Doing what’s right, not what’s easy

Exploring Schlam’s principle for innovation.

In the mining sector, where staying ahead relies on innovation, Schlam stands out as a pioneer. With a rich 26-year history, this Australian company has firmly established itself as a crucial supply partner for Tier 1 mining firms around the world.

Schlam’s success stems from its unwavering commitment to making mining equipment more productive. Continuous innovation continues to play a key part in the company’s achievements, working closely with customers to develop solutions to address their individual payload challenges.

The Schlam team recently demonstrated this commitment by designing and engineering a variant of the Hercules EXO open-cut dump body to accommodate the autonomous fleet needs of Roy Hill Mining.

Guided by its commitment to service and its values-based principles, Schlam is known for partnering with customers to help them overcome their unique challenges and maximise payload productivity.

Innovation also plays a big part in the company’s success. This is demonstrated by the its Hercules open-cut dump bodies, which Schlam said consistently deliver significant payload savings for miners around the world.

The company continues to research and address new challenges and opportunities presented to the mining industry. The advent of autonomous haulage has seen Schlam work closely with leading miners to ensure Hercules bodies are compatible with these systems.

Innovation born from a challenge

The Hercules open-cut dump body, characterised by its innovative curved shape, has become a sought-after payload solution among leading iron-ore miners in Western Australia and beyond, delivering payload gains above 10 per cent.

The success of Hercules can be credited to astute engineering and a passion to continually improve performance.

“We view our customers as partners, so we work closely to help solve the payload challenges they face,” Schlam sales and business development general manager Ben Baker said.

“They challenge us and in turn we challenge ourselves, ultimately resulting in further improvements in our payload products.”

This philosophy was demonstrated in 2022 when Schlam developed the Hercules EXO open-cut dump body, a product that offers reduced body weight and longer service life.

“Miners traditionally had a choice between a lightweight body that offers a greater payload but doesn’t last as long, or a heavier body which lasts longer to the detriment of payload,” Baker said.

“We were challenged by a major Tier 1 miner to combine both, something that was unheralded.”

This customer collaboration saw the Hercules dump body undergo a comprehensive redesign, targeting weight reduction in all non-wearing areas, utilising thicker and harder grade steel in high-wear areas, and optimising lighter materials for structural components, all without sacrificing structural integrity.

Since its inception, the Hercules EXO open-cut dump body has helped a growing list of Tier 1 miners achieve significant improvements in payload productivity and safety.

Doing what’s right, not what’s easy

Roy Hill Mining took a significant step last year when it replaced the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) bodies of its Cat 793F fleet with Hercules EXO, thereby achieving greater payload efficiency.

As part of Schlam’s design process for site-specific products, the team conducted inspections and identified a challenge unique to the Roy Hill fleet.

While the EXO body was designed for use with mainstream automated haulage systems: Roy Hill’s autonomous system incorporates a large navigation antenna on the side of the cab, clashing with the standard EXO body’s canopy.

The Schlam and Roy Hill teams evaluated a number of potential solutions, including repositioning the existing antenna or reducing the length of the canopy. But both of these approaches were ruled out.

With no other available options, it was deemed necessary to modify the Hercules EXO dump body design. 

“Not many companies would re-engineer a market-leading product just to meet the specific needs of a single customer,” Baker said. “But we do what’s right, not what’s easy.

“In this case, we understood Roy Hill’s challenges and designed a solution to meet their needs.”

This resulted in a design that featured a tapered canopy, providing ample cab coverage, coupled with 400mm clearance between the edge of the canopy and antenna.

As with any significant structural change, the potential to affect the integrity and performance of a product was significant.

Schlam researches and addresses new challenges and opportunities in the mining industry.
Image: Schlam

The initial design change underwent rigorous in-house testing to ensure that payload performance, structural integrity and safety were not compromised. The testing focused on finite element analysis to identify how the design variant would perform on the Roy Hill mine site, with specific emphasis placed on vibration, material flow and other physical effects.

After several modifications, a final design was formalised.

A preliminary prototype design of the EXO body underwent production at Schlam’s primary manufacturing facility in Perth. The trial version of the EXO body was outfitted with cameras, strain gauges and accelerometers, generating more than 80 data channels.

The collected data played a crucial role in assessing the performance of the new body, particularly its impact on high-stress regions. The objective was to verify that the product not only fulfilled payload commitments but also adhered to safety standards and met anticipated service life requirements.

Schlam produced the initial variant product in Perth before it was delivered to Roy Hill’s site in the Pilbara for field testing.

The new Hercules EXO was installed on a Cat 793F dump truck fitted with an autonomous haulage kit. The truck was then rigorously tested on Roy Hill’s dedicated autonomous operating zone, interacting safely with excavators and numerous ancillary vehicles at intersections, waste dumps and load areas.

The trial EXO body was equipped with stress gauges and cameras to measure flex and stresses, ensuring that the product not only delivered payload advantages but also met safety, longevity and service life expectations. And Schlam was able to conduct this entire process at no cost to the customer.

“In this stage of the mining cycle, it’s unusual for suppliers to commit to engineering products to meet our specific needs. That’s where Schlam surprised us,” a Roy Hill representative said.

“Where other suppliers would have adopted a ‘not our problem’ attitude, Schlam worked with us to develop a product variant to meet our unique needs.

“The team at Schlam engaged with us through the whole process, from site inspections to product concepts through to testing, all at no cost to us.”

The field tests proved successful, and the first variant Hercules EXO body has since entered operation.

Roy Hill is now able to enjoy the benefits offered by the Hercules EXO without compromising on its significant investment in autonomous haulage. The company is fulfilling its initial objective of increasing its payload performance by replacing the dump bodies on its fleet of 54 Cat 793F trucks with Hercules EXO bodies.

Schlam’s journey from a regional player to a global innovator is testament to its dedication to excellence and client satisfaction. The company’s understanding of the need to adapt, innovate and tailor solutions to individual mine sites has set a standard in the mining equipment industry.

The successful redesign of the Hercules EXO dump body for Roy Hill exemplifies Schlam’s commitment to providing cutting-edge customised solutions that elevate the productivity and safety standards of the mining sector. 

This feature appeared in the April 2024 issue of Australian Mining.

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