Load & Haul

Production rates on night shift driven by bright green thinking

In the past three decades, Stephen Raines has gained extensive experience in the extractive industry, working with remote drilling teams in northern Australia to unearth gemstones and quarrying concrete aggregates for Sydney’s construction boom.

He has learned that it pays to listen to your crew and always keep an eye on ways to do things smarter.

“I’m a natural listener and I think it’s really important to take breaks with my guys, encourage them and listen to their observations,” Raines said. “You’d be surprised what you’ll hear, and a lot of times they come up with bold ideas that can help us work more efficiently throughout the quarry.”

After many years of remote area work, Raines wanted to move closer to home. He found a perfect fit at Hanson Construction Materials at Kulnura Quarry on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Part of the Heidelberg Cement group, Hanson is one of Australia’s leading providers of building and construction materials, including crushed rock, sand, crusher dust, roadbase and concrete. Hanson operates numerous quarries across Australia.


The loadout process

Raines recently won the IQA’s Excellence in Innovative Practice Award, sponsored by Trimble Loadrite.

The award recognises an individual’s contribution to excellence and innovation in the quarry industry. The contribution can be for innovation in design, production, operations, automation, plant design, maintenance or processes as a single event, or for a longer term contribution.

Applications are judged for originality, consultation, personal involvement level, transferability, evidence of a measured outcome, impact or influence and cost-effectiveness.

Raines and his team won the award for developing a unique solution to improving the loadout process for night shift crews at Hanson’s Kulnura quarry. The operation runs two shifts with a 45-person staff. As the afternoon shift supervisor, Raines is responsible for the crew working the night shift.

On-site at the Kulnura quarry, the team mines basalt, which is then crushed to make concrete aggregate. The operation crushes between 8000 and 10,000 tonnes of aggregate per day, with the finished product loaded using Volvo L 250 H loaders fitted with Loadrite on-board scales. The scales weigh and record the crushed aggregate to be delivered into the Sydney metropolitan market.

An important part of Raines’ role is training machine operators at night in low light conditions. He noted that his new recruits were finding it difficult to align the haul trucks to the face front-end loader.

“We have some very tight areas in our quarry,” he said. “With low light at night, some of our new, less experienced guys were having problems with the accuracy and the consistency of backing their trucks to the loaders. While observing them from the bench above, I could see the problem and the time it was taking the trucks to back up correctly; we were losing production. We were losing two to three minutes for every truck, and we knew that was a problem.”

Engineered to raise production

{{image3-a:r-w:250}}“You should never underestimate the benefits of networking and training events,” Raines said. “The idea to provide assistance to loader drivers and haul truck operators on night shift or during periods of low light started with a conversation between Chris Dolden, our area manager, and myself at a Hanson supervisors’ conference.

When I returned to the site with the idea, I had the enthusiastic support of my leading hand Paul Fawkes. The manager Mick Benic encouraged us to go for it!”

Raines and Fawkes researched and purchased a laser, incorporating off the shelf components to ensure the innovation was cost-effective and repeatable. The alignment laser was tested during normal light hours, low light and night-time to ensure the best coloured laser light line was used. Adapting the module to fit the loader also involved some inventive steps, and the enthusiasm of the crew provided a great collaborative environment.

“The idea was to use a laser module to cast a bright green line on the ground that can be seen clearly at night, in the perfect spot for a haul truck to reverse along,” Raines said.

“Not only would this increase the efficiency of our trucks reversing along a clearly visible line, but there would be no movement needed from the front-end loader operator to dump the bucket.”

Optimised production time

Several months into using the Reverse Rite Laser Light, the results have been measurable.

Working at about 120m deep on the 15th floor of the quarry, Raines estimates a round trip to load and dump each truck is about 16 minutes. Without the alignment laser, that same cycle was taking about 18 minutes for some drivers.

{{image4-a:r-w:250}}Now, with the alignment laser on the front-end loaders, that cycle time has been shortened by about two minutes. This means each haul driver can complete between three and 3.5 round trip loads per hour.

Keeping that consistent and productive workflow across the quarry has helped Hanson meet its goals of crushing between 8000 and 10,000 tonnes of material every 24 hours.

The laser is a great training tool, too. The laser light line on the ground is like a marked out parking spot, and new operators respond positively to the clear instructions on how to park optimally near the loader bucket. This helps new employees work more efficiently and safely.

“It’s an engineered solution that’s basically so simple, it’s genius,” Raines said. “The lasers can also be transferred from front-end loaders to excavators, or wherever they’re needed, very easily. It may not be a common tool used in quarries yet, but wait a few years and it will be.”

Raines said he spoke to representatives from Caterpillar and Komatsu, who were interested in hearing about the innovative solution at a recent industry conference.

Hanson plans to add additional alignment lasers on some of the company’s excavators. The team has also considered using the laser to align transport trucks under conveyors, bins and silos, which will reduce cycle times, increase efficiency and improve production levels, while, most importantly, keeping workers safe.

The Hanson Kulnura group’s ingenuity and hard work were recognised at the IQA’s annual conference in Toowoomba on 6 October, 2017.

Dale Cameron, the Trimble regional manager for Loadrite in the aggregates division, presented Raines with the Excellence in Innovative Practice Award.

“I heard about the IQA Awards and I felt it was important to enter to encourage more participation in continuous improvement among my crew,” Raines said.

{{image5-a:r-w:200}}“It really means a lot that the IQA acknowledges innovation and it helps to have a great sponsor like Trimble Loadrite on board."

“My manager has been in the industry for 30 years and he thinks it’s fantastic that our guys came up with the solution that really shows our commitment to being innovative and making improvements in production and safety.”

To find out more about the IQA Awards, including the Excellence in Innovative Practice Award, and how to apply or nominate a colleague or business, visit quarry.com.au/Networking/Awards/2018AwardInformation.aspx

Applications and nominations close on 31 July, 2018.

Article courtesy of Trimble Loadrite.

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