“In mining, timing is everything. Aligning all the steps in the mining process for a streamlined workflow is essential to maximising potential. So too is integrating the solutions for those steps. Smart mines therefore know the value of time saved and the cost of time lost,” Samora wrote.
“Data is the key to helping mines save time and money. Right now, mines have more data than ever, emanating from every part of an operation. What many mines don’t have is a digital strategy to analyse that data and transform it into actionable information.”
He continued: “We are equally serious about safety. We will be unveiling our VIS [at HxGN LIVE], another important step towards mitigating the costly consequences of accidents.”
The VIS was first mentioned at MINExpo 2016. It is what is known in the industry as a ‘level nine safety system’; this refers to a classification system used to rank safety systems from one to nine: level seven is a proximity detection system and level eight is a collision avoidance system. With a level nine system, the vehicle has the possibility to intervene if the driver does not react adequately or in time.
The VIS has three ways of intervening: it can cut propulsion to the vehicle, activate the retarder, or apply the service brake in certain defined situations. The system will first alert the operator and, if they don’t react properly, then the system will intervene.
Product manager, Fabien Kritter, explained the products’ capabilities in a recent video interview: “For example, if you’re going down a ramp doing over speed, the system will give you an alarm asking for a reaction from the operator. If the operator doesn’t react, then it will intervene and activate the retarder.
“Maybe you are on a slight wet road, travelling down ramp, this may not be the best situation to activate the retarder or you might start to slide, depending on the truck model, we can detect that and release the retarder. The operator also has the possibility to override the function and take control of the vehicle, they are in charge.”
Hexagon Mining already has an established collision avoidance system (with 25,000 units sold) and fatigue monitoring technology, and the VIS builds upon these taking inspiration from autonomous systems used in the automobile industry. The technology is designed to prevent an accident if the operator becomes fatigued or momentarily loses their concentration. Kitter describes it as “the logical next step” in vehicle safety systems.
The development process for the VIS began two years ago when Hexagon was approached by Anglo American, one of its first collision avoidance customers, to ask for a new solution. The companies worked together, along with an OEM, looking at available technologies and have now tested the product for more than 10,000 hours over two months with ten trucks in a production setting.
“The feedback we got from operators was excellent, they loved the system,” said Kritter. “Management love the system because they didn’t have any downtime. It has been very positive.
“When we work hand in hand with a customer we can do great things.”
In the future, Kritter hopes that CAS and VIS will be integrated on vehicles from the point of sale. “They are building blocks, and we started with a couple of scenarios and we will continue to develop other scenarios,” he explained. “This is the right strategy, to get into the market and say ‘we can save lives in these different situations’. We will also increase these products with customer feedback, because they always know the problems much better than we do.”