Ro­botic trucks im­prove FMG work rate

Pilbara News - - Resources - Ben Harvey

■ The move to­wards ro­botic op­er­a­tions in the Pil­bara is gath­er­ing pace, with Fortes­cue Met­als Group cred­it­ing un­manned trucks for a jump in pro­duc­tiv­ity at its iron ore mines.

At an in­vestor brief­ing last month, Fortes­cue de­tailed how its “au­ton­o­mous haulage op­er­a­tions” had boosted ef­fi­ciency by 38 per cent since May, far greater than the 13 per cent im­prove­ment in pro­duc­tiv­ity clocked by its manned fleet.

Fortes­cue’s 41 re­mote-con­trolled trucks, which use GPS, radar and laser tech­nol­ogy, have hauled 109 mil­lion tonnes of ore at the Solomon Hub.

The sys­tem, de­vel­oped by heavy equip­ment gi­ant Cater­pil­lar, is termed “com­mand for haul­ing”.

Fortes­cue chief ex­ec­u­tive Nev Power said some peo­ple in­cor­rectly be­lieved sav­ings from au­to­ma­tion came from re­duced labour costs, but it was of­ten about re­duced cap­i­tal costs.

“It’s not al­ways about labour sav­ings,” he said

“They burn the same fuel and use the same parts as manned ver­sions, but the key to them is you use fewer trucks. The only times th­ese trucks stop are when they need main­te­nance or re­fu­elling.”

Truck sup­plier WesTrac be­lieves au­to­ma­tion will be a key driver of busi­ness.

“WesTrac has de­vel­oped and em­ployed a tech­nol­ogy work­force of over 100 peo­ple with spe­cial­ist skills in ro­bot­ics, data an­a­lyt­ics, ra­dio net­works and GPS tech­nolo­gies,” WesTrac chief ex­ec­u­tive WA Jar­vas Croome said.

“WesTrac is the first Cater­pil­lar dealer glob­ally to com­mer­cially de­ploy this tech­nol­ogy to our cus­tomers.”

Au­to­mated trucks are cred­ited with a jump in pro­duc­tiv­ity at Fortes­cue Met­als Group’s iron ore mines.

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