guidance, predictive maintenance, collision avoidance, and mining business intelligence.

Unlike other solution providers, Wenco, a Hitachi Group Company since 2009, has designed its systems with an “open systems philosophy” that, it says, “empowers customers to freely integrate systems to support their unique business processes, data requirements, and reporting needs”.

“TecWise and Wenco formed this partnership based on their shared approach to delivering customer-focused solutions to the mining industry,” Wenco said. Founded in 1997, TecWise works closely with customers to design, deploy, and support fit-for-purpose, performance-driven technology that improves efficiency, safety, and productivity.

“The company’s history of strong support throughout Brazil made it a natural partner for Wenco as it expands through Latin America,” Wenco said.

Andrew Pyne, President and CEO of Wenco, said: “We’re excited to enter the strategic Brazilian mine market in partnership with TecWise. In line with our focus on growing our presence in Latin America, Brazil is a key strategic priority for Wenco, particularly as we collaborate with Hitachi Construction Machinery on their Solution Linkage for Mining platform.

“We have planned this collaborative entry into the Brazilian market for some time and we took our time to identify the right partner, which we found in TecWise. They will ensure our customers have knowledgeable, on-the-ground local support for Wenco solutions for the long haul.”

TecWise Business Director and CEO, Omar Garzedin, said: “The level of flexibility and openness of the Wenco solutions, the philosophy of interoperable standards – this is what initially caught our eye and made Wenco stand out among data solutions providers for the mining industry.

“Over the years, a common challenge for our mining clients has been the ‘closed stack’ approach of many suppliers – the difficulty in controlling and using their own operational data in the manner that they prefer.

“When we shared the Wenco philosophy – the ability to react to a client need in an agile manner, combined with a global track record – we all clearly saw new ways of addressing long-standing challenges in an innovative, scalable, and cost-effective manner.”

TecWise is in discussions with mines throughout Brazil to offer new ways to solve known problems, while extending new capabilities and options through Wenco’s open standard approach to mining technology, Wenco said.