Sure, seems like a strange question. Technology doesn’t come in colors. More commonly, colors can even be changed in a second, say when the blue banner at the top of your software doesn’t meet your fancy, let’s try chartreuse instead. So why is this question important in mining?
Over the last decade or so, OEM heavy equipment manufacturers have increasingly attempted to become technology vendors. Or at least, so it appears on the surface. So, is your tech yellow? yellow? orange? tan? Really a strange question, but let’s unpack a bit more.
Why did the OEM mechanical engineering houses decide to become software developers? Short answer, they didn’t. Their core competencies are still very much focused where they’ve always been – on improving the reliability of the heavy equipment they produce. This should be expected. As a mining professional, the requirements you have for your equipment are quite essential; uptime, availability, parts supply, local service and support. Increasingly, those variables are taken into some form of ROI calculation or total cost of ownership equation to determine the best colour iron for your mine: Yellow, yellow, orange, tan, green, etc.
So why did OEMs shift their focus to technology? The reality is the mining equipment market has become increasingly competitive. When Ralph Kress designed the first haul trucks, the competitive landscape was sparse and regionalized. Dresser (now Komatsu), Euclid (now Hitachi), and Caterpillar made up essentially the entire market, minus a few small players. Now the market is large, with Caterpillar, Komatsu, Hitachi, Liebherr, BelAZ, Terex-Volvo, Sany, DAC, XCMG and others all supplying the market. As competition intensifies, adding technology is not only a differentiator – it can provide the OEMs with switching barriers coupling the technology with the equipment.
Switching barriers help the OEMs maintain market share in this now highly competitive market. This is because mines work as ecospheres of disparate equipment and processes that must work together. Examples of this ecosphere are why face shovel payloads match to a haul truck capacity to minimize loading passes; or why the capacity of the system is balanced, from dig blocks, to shovels, to trucks, to crushing and conveying facilities via products like Hexagon’s MinePlan Activity Scheduler.
Third-party technology helps break those switching barriers. They can combine disparate telematics into a common database and analysis tool. They can optimize truck assignments across disparate-sized fleets. They can even allow for mixed fleet autonomy. While standards like ISO are making this job easier, it is the third-party technology firms that are bringing this value to customers in line with, or frequently before those standards are developed.
This is why I’m proud to embark on my next journey. Working with my colleague, Autonomous Portfolio Manager, Fabien Kritter, to bring to market the next generation of autonomy for mining. We look forward to continuing the work we’ve done with OEMs and with mines, enabling third-party technology like Hexagon’s award-winning Vehicle Intervention System and our autonomous vehicle solutions. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to working with you, in your mine soon, as we deliver these game-changing technologies.
No matter your color preference.
Vice President – Autonomous
Hexagon’s Mining Division