While there hasn’t been a new satellite launch in recent days for the BeiDou satellite constellation, the system is still slated to be available globally in 2020 with 35 total satellites. Launched back in 2000, the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is China’s government sponsored global positioning system with 14 currently usable satellites. The Chinese government is in the process of reviewing the performance of the existing satellites before any further launches, so current coverage is limited to the East Asia region.

In the mining industry getting reliable GPS service is always important and for mines running equipment that use GPS for high-precision applications it’s even more vital. While the reliability of GPS has improved greatly in recent years, there are many mines around the world that still struggle with lost signals, especially in mines with deep pits or those located in regions where satellites may not make regular passes. When the BeiDou system eventually reaches its full potential mines will be able to set up their GNSS units to use any of the major constellations, including BeiDou, giving them much more coverage than was previously available.

Beyond better coverage the newer BeiDou satellites contain newer technology, and that technology is expected to offer greater accuracy than the current U.S. and Russian systems. Since the system is still fairly young there hasn’t yet been any comprehensive reporting on the effectiveness of the satellites, so it may be some time before we know whether or not the system will live up to Chinese claims.

The Chinese system won’t be the only new system in the sky as the European Galileo system which will consist of 30 satellites is also currently in development and is planned to be fully functional in 2019.

To take advantage of the new constellations mines will need to have compatible equipment installed, and for most mines that will mean updating to systems that are compatible with the newer BeiDou and Galileo signals. While 2020 may seem like a long way off, it’s never too early to begin planning for upgrades that will have a positive effect on operations.

 

 

As we enter the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, mines are already making plans to deal with the inevitable inclement weather. Mine sites constantly have to be aware of changing conditions that can affect everything from road conditions and visibility, to ore weight and bench stability. While most of us think of snow and rain when we imagine difficult weather, in many parts of the world heat, dust, and sandstorms can actually be more dangerous for machine operators.

For mines that have a fleet management system, one of the key benefits is being able to quickly connect with all of your equipment to inform them of weather conditions and what actions to take. The following video shows an instance where a haul truck has lost control due to slippery conditions on a haul road and you can hear the driver of the following support truck radioing into dispatch to have all the trucks shut down.

It’s not known whether the mine shown in the video has a fleet management system but for mines that are equipped,  that radio call could put in motion a number of actions that would have a positive effect fleet wide.

Connecting with the operators in bad weather

Using the fleet management software the dispatcher can send a message mine wide to every piece of FMS equipped machinery letting them know immediately to stop their vehicles. If the area affected is only in one part of the mine and it’s still safe to operate in the other pits the dispatcher can quickly re-assign all of the trucks using the dispatching software and each driver will be notified in cab, on their monitor, with their new shovel assignment and dump location.

Reducing speeds based on conditions

Speed limits for the entire mine can be adjusted quickly based on the current conditions. If a mine frequently encounters rain, fog, or other conditions that require reduced speed limits they can pre-program reductions in speed into the fleet management system. If it starts to rain the dispatcher can simply select the speed setting for rainy conditions and operators will immediately receive updated information on the new speed limits to observe during the inclement weather.

Using navigation software to operate in poor visibility

Navigation systems can be used to increase safety during instances where visibility is reduced. Fleet management systems have the capability to incorporate GPS navigation software (similar to your standard passenger vehicle GPS) which shows all of the mine roads on-screen so operators having to negotiate fog or clouds can easily know where they are in relation to the road and when their next turn is coming up. Going beyond standard mapping there are also solutions available that give haul trucks the ability to see each other on the GPS maps so they have awareness of what other vehicles are in their vicinity or coming around the next corner.

All of these solutions are possible with a fleet management system and can offer mines the ability to increase safety while also continuing operations even if the weather isn’t cooperating. If a mine that normally operates for 24 hours a day has to shut down for two hours due to fog, the lost production can easily cost the mine tens of thousands of dollars, yet with navigation and fleet awareness software it’s possible they could have continued to operate safely.

While it’s difficult to predict the weather, it’s easy to see how a fleet management system can improve the ability of a mine to cope with the changing conditions.

 

As the mining industry has begun to realize the inherent benefits of predictive maintenance, we’ve seen an explosion of interest in new technologies and methodology for extracting and managing this type of data. Wenco’s director of research and development, Martin Politick, was recently interviewed by Mining-Technology.com’s Elly Earls and discussed predictive maintenance and its goal of intercepting problems before they occur.

The full article from October 15, 2013 has been posted on the MiningTechnology.com website and can be viewed by clicking here.

 

The most common question we’re asked as a Wenco employee is “what do you do?” And from most of us, you’ll get smile followed by an answer that is related to the job function of she or he who is asked.

You see, this company does a lot more than just fleet management systems (FMS). Yes, FMS is the building block that everything else springs from, but if you ask a developer what they do, you’re likely to get an answer like dispatching services or maintenance, or high-precision shovel applications. If you ask a tester, they’ll gladly tell you their sole purpose is to see if they can break something development made. The hardware folks will tell you about their adventures in remote locations in extreme situations placing the physical elements of Wenco’s system on the equipment. Marketing will tell you about trade shows they’ve attended and the most recent project about to be released.

We all love to talk about what we do for this company, but it rarely answers the asker’s initial question, directly. The simple answer is FMS for surface mines of all sizes. The more complex answer is really another question.

“What can we do to maximize the production, efficiency, and safety of your mine?”

Without going into a full-blown sales pitch, we do so much in a wide scope for a very specific market, and it there’s something you need for your mine that we don’t make, there is a way to get that started, too.

A Fleet Management System (FMS) for a mine site is a suite of specialized software running on ruggedized hardware. Using GPS and a wireless radio network, the FMS tracks and monitors production, maintenance, and safety in your mine.

The graphic below shows how a typical FMS works. At the top we have the control centre, connected to the wireless network and a GPS satellite netowrk. The wireless network sends signals to your equipment, which is fitted with onboard computers. The equipment sends back data including location, payload, ore quality, cost codes, etc. Seems simple, right? Have a look around the site to see some of the other things we offer.

Mining Fleet Management Systems

A recent article in International Mining Magazine titled «Ultra-class Haulers at 16% of global truck payload» points out some of the trending figures regarding the continued growth of the ultra-class size haul truck, even in a depressed mining economy. These 290 ton and larger haul trucks have a lower operating cost per unit and with new technology constantly improving fuel consumption, the operating cost should continue to come down.

While moving to new technology can yield big gains, it’s possible for mines to become focused on the payload numbers without spending enough time analyzing the current efficiency of their operations.

If a mine site is under-performing in terms of their ability to move and process ore with their current equipment, upgrading to larger equipment may only exacerbate existing inefficiencies.  In a mine with fewer, larger trucks, one truck delay equals a larger total percentage of lost time. It’s easy to imagine any number of scenarios where small problems with haul roads, shift scheduling, training, and most notably dispatching will have an even larger effect when there are less trucks with larger loads.

Mine sites who want to improve their overall efficiency and production when purchasing ultra-class equipment are turning to fleet management systems to provide them with the data and control they need to streamline their operations. Fleet management systems are able to track the load, wait, and fueling times of haul trucks while also collecting data on machine health and individual load tonnage. With the cost of an ultra-class haul truck topping four million dollars mines want to see returns on their investment as quickly as possible, and having the ability to analyze all areas of their fleet metrics allow them to make the very best use of the larger capacity trucks.

We all know that bigger trucks can haul more ore, but if a mine with twenty small trucks is having problems with efficiency it only makes sense to solve the problem before they become a mine with ten big trucks and the same issue.