30 Year Anniversary Dinner Panellist Q&A: Bob Muirhead, Executive Director & Founder, RCT
To commemorate our 30 year anniversary of championing the Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector, Austmine is hosting an anniversary dinner on Thursday, 21 November in Perth. On the night we will host a special panel discussion on industry highlights and major breakthroughs with senior advocates and mining innovation leaders, including Bob Muirhead, Executive Director & Founder, RCT.
Austmine caught up with Bob to glean some of his insights in advance of the big night.
Your personal journey in the mining industry dates back prior to RCT, what are some brief fundamental differences between the industry then and now?
I entered the industry having completed an electrical apprenticeship on the Golden Mile in the mid-1960’s. At that time, all ore was trucked using battery powered locomotive’s and serious accidents were prevalent with approximately four fatalities a year. Serious accidents were just accepted as a ‘side effect’ of the industry but it wasn’t my vision for the future.
Thankfully, the industry has come a long way since then and safety is foremost across all mining activities now.
Austmine’s Mining Leaders Panel will look at how innovative technologies have disrupted mining over the past 30 years, and RCT have certainly been a big part of this journey. What are some of your personal highlights?
RCT started in Kalgoorlie in 1972, when no mines were operating on the Golden Mile. To some this may seem risky or adventurous, but the discovery of nickel at Kambalda created immense opportunity, so it proved to be a great decision.
One of my highlights would have to be when RCT was chosen to be on the founding committee as industry specialists to write the Australian Standards ASNZS4240-1994 for remote control mining equipment.
Otherwise I think there are just so many accomplishments along the way that I’m proud of, such as how RCT was one of the first companies to implement Teleremote into mainstream underground mining by the mid-1990’s. I am also proud of the way we heavily influenced mine design to accommodate Teleremote control from a safe work area, or when we released our ControlMaster® Guidance Automation solution in 2007. RCT was the first to get an Australian-designed and built automated system onto the domestic market.
More recently we have really developed in our automation journey and in 2015 we released a fully autonomous tram and in 2017 RCT delivered the G-Dash feature to further empower operators with real-time information to make smarter decisions. It’s great to see just how far we’ve come and RCT has never lost that innovative spirit as we keep advancing technology in the METS sector.
RCT has always maintained the vision of creating smart technology with safety as a strong focus. How has striving for safety improvements impacted your innovation journey?
The mining industry is incredibly ripe for innovation. I believe this is due to its unpredictable operational diversity, which I think is especially prevalent in underground mining. It’s incredible to see how far the industry has progressed, over the past 47 years RCT has developed a large suite of technology in the areas of automation and control, fleet management and protection products.
All our products have been, and continue to be, developed with the aim of safeguarding people. Safety and productivity are the main focus areas for RCT. It is incredibly important to us that we help safeguard those working in potentially hazardous situations at the mine face.
In order to ensure our new technologies, ideas and concepts are properly tested, we established a Proof of Concepts Works (PoC Works) team. PoC Works are independent from RCT’s development team and allow the company to test ideas before feeding them back into the engineering process. By focusing on improving safety we also are placing an emphasis on innovation, collaboration and creation.
At Austmine 2017, you took home the Champion of Innovation Award. What does this achievement mean to you and what words of advice do you have for inspiring innovators?
Although it was wonderful to achieve and receive recognition, the driver for me is to remain relevant to our customers, the RCT team and all our stakeholders.
I’d advise up and coming innovators to think about their end users and who they can collaborate and work alongside.
Ultimately to be innovative you need to have vision and persistence. Those are the key ingredients to get where I am today.
To hear Bob Muirhead’s insights and reflections, make sure you book your ticket to our 30 year anniversary dinner. For more information, please visit our website.