Mixed reality helps BHP stay COVID-19 safe

Mixed reality headsets and Internet of Things sensors are helping BHP’s maintenance and innovation teams stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement from their technology partner, Microsoft.
Mixed reality helps BHP stay COVID-19 safe Mixed reality helps BHP stay COVID-19 safe Mixed reality helps BHP stay COVID-19 safe Mixed reality helps BHP stay COVID-19 safe Mixed reality helps BHP stay COVID-19 safe

BHP is now running further trials across its rail workshops and maintenance teams

BHP has for instance been using the software company's HoloLens 2 headset with the iron ore team in Western Australia's Pilbara, as travel restrictions and safety guidelines increased the need for expertise to be shared through safer, digital methods.

Mechanical fitters at site can be sent documentation, videos and schematics on the fly using its Dynamics 365 Remote Assist solution, revealed a Microsoft blog post. Digital ink and arrows can annotate real things in the physical world in order to help them complete tasks and inspections on remote sites.

The company started the trials using the HoloLens 2 in July, a rollout that was accelerated by BHP's need to innovate during the COVID-19 crisis, noted Alex Bertram, digital products manager at BHP.

"When COVID-19 struck, our teams couldn't travel from Perth to our sites in Western Australia," Bertram said. "This approach is essentially our teams providing remote assistance via live-point-of-view video calls to our personnel on-site."

The company has also been using Dash Maintainer Tools, which enable diagnostic tests on machinery remotely using sensors. These use a network of sensors connected to a phone, laptop or tablet - via Microsoft's Azure cloud computing service - to the mining vehicle or equipment.

When the COVID-19 restrictions slowed the deployment of Dash Maintainer Tools sensors onto new vehicles, BHP was again able to use HoloLens 2 to replace travel by experts.

A Dash tool was first sent to Bertram's home in Perth for testing, and the BHP innovation team were then able to test the system on real machinery at its Innovation Centre Lab, located at the Perth Repair Centre.

It was sent to Pilbara, and the following week, technicanian used a HoloLens to install the first prototype of Dash Maintainer Tools on a 300-t Komatsu dump truck.

"A process like that would normally take a few months at least," said Bertram.

Lorraine Sabbouh, Mobile Equipment Maintenance Manager, BHP, added: "Every time Dash is rolled out on a new piece of equipment, we take another step in improving safety and helping to ensure everyone in our team goes home to their family in the same condition they turned up in. It's been game changing in the way we do work."

BHP is now running further trials of the HoloLens2 solution across its rail workshops and maintenance teams in Perth and the Pilbara, and at several other global locations in Australia, the US and Chile.