Pioneering the future of fleet management

With the rise of production costs in mining reaching almost 30 per cent over the past few years, the translation of constantly changing fleet data into understandable information in real time is essential for efficiency and productivity.

Fleet management provides vehicle tracking, diagnostics, and the assessment of driver behaviour to ensure the effective running of operations. It also decreases overall production costs by lowering downtime through scheduled maintenance, and preventing the wastage of fuel by enforcing fuel management, as well as identifying discrepancy problems of specific trucks and the workers responsible.

The use of next level technology in the areas of safety, maintenance, and productivity is expected to rise in this area, with a survey by Timetric Mining Intelligence indicating that 85 per cent of respondents have invested in fleet management technology as well as predictive maintenance.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands into the mining industry, efficiency has increased, enabling all equipment data and tracking information gathered to provide predictive (or preventative) measures for maintenance. The collation of these immense resources of information – referred to as Big Data – means traditional database management systems (often just excel spreadsheets) are unable to compete. These require more innovative systems for fleet management; this has seen companies such as Rio Tinto open a ‘Big Data’ Analytics Excellence Centre in 2015 to predict and prevent equipment failures, lower maintenance costs, and heighten productivity.

In an effort to improve fleet productivity, decrease operational costs, and reduce administration time for data capturing and management, Whitehaven Coal implemented the MiPlan MiFleet solution at one of their Gunnedah Basin operations in north west New South Wales.

MiFleet, one of MiPlan’s range of apps for monitoring fleet management, uses tablets to gather performance and productivity data of truck fleets. The apps are part of the MiApps suite, which includes MiDrill, MiBlast, MiDig, MiFleet and MiTime, that collectively offer monitoring of an operation’s excavation, material logistics, drilling and blasting, human resources, and maintenance.

am may 16 truck miplan2MiFleet features time allocation capabilities which track the state and activity of equipment during each shift in order to calculate utilisation and availability KPIs. Vertical and horizontal distances are able to be measured in real time dollars per kilometre, enabling planning and tracking of any variations. Truck activity is improved by the system’s complete cycle time, which can track their load and haul cycle times. The system features a GPS map to determine the current location, status and activity of a fleet in one view. It also enables offline capability for as long as necessary, automatically syncing all data collected once it comes within range of an internet connection.

The system was trialled in October 2015 at Whitehaven’s Tarrawonga mine in Boggabri, approximately 30km west of Gunnedah.

After two months of successful operation alongside their normal paper management approach, the system was ready to ‘go live’. It began with the installation of a single tablet for the workers to understand how it worked.

Over the following two weeks, they purchased Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablets – their tablet of choice – and installed brackets into all their fleets. Engineers, supervisors, and operators were provided with onsite training on how to use the system, after which a trial run parallel to their normal paper system. At the end of each month, MiPlan went back onsite to assist with the increased data streams and aid better data reporting and management processes.

Tarrawonga mine manager Anthony Margetts said, “After conducting a proof of concept of MiPlan’s MiFleet, we decided the application was a good match. It was simple and readily accepted by all.”

“MiPlan was onsite to engage with equipment operators and helped us through the transition to a paperless system. The use of conventional consumer products like Samsung tablets represents a low cost technology solution for managing the equipment fleet.”

Since implementing the system, Whitehaven reaped several benefits such as achieving more production and performance data, enabling them to analyse and action that data in almost real time. This also allowed faster communication about production decisions with operators.

The trial discovered significant discrepancies between the paper-based and real time data, highlighting another advantage of the app. Additionally, it limited lengthy data entry processes, saving time and costs incurred when supervisors and site clerks are required to manually process paperwork. This led to the saving of paper, printing, and administration time and costs.

The system allowed for the consolidation of the operation’s wider production data into a single source, improving the flexibility of reporting.

Supervisors found that they were able to make in-field decisions on the way their fleet is used with the system’s real time data feeds.

After the first year, return on investment is expected due in a large part to the low product purchase and implementation costs.

This is the first collaboration between Whitehaven and MiPlan, with Tarrawonga now looking to implement the MiDrill and MiBlast (MiD&B) applications offered. This will ensure their whole operation is managed in real time and render their operation paperless.