For miners, by miners
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA. Sandvik solicited comprehensive customer feedback to improve its 17-tonne loader. The result is a safer, stronger and smarter model, designed for the miners who use it.
Peter Campain doesn’t mince words about the importance of designing mining equipment for the operators who run it.
“Having equipment engineered to support the operator is essential,” says Campain, general manager plant for mining services provider Barminco. “The OEM who makes the equipment doesn’t operate it. It’s all about how the operators find the equipment to use and how well the machine suits the environment they’re trying to run it in for up to 11 hours a day.”
Barminco knows its mobile equipment. The mining services provider operates more than 300 pieces in total, one of the largest single-company underground fleets in the world.
“It’s obviously a very key part of our business, and we’ve got a long-standing relationship with Sandvik,” says Graham Crew, general manager mining at Barminco. “The Sandvik equipment overall is very well-regarded within the Barminco operating ranks. We’re both in the business of delivering value for mine owners, and we’ve got a lot to learn from one another about how we can make that safer, more productive and more efficient.”
Sandvik regularly incorporates customer feedback into its equipment design processes, and local forums provide an even more in-depth opportunity to unearth potential issues and possible improvements.
Barminco’s input and suggestions at such a forum in Perth in 2011 were instrumental in the development of Sandvik TH663.
“At the time of that first forum, we weren’t running any Sandvik load and haul equipment,” Campain says. “We were only operating the drills. We wanted to see what Sandvik would do with our feedback, and we were impressed.”
Barminco purchased its first five Sandvik TH663 trucks in 2014. Today, the company operates more than 30.
Sandvik LH517i is a 17-tonne intelligent underground loader, designed to meet the industry’s safety, reliability and efficiency expectations. In-built intelligence enables lower operating costs and improved connectivity. Sandvik LH517i features the latest Sandvik Intelligent Control System and My Sandvik Digital Services Knowledge Box onboard hardware as standard for remote monitoring and faster troubleshooting. The loader is AutoMine-ready and optimized for three-pass loading with Sandvik TH551i truck.
“We’ll be running a complete fleet of TH663s in Australia by the end of the 2018 calendar year,” Campain says.
Barminco management and site personnel were invited to another local customer forum in 2015 to discuss their experiences with Sandvik LH517, which currently comprises more than half of its Sandvik loader fleet.
Operators praised the loader’s breakout force and bogging capacity but were less satisfied with its cabin ergonomics and comfort, expressing issues ranging from seating position to the absence of a designated place for storing the large water bottles necessary to stay hydrated in hot underground environments.
“The braking on the earlier machines was considered to be quite harsh and just a few simple things around the way the machine loads,” Campain says.
The forum produced more than 200 customer suggestions for improving the next 17-tonne Sandvik loader. Three years later, Sandvik LH517i was born.
To improve operator comfort and productivity, Sandvik redesigned the cabin. The result is a roomier, more ergonomic operating environment with better visibility. Sandvik also improved pedal locations and ride control for smoother tramming.
“The comfort of operating the machine, ergonomics within the operator cabin, the layout of the machine and just the ease of operation, those things from an operating point of view, they’ve all turned up in the 517i,” Crew says.
Sandvik also simplified the maintainability of the new loader through smarter placement of key service areas.
“On the maintenance side, I think there’s been a lot of effort put into the serviceability, and the accessibility, the ground-level maintenance,” Campain says.
“And in terms of access for fault-finding, hydraulics test points, places to test the electrics, it’s all very well thought-out. Having one centralized area where all the service filters and access is has made it a lot safer and easier for our fitters.”
On top of the design improvements, Sandvik LH517i also features in-built intelligence that enables AutoMine and OptiMine readiness.
Darren Kwok, Barminco’s group manager innovation and technology, appreciates the flexibility to mobilize an automated solution for a client within days rather than weeks.
“Technology and innovation gives us the greatest opportunity for sustainable safety, productivity, and efficiency gains beyond the continuous improvement work that we’re already doing,” Kwok says. “The 517i is the latest in our fleet to be ready with all the appropriate sensors and all the appropriate equipment to drive onto site and turn on automation as required.”
Barminco was eager to trial the first Sandvik LH517i, putting it into operation at Gold Fields’ Agnew mine in Western Australia.
“Shortly before the 517i was delivered to the site, I got a list from site operators of things they didn’t like about the existing 517,” Campain says. “The 517i turned up on site, and I think the operators were somewhat surprised to find out that their list had been addressed so quickly.
Adds Crew: “The opportunity to see those improvements implemented in the new machine, and giving our people the opportunity to see that and test that, was really important to us. It builds a lot of confidence for the teams operating the machines day in, day out, when they see their feedback incorporated into a new machine.”
Barminco has operated the loader for more than 3,000 hours, with availability pushing 90 percent and maintenance costs on model. Even more important, says Campain, is that operators approve.
“It has operator acceptance on a site used to running a competitor’s loaders,” he says.
“Operations managers are specifically asking for the ‘i’ machine rather than the old model, which is a measure of success.”
Crew believes that knowledge sharing will continue to drive innovation in equipment development.
“We’ve got a lot of operating expertise, and a lot of operating experience,” he says. “I think it just makes good sense that we’re talking all the time about what’s working, what’s not working, what we can do better, and Sandvik’s responsiveness with the 517i, I think is a critical thing that enables both organizations to deliver a better product, to do it safer, to do it more efficiently, and be more productive. As long as we maintain that communication between both organizations, we continue to build a stronger relationship.”
Barminco is part of the Ausdrill Group, an ASX 200 company and Australia’s second largest integrated mining services provider. Barminco is a global leader in hard rock underground mining services and with African Underground Mining Services (AUMS) employs 3,000 people in operations across Australia, India and Africa.