Nick Vrontas is the national business manager at Komatsu Australia. He gives Quarry an insight into the company’s latest innovations.
How was the past year for Komatsu?
The past year has been incredible. We’ve seen record volumes of new machines being delivered to customers, our rental demand has been unprecedented, and the demand for our service technicians to assist our customers has been extraordinary.
We saw some new Komatsu products enter the market like the GD955-7. What was the uptake of these new products?
The level of interest in the GD955-7 has been fantastic. It was just released, but the order bank is growing behind some great field days and product trials. We also saw the WA480-8 loader released at the end of last year; uptake this year has been exceptional. Its predecessor, the dash-6, was and still is such a warhorse, and the WA480-8 has only grown and gone past it. So much so, in fact, that it has regained the mantle of number one in the class, which is a wonderful result.
Why is it important for Komatsu to keep innovating its product line?
Like our customers, we always look for ways of improving and assisting our customers in that respect. Komatsu has built its brand on developing Dantotsu products, which translates to new and unrivalled products.
Being the market leader for innovation is at the core of our business and something we are constantly striving for. We were the first original equipment manufacturer to release hybrid excavators over ten years ago, and that’s just one example of many where we have led the charge in technology advancement in the industry. That is what drives us, and it will continue to do so.
Australian quarries are embracing technology more than ever before. Is that something you’ve noticed in your role?
It is becoming increasingly evident that quarries of all sizes are looking for new and innovative ways to find operational efficiencies. No matter how big or small, each incremental change has an effect, so assisting our customers in achieving these is very important to us.
As readers have seen throughout the year, we are building awareness within the industry of a technology platform we developed in-house –Smart Quarry Site, previously known as iSite.
This product has been very successful in its introduction to several quarries, as it provides a live holistic overview of the site’s productive data whilst also offering the ability to provide the added benefits of in-cab electronic pre-starts and safety monitoring alerts.
What’s the outlook for Smart Quarry Site?
Our Smart Construction team are constantly looking at and adjusting the long-term development of the platform to ensure it continues to suit our customers’ needs. As the industry changes, so will the demands for different data and features the system can offer our customers. The system has also been launched globally, and I no doubt expect that innovation within the product will occur based on exposure to different markets, particularly in the US and Europe.
What’s the quarrying industry’s main issue in the next two to three years?
It’s fair to say that pressure continues to grow in the ESG space, and I see it getting increasingly important to address.
We are already seeing customers making informed decisions regarding the fleet of yellow machines they purchase and the carbon emissions each model provides. It is difficult to make quick changes in the factors of the production of cement and aggregates, but this solution is becoming more common.
How is Komatsu positioned to face these changes?
There are a few different ways we can and are already addressing this. The first is through a product that is already in the market and was mentioned above, the Smart Quarry Site. SQS provides customers with the ability to oversee their fleet in real-time and identify where there are inefficiencies in the fleet’s movements. Inefficient machinery usage leads to wasted fuel consumption and, thus, emissions. Another option we can provide to our customers today is using our application engineer services. By utilising this service, our application engineer can head to a site, observe the operation, and measure the haul roads and other intricacies of a site to help make informed recommendations on the optimal fleet mix for the site’s requirements and goals.
We know that assisting in identifying the most efficient way to move material on-site. If we look to the future, engine technology is the next stepping stone for Komatsu and other OEMs. We recently saw some announcements from Komatsu Limited in Japan regarding partnerships to develop the next fuel and driveline technologies we will utilise. Komatsu is partnering with Toyota in the hydrogen space. We recently announced the planned acquisition of US firm American Battery Solutions to assist with our BEV development. Again, keep your eyes on our socials and Quarry as we will make another very exciting announcement in this area.
Are we likely to see new products enter the market from Komatsu in 2024?
Most definitely! 2024 is shaping up to be a busy year for us as we look to introduce several new models. We’ll see three new quarry-class load and haul machines, including an excavator, loader and rigid truck, though I can’t give away too much just yet. Additionally, we’ll soon announce the much-anticipated release of a sales loader that has been making a big mark overseas. Make sure you keep checking Quarry each month for more information. •
For more information, visit komatsu.com.au