From input to innovation

Little did Peter Campain know that his input at a workshop in 2011 would result in a redesigned Sandvik TH663 truck and a new fleet for underground mining contractor Barminco.

Early in 2013 Peter Campain, general manager of assets at leading Australian underground mining contractor Barminco, extended an intriguing invitation to three of the world’s leading underground truck manufacturers.

He explained that he would be retiring the company’s entire truck fleet of 54 pieces over the next three years and would be looking to replace them with 30 to 50 new pieces.

He added one proviso: The entire new fleet would be made up of a single make and model of truck. “We knew that by running a single-model fleet we could substantially reduce our investment in inventory, and our fitters would become specialists, dealing with only one set of systems,” Campain says.

Sandvik TH663 in brief

Sandvik TH663 weighs in at 43 tonnes, approximately eight tonnes lighter than the model it has replaced, with a resultant drop in fuel consumption. Operator comfort and safety are enhanced by an ergonomic and noise-suppressed safety cabin, 35 percent larger than on earlier models. The new front frame suspension has been designed to reduce jarring vibrations that contribute to driver fatigue and can cause long-term back and shoulder problems. It has been designed with speed and safety of maintenance in mind. Regular service points are accessible from the ground level.

A unique feature of the truck is its built-in jack system, which provides a much faster and safer means of changing a wheel in the event of a tyre blowout underground. With an overall length of 11.58 metres and a width of 3.48 metres, the truck has an outside turning circle radius of 9.35 metres.

Fifteen years ago, Sandvik 50D and Sandvik 50 Plus trucks were the core of the Barminco fleet, but the contractor had phased these out by 2006.

Campain did not initially place Sandvik at the top of his shopping list, in part because of the company’s reluctance to provide detailed information on its new Sandvik TH663 trucks, the first prototypes of which he had a hand in designing and were in trials at the Darlot gold mine in Western Australia.

Sandvik workshop made all the difference
Campain’s involvement with the development of TH663 dates back to a time when the new truck was just a gleam in the eyes of the Sandvik design team. In 2011, Campain accepted an invitation to attend a Sandvik industry workshop in Perth, one of an ongoing series that the company puts on around the world to get customer feedback on its product range.

Following presentations on all the main product groups, delegates were split into small teams to follow a highly structured process of identifying what they liked and didn’t like about the equipment, and what changes they would put on their wish list.

“When I finally saw the prototype, late in 2013, I was impressed to see how much of what we had discussed had been incorporated into the truck’s final make-up,” Campain says.

‘Someone has put a lot of thought into this’
Also of special interest for him was diagnostics, particularly the wireless transmission of data. Past experience in this area with a number of OEMs had left him dubious, he says.

“This truck’s CANbus system provides a very high level of diagnostics,” he says. “A Sandvik technical crew is working with us at Sunrise Dam to develop a wireless data logging system that will ultimately enable data to be remotely accessed from any point in the mine by Barminco and Sandvik personnel at the mine site and in Perth.

“With this system in place, mine management will have minute-by-minute access to production data, and our maintenance staff will be able to pick up problems at an early stage, leading to faster and more economical repairs.”

Service access was another aspect of the design that Campain focused on at the forum. Underground material, by its nature, has to be very compact, and this can often create access difficulties.

“I was very happy to see how well thought-out the hatches and access ways are on the finished truck, particularly the engine bay cover, which is designed to be lifted in one piece,” he says. “Most trucks suffer external damage to protruding components like lights. Sandvik has addressed this sort of thing well. All lights are recessed, and they’ve even included a special housing for the fire extinguisher. Time and again I find myself looking at different aspects of the truck and thinking, ‘Someone has put a lot of thought into this.’”

Cooperation continues
Overall, Campain says, the customer consultation process was a welcome initiative that definitely helped Sandvik make its TH663 the truck it is today.

“I’m happy to have made some input into the design of this truck. More importantly, I’m looking forward to working with Sandvik personnel on site on an ongoing basis to continually fine-tune and upgrade what is, in my view, the very best performance-for-price underground truck currently available.”

Barminco’s one-model fleet replacement program is now underway. The company purchased five TH663s in 2014, with a further six scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2015.