Tag Archives: Wenco

Amira Industry 4.0 interoperability project highlights ‘digital mine’ opportunities

Independent global not for profit organisation, Amira, says its global members are set to reap significant benefits from the finalisation of the Industry 4.0 interoperability project P1208 undertaken in Perth, Western Australia.

The Interoperability Enablement for Natural Resources project concluded in November and was sponsored by miners South32, Fortescue Metals Group and Gold Fields Australia.

The Amira project, which was conducted at the University of Western Australia’s Energy & Resources Digital Interoperability Industry 4.0 (UWA ERDi I4.0) TestLab, was designed to realise “the digital mine”, which requires mature interoperability standards to improve information flow.

The project ran multiple proofs-of-concept using interoperability standards (ISA-95/IEC 62264 and B2MML v7.0 (plus process centric event extensions)) that were originally developed to support the manufacturing industry.

These standards had benefited from many years of work (originally with contributions from BHP and continued by ETP and vendors such as RPMGlobal) in enhancing the standards to support mining requirements.

The resulting updated standards were used in P1208 as a means of exchanging information between common mining software packages from Datamine, ABB, AVEVA, RPMGlobal, Wenco and Manufacturing Intelligence. Each of these vendors played a critical part in the project’s success, according to Amira.

Managing Director at Enterprise Transformation Partners (ETP) and the P1208 Project Lead, John Kirkman, said the project was highly successful, demonstrating manufacturing standards could be adapted and used across various mining methods and commodities.

“In terms of benefits, miners should first note ‘interoperability’ is simply a means to an end, with that end being optimal management of their operations,” Kirkman said.

“By enhancing the core specialist software packages used by geologists, mine planners, mine execution/control, materials tracking and maintenance personnel, etc to work together as if they were always engineered to do so, you are thereby implementing the cornerstone of automating and optimising the processes used to manage your mining operations.

“This is just one of the reasons why interoperability is one of only three core pillars of the Industry 4.0 vision as the idea of achieving highly automated and optimised operations without interoperability is simply not viable.

“Industry 4.0 also recognise ISA-95/IEC 62264 as the standard for supporting modular operations management interoperability, while also recognising OPC-UA as the standard for level 2 (machine/process control) interoperability.”

Benefits of Industry 4.0

Kirkman said Industry 4.0 solutions remove a significant amount of manual effort that are currently an accepted part of the mining process.

“This, in turn, increases data quality by eliminating manual entry errors and aligning semantics, improves timeliness of access to new information and enables users to spend more of their time on the quality of their work,” he said.

“This enables the automated capabilities of the software packages to be fully utilised and opens opportunities for the vendors to develop additional high value automated decision support capabilities within their software packages.”

During the course of the P1208 project, this was most clearly and broadly demonstrated via the materials inventory tracking/management software packages, which were able to automatically receive material movement events (from fleet management systems and fixed plant) and material sample analysis results events (from a Lab Information Management System) and update block and stockpile quantities and grade, then send the updated block and stockpile quantities and grade to a mine planning software packages and data warehouse, all without any user intervention.

“With respect to major successes, the fact that we have been able to demonstrate that standards exist that are able to be applied to mining software packages that can exchange information regardless of what commodity you are mining, by whatever mining method, using whatever equipment, whether you are an open pit or underground mine and also supporting multiple areas of the value chain (ie geology, drilling, blasting, mining, processing, railing, port and shipping) is significant,” Kirkman said.

“With P1208, we have successfully demonstrated that standards do exist and that they can be applied to mining with great success and that miners can now begin to include the application of interoperability in their improvement/transformation strategies and, as a result, maximise their return on investment from future technology projects.”

Interoperability in action

Kirkman said this was exciting news for mining companies looking to make technology investments that have a much higher likelihood of achieving a meaningful return on investment.

Project sponsor Gold Fields Australia took part in the AMIRA P1208 demonstrations sessions at the UWA ERDi I4.0 TestLab in Perth, Australia, recently, examining how interoperability in the mine plan, scheduling, execution, and materials and tracking functions can improve performance.

One of the sponsors said: “I don’t think many mining companies really appreciate the magnitude of the inefficiencies and lost opportunities that exist in a typical mine as a result of systems not working together; I think it’s almost just accepted as we have no other choice today.

“The Amira project has really shone a light on this area and demonstrated how interoperability can significantly improve the way of working across the business.

“To witness schedules being published from one vendor’s software and being received by multiple other vendors’ software, and the same again with actuals and inventory balance updates in real-time, is quite exciting and even more so when you consider that none of the vendors worked directly together; they just applied the standard interfaces to their software under the guidance of the ETP/ERDi team and it all works.”

The ETP team and various vendors involved in P1208 are already implementing these solutions into an open-pit and an underground mine further validating the work, with case studies likely to be produced through 2022.

The ERDi TestLab has noted a recent uptick in interest from both Australia-based and overseas mining companies, which bodes well for the vendors whom can now take advantage of their investment in interoperable solutions.

The ERDi team has already commenced work to extend these solutions across asset management and maintenance, fleet management/autonomous haulage solutions to machines and open process control interoperability via integration of OPAS-based solutions from the Coalition of Open Process Automation (COPA), who have together built the world’s first commercially available OPAS-based control system.

Project findings

Some of the key findings from the project include:

  • There were no instances of an information type required by the end customer or other systems not already catered for by the B2MML v7.0 + process centric events schemas;
  • All vendors were able to enhance their software to support the standards successfully;
  • Software performance would likely be the limiting factor in how much data could be exchanged, not the standard itself, which can be addressed by vendors through various approaches;
  • That being able to receive accurate, real-time information from other systems exposed opportunities for vendors to implement new and advanced features that would not have been useful in a manually updated solution;
  • Though the standard supported all requirements and was able to be implemented by vendors, a number of areas were identified in which the standard could be improved to make it much easier for vendors to implement, maintain and update over time as well ensure it is sufficiently explicit to certify products. ERDi has already kicked off work to address these improvement opportunities;
  • Education is likely the greatest barrier to adoption today. As these Industry 4.0 approaches and opportunities are not yet commonplace in the mining industry, miners will need to make an investment in upskilling their workforce to be able to successfully implement and take advantage of these solutions. Industry 4.0 education and workforce enablement has also been identified by platform I4.0 and the world economic forum as major factors in successful industry 4.0 adoption; and
  • It is possible to establish standards management and governance processes to enable more rapid and frequent update of standards.

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.