By Neville Judd, Communications Director
Every year at Hexagon’s annual user conference, HxGN LIVE, customer presentations are given top billing on the schedule. The same is true of HxGN LOCAL Mining 2017, our two-day, global seminar series, which comes to Tucson, Arizona, Sept. 11-13. Customers are our greatest innovators, often finding uses for existing solutions that we had not thought of, or recognizing the need for a product based on painstaking introspection.
Take AngloAmerican Kumba Iron Ore, for instance. At HxGN LIVE 2017, we nominated AngloAmerican Kumba Iron Ore as a Shaping Smart Change honoree. Nominees are celebrated for using Hexagon technology to push the boundaries of innovation.
The company had contacted Hexagon Mining after conducting an extensive risk assessment of its operation to understand major risks at its Sishen mine in South Africa.
“We’ve done a lot of work to identify where our risks are,” said AngloAmerican’s Mzwandile Buthelezi. “We needed to comply with regulations in South Africa by June 2019. Vehicle intervention systems must be in place to ensure we have a safe operation.”
Vehicle Intervention System a world first
Together with AngloAmerican, Hexagon Mining defined a step-by-step approach to develop a solution. Buthelezi and Hexagon Mining Product Manager, Fabien Kritter were instrumental to the eventual launch of HxGN Mine VIS, the world’s first vehicle intervention system for mining that detects and prevents collisions by automatically slowing down or even stopping a haul truck if an imminent collision is detected.
“It was a journey,” said Kritter. “It’s very valuable as a product manager to have the feedback from the customer, to know and to work with them. Anglo has done a fantastic job of looking at ‘where do I have a problem?’ It identifies a problem in the operation. … which technology you can apply to solve this problem. There was a lot of interaction and to get direct customer feedback has helped a lot to develop this product.”
Mine VIS is now being installed in Sishen mine where the product is expected to improve more than just safety.
“It’s been a very fruitful relationship,” said Buthelezi. “We’re continuing on this path with Hexagon Mining to ensure we have safer operations. But there’s a production aspect to it. If you look at our environment, wherever you have a decline, we’ve got stop signs to make sure vehicles actually stop at every stop sign and not run out of control.
“But with systems that we’re planning on developing and deploying, that can be a smooth process, we can remove some of these stop signs therefore improving productivity. Although safety is top of mind, production is something we also value.”
Partnership a model for product development
Looking ahead, Kritter is convinced that Mine VIS is a model for future product development.
“I think this is how you can successfully develop products,” he said. “It’s not being in the office between four walls that you will develop a successful product, it’s really with interacting with the customer.”
Buthelezi agreed. “It’s been a very interesting journey,” he said. “We had the ability to exchange ideas. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t but that’s part of the process. But one thing I must say I appreciate with the work that I’ve been doing with Hexagon Mining, is the fact they are flexible to some of the requirements that come because we’ll be on one journey path and then from what we’ve seen, what we learn during the journey, we change the end goal, the end state, but we’re able to maneuver to accommodate some of those requirements.
“Some other suppliers would have said, ‘this is what you wanted, this is what we’re going to give you, and nothing else’. So, there’s been a good relationship in terms of making sure we get to a product that we’re all happy with.”
Mzwandile Buthelezi and Fabien Kritter discuss Mine VIS on video.