Trimble has continued to improve the safety and productivity of quarry operations around Australia with the integration of several data management solutions, turning best practice into standard practice.
The value of material handling data has been increasing over the past decade. Not so long ago, quarry operators were largely unaware of the benefits that could be reaped from keeping a tight control on the analysis of each morsel of material.
That was until infrastructure demand ramped up to record levels in recent years, coinciding with the tightening of safety regulations in heavy industries.
That awareness has now begun to grow and the team at Trimble has been developing its data management technology to meet the needs of some of Australia’s most foundational industries – quarrying and construction.
As people become in tune with the benefits of data management, Trimble has introduced a growing portfolio of solutions for agnostic integration across a quarry’s production chain and out onto the open road.
By keeping tabs on each stage of a quarry’s production, operators can be sure to extract maximum value from their resource while maintaining safety and reducing the liability of their workforce.
That is all according to SmartTech general manager Dan Barry.
“The biggest shift we’ve seen is customers moving along a spectrum of being unaware of the value of the data, to having an awareness of the potential of the data and now moving into understanding the potential and unlocking that data,” he told Quarry.
SmartTech has been trusted to distribute Trimble technology across Australian operations and Barry has used knowledge gained throughout a lengthy career in heavy industries to maintain the relationship between the companies.
Trimble Insight is one of these technologies. It is used to draw data from across the LOADRITE payload management range, integrating loaders, excavators, haul trucks and conveyor belt scales from various manufacturers into one visualisation tool.
Barry said the past few years had been transformational for Trimble.
“We certainly have always had a loyal customer base in the quarry operations for the utilisation of scales in a loader,” he said.
“We’ve now taken that further with a series of updates and upgrades in that product range over the last 24 months.
“What we’ve seen in the last 18-month period is an adaption of those scales on the conveyor belt side of their operations, and an awareness of the value of stock on ground.”
The integration of data from multiple stages of a quarry’s production cycle has allowed users to identify anomalies earlier than ever before.
These outliers could come in the form of spillage or leakage off a conveyor belt, or inconsistent payloads on a loader, and can be sent as alerts to on-site decision-makers.
Trimble was installed across a hard rock operation in Gympie, Queensland, which has become one of the leading quarries in its region.
The operation was one of Barry’s examples of an operator progressing along that spectrum of understanding the data.
“It comes back to the utilisation of that information and becoming a proactive data source instead of a reactive data source,” he said.
“Historically, quarries like Gympie have undertaken something like end-of-month reviews of operations.
“Perhaps they find production needs to increase, or even reduce. But with our solutions it’s now a mid-shift decision where the individuals who are key to making that decision can use that data and make changes without necessarily impacting the entire workflow.”
The nature of this quick-response solution only reassures operators that safety and productivity will be maintained.
As regulations tighten around material quality and volume, where incorrect reporting can be traced right back to where it was extracted, quarries need to be confident in the material they wave out the gate.
“The main shift with chain-of-responsibility legislation is that quarries are now legally required to ensure they’re not overloading the vehicles,” Barry said.
“And there’s been processes in place to ensure that’s not the case, but those processes can affect productivity.
“So something like a loader scale reduces the liability from that operator and from that quarry operator, and validates that when that vehicle left that quarry it was not overloaded.”
For those who aren’t always on top of these stringent requirements, and even for those who are, Trimble and SmartTech have evolved to partner with businesses in the optimisation of their operations.
When juggling each stage of a quarry’s production, not every ball can always be in the air. But a helping hand can be just the ticket to turn a small business into a medium, or a medium into a large.
And as major infrastructure projects continue to dominate headlines, the possibility of making that leap has never been greater.
“We’re becoming a bit more of a consultant across the industry as we engage in integration projects and issues of real estate and production with customers of significance who might want to know how they can optimise a given site,” Barry said.
“Maybe their production is constant and they can’t change that, but they can increase the number of loaders that are loading out at any given time and remove the use of a weighbridge, for example.”
Some operations have been known to double or even triple production with the use of Trimble’s data management, while maintaining the same operational footprint, according to Barry.
“The team at GroMac in North Queensland are now integrating the conveyor belt scales into their operations,” Barry said.
“They leverage a scale solution for their loaders that now they’ve also incorporated into their belt scales so that we can identify a degree of information they wouldn’t otherwise see.
“That involves both mobile and fixed solutions being used in the one operation, which showcases our ability to adapt to a changing industry.”
Promisingly, GroMac aren’t the only ones realising the importance of reliable data management.
The Australian quarrying industry is valuing information in its operations much more than in the past and much more than other regions, according to Barry.
“Australia is punching well above its weight in the way in which it consumes that data and uses it to make better decisions,” he said.
“There’s a lot of quarries out there that are brilliant on an international scale with some
huge production, but we do see a lot of the major brands using Australia as a bit of a Petri dish for maximising their production.”
But as with many science experiments, the longer you wait and the more data you collect, the more accurate the results.
This is also applicable to data management in a quarry setting, where simply installing the technology cannot be expected to be a one- and-done solution.
“Data used to be seen as a single transaction, where it was a hardware-focused component of your business. And that
was reinforced by the fact products in the LOADRITE brand can last you a decade,” Barry said.
“But now we can see that information and we can tell customers that more information is available if they want it, and we can consult with them to gain the most from the technology.”
Of course, technology can’t solve every issue on a quarry site, Barry admitted. But it can get mighty close.
“It’s certainly evolving a lot faster now as people realise the value in information. And there’s still value in intuition in many cases,” he said. “You can’t beat the experience of a good quarry manager, but our products are there to validate what they think with some trusted information.”
Visit trimble.com to learn more.
This feature appeared in the May issue of Quarry.