Miner BHP has developed its new practice of remote-in, remote-out (RiRo) working for its staff.
The company "improvised" its work in response to COVID-19 restrictions, using wearable mixed-reality (MR) like the Microsoft HoloLens to link its teams in Australia with auto electricians and mechanical fitters on site from 1,300 kilometres away.
"When COVID-19 struck, our teams couldn't travel from Perth to our sites in Western Australia," manager digital transformation for WA iron ore Alex Bertram said.
"This approach is essentially our teams providing remote assistance via live-point-of-view video calls to our personnel on-site."
Technician teams used cloud services and a headset device to call for help and technical support when needed, such as for complex tasks. BHP, Bertram said, has a very high performance rate at its Western Australian Iron Ore division operations, leaving little room for downtime.
"RiRo…[allows] BHP engineers, integrated planning and remote operations (IPRO) operators and technical experts in Perth, in site offices or anywhere in the world to see exactly what people in the field see, in real time."
Cristina Perbellini Silva, who serves as the manager of decision automation in technology, is trialling the technology at the Mooka ore car repair shop with its trains.
"Remote assist using mixed reality is the start of a promising journey - as we learn and adapt we expect our teams will find new and novel ways to use the technology to improve safety and productivity," Silva said.
"During Covid-19, we have been able to move at an amazing velocity because we all have a clear goal and are empowered to make the right decisions - this helped us cut through the bureaucracy and red tape and implement solutions faster than we thought possible."
BHP Minerals Australia vice president of technology Pat Bourke noted that RiRo uses hardware and platforms that already existed - and the strength of the technology is in its simplicity.
"I can see the RiRo way of working being a real game changer," he said.
"Remote work using technology was always an option for us; however COVID-19 has pushed us to really harness innovative technology and we will only continue to improve our productivity as we make it widely available and perfect its use."