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Continuing the AHS Journey

July 19, 2022
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From deployment to optimization, continuing the AHS journey
Experts' Corner

From deployment to optimization, continuing the AHS journey

In our June newsletter, Scott Schellenberg, SMS Equipment's Senior Manager of Smart Mining Solutions, outlined the basic steps outlining Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS) deployment in mining operations. As Scott explained, autonomous haulage is a big leap for most mines. Accordingly, mines need to evaluate not just the technology but the impact it will have on their operation. Equally important, SMS Equipment recommends a thorough change management process to ensure the mine is ready to realize the technology's game-changing potential.

In this issue, we continue our conversation with Scott, who explains the steps for operationalizing the technology to capture its total value.

You commented earlier that deploying AHS is a beginning, not an end. Can you elaborate on that?

First, let me reiterate that we work with our customers to do a comprehensive evaluation to ensure that AHS is the right fit for a particular mine. Realizing the technology's full value requires ongoing learning and improvement. So once the AHS systems are operational and personnel are up to speed, the mine can begin to pursue new opportunities to improve efficiency.
How does that work?

How does that work?

At this point, we move into our value assurance program, a whole other level of interaction where we work side-by-side with our customers to realize the potential gains from the technology. We're not teaching them which buttons to press - we're now working with them on operational aspects, for example, optimizing shovel dig areas and loading areas to allow the equipment to function as efficiently as possible.

We have a lot of knowledge about the customer's operation at this stage, but every mine site is different, and there is no cookie-cutter roadmap. So it's a mutual learning process.

The key here is that AHS systems collect and organize much more data than mining operations are accustomed to working with, and it's easy to drown in that much data. To address this, we have a team of engineers that know how to analyze that production data. Our value assurance team members, experts in the field, help the customer interpret that data and map it to their operational practices.
Does AHS help mines discover things they didn't know about their operation?

Does AHS help mines discover things they didn't know about their operation?

Absolutely. AHS will highlight any inefficiencies in your business. The key here is that many small things in conventional operations don't get recorded. The AHS records it every time a truck slows down or stops. In conventional operations, you don't have access to data with that kind of detail, but it's the sum of many little things that can make your mine less efficient.
The payoff is being able to suggest changes in customer operation practices that will result in a step improvement in the operation. These don't necessarily relate directly to the autonomous operation itself - the data can also suggest things about the conventional mining practices that would be there, whether conventional or  AHS.
Does this support continuous improvement?

Does this support continuous improvement?

That's an essential part of what we do. When we evaluate the customer at the beginning, a significant criterion for benefitting from the technology is being open to doing things differently based on what the data is saying. Mines tend to be proud of what they've accomplished, and those open to change, seek expertise such as ours to support the continuous improvement process.

I should also point out that Komatsu is a strong champion of continuous improvement, so we're sharing what we learn with our customers with the factory. They are constantly improving the technology based on what is learned in the field upon application. In turn, we share these development improvements with our customers.
Komatsu also collects a lot of global information about different mining operations, so we continue to learn more about best practices and optimization and share relevant insights. It is critical to note here that we don't share any customer-specific information, but we share aggregated data like benchmarks, KPIs, and other guidelines for improvement.
Can you give an example of how AHS influences change in other aspects of the operation?

Can you give an example of how AHS influences change in other aspects of the operation?

With a conventional haulage system, there are interruptions for breaks and that sort of thing, and those delays get factored into other aspects of the operation. So if you suddenly have haulage trucks that run 24/7 and never stop, that can create bottlenecks elsewhere. Maybe you will need more shovel operators to keep up with all these trucks, or perhaps you'll have to streamline your shift changes.

Making changes like this can be pretty challenging, which is why we ensure mines are ready for this before they adopt the technology. But it also shows how the power of the technology goes far beyond saving the labour of a few drivers - it opens a window to making continuous improvement and optimization a way of life in a mine.

The bottom line:

Autonomous haulage systems significantly improve safety, reduce the dependency on human labour required for driving, and provide a level of control and consistency not possible with conventional systems. However, the data gathered from autonomous systems go far beyond improving the hauling operation itself and can suggest significant efficiency-enhancing improvements to other aspects of the operation. The key is learning how to harness the data and adopting a continuous improvement mindset where we can scientifically optimize the entire mining operation. Over time, such an approach can become a core competency of a mine, leading to extraordinary results.

Autonomous Haulage Systems
Our world-class Autonomous Program Team is ready to work with you and identify areas where Smart Technologies improve productivity and efficiency. With you, we can tailor the optimum solution, covering all aspects of AHS implementation.

Most importantly, you’re not left to manage the technology on your own – we support your mine every step of the way. 

Telematics for Mining

Access all data, trends, fault codes and payload information at your fingertips, with no extra costs.

KOMTRAX Plus for mining equipment is Komatsu’s remote equipment health monitoring system, allowing mine operators to track equipment performance over time and configure analytics capable of alerting you on equipment issues. 

Collision Awareness Management
Protection of mine site equipment, infrastructure, and personnel is a major requirement on mine sites and presents great demands on collision awareness solutions. The avoidance of mine site accidents demands a combination of technologies to assist operators and reduce risk. Collision awareness and assistance technology must be able to also warn of these risks.

Trolley-Assist Technology
Komatsu continues to build on a 30-year history of trolley-assist innovation. Partnering with essential support networks such as SMS Equipment provides the building blocks and turnkey solutions for unique mining operations. As a mining technology leaders and program deployment specialists, we can ensure support of your mine from feasibility analysis to program implementation and execution.