Business Management, Features

Komatsu is tackling challenges with innovation


Cameron Ballentine-Jones, Executive General Manager of Customer Support at Komatsu Australia, shares why he thinks the quarrying industry is at a critical economic juncture.

How did 2022 look like for Komatsu Australia? Do you have any milestones or highlights to share?

With the supply chain challenges caused by Covid and the buoyant period for the Australian economy, our biggest success has been to be able to deliver on the majority of customer needs. We’ve had a huge volume of equipment to deliver across all sectors. On top of that, we’ve also succeeded in supporting our customers with parts and aftermarket services, in what I would call an unprecedented year of market demand.

What are the most popular Komatsu machines in the extractive industry currently?

The rigid dump trucks, including the Komatsu HD785, HD605 and Hd405 dump trucks are the busiest ones. In the loader products, we’ve recently sold some of the big Komatsu loaders from the WA900 series. The WA600, WA500 and WA480 loaders remain staple loaders for quarries. In excavators, the PC850 and PC700 excavators are the most popular. From the smaller loaders, machines in the range of the WA320, WA270 and WA200 make up the majority of the products that we’ve been delivering this year.

From your perspective, have there been changes in what customers are looking for in their machinery?

Customers are looking for innovations in products, and that innovation comes down to three areas: The first is safety and how our products can support and enhance their safety performance. The second one is productivity and the third one is in the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) area. Customers are looking for innovations that lead to lower fuel burn or machines that have lower emissions.

How do Komatsu’s products help quarries achieve more sustainability?

Since about 2018, we’ve been delivering Tier-4 engines on all our machines. That product already helps deliver significant reductions in particulate matter released into the atmosphere. Komatsu Corporations has also released its global roadmap, which sets a vision of achieving zero net carbon emissions by 2050 and sets a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent and raising the ratio of renewable energy use to 50 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels. The quarry industry often has constraints around financing. Realising this, we’ve come up with a range of flexible options to support our customers to reduce fuel consumption, optimise engine life and rebuild and recycle components so they can get a longer life out of their existing machines.

Which unique Komatsu technologies help quarries achieve more efficiencies?

One of our products in the quarry space is Komatsu iSite. It’s a locally developed hardware and software solution that is designed to improve productivity, reduce fuel use and allow customers to manage their fleet more holistically. It’s a manufacturer agnostic product, so it can be installed on any piece of equipment and our customers are already adopting it with great enthusiasm. A second example is what we call our Smart Construction Dashboard, which enables customers to measure and track their quarrying activity. We support that with drone technology to monitor the landscape and provide inputs into the 3D modelling and using AI-driven algorithm, we help the customer quantify and refine their production.

What do you anticipate being key challenges for the quarrying industry in the next two to three years?

I think issues related to energy cost and ESG compliance will become even more prominent. Access to skilled workers is a global issue which impacts everybody. In our company, we’ve invested heavily in apprentice training. We recently enrolled 80 new apprentices for next year, so we have a steady input of apprentices. Safety improvement will be another continued focus area. From an economic point of view, we are about to enter an interesting financial landscape, both globally and locally. This will mean flexibility in managing assets and the costs associated with those will be even more important for our customers than they were before.

How is Komatsu positioned to help quarries meet these future challenges?

At a global level, Komatsu invests significantly on research and development and will continue to do so. Our job as distributors is to collect the voice of the customer and feed that back to the manufacturing team. But there’s also local innovation happening at a local level, particularly around information management like iSite and Smart Construction Dashboard. Another initiative that we’ve undertaken for some years is to arm all our service technicians with digital technology so they can review the information in advance of arriving to a site and resolve it with minimal delay. They even have access to our global network for troubleshooting. We call it ‘Fix at First Time’ and it helps give our customers more uptime. It also helps remove technicians from the line of fire to advance safety for our customers. Engaging closely with customers at a specific site level is more important in quarrying than anywhere else. With our service digitalisation, we are in a good position to support our customers.

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