Robotic trucks improve FMG work rate
■ 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.