Friday, 15 November 2019
Precious Cargo: Vehicle Communications
Austmine Limited

Precious Cargo: Vehicle Communications

Whether you move passengers, minerals, or patients, success means getting your payload to where it needs to be, in a safe and timely manner.  Whatever hurdles stand in your way, reliable voice and data communications can help ensure the journey is secure and efficient.  Bruce Magee, General Manager for Mining at Tait offers some insight.

Industries with a heavy reliance on vehicles, like mining and transport, share a number of similarities.   Firstly, operational structure is often similar with large distances needing to be covered within strict deadlines, the scale of stakeholders is very large, and operations often run around the clock.  Also, in both mining and transport, trains, trucks, planes, and ships are used to move precious cargo.  Although there are significant differences between people and minerals, the need to deliver them all safely is universal.

Speed and Reliability of Radio Roll-Out

With more than 6 million passenger journeys made on London’s bus network every day, Transport for London’s services are mission critical.  However, they needed to upgrade the Buses’ communications systems, and Tait was chosen to design, install, and support a new digital mobile radio system.  To keep the city working, it was imperative that their transition to DMR was smooth, and didn’t slow or interrupt their service.  Over the last eight months, Tait has installed 10,000 radios into the buses of London with a seamless transition from analog to digital.  TfL has commented on the technical offering from Tait that enabled a speedy roll-out and explained that it was this understanding of the way they work and their needs and constraints is what helped Tait secure the bid.

The same can be said for mining.  Bengalla mine, like majority of mines, operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Blasting is an important part of Bengalla’s operation and the mine required the capability to notify everyone on their radio network of any blasting activities.  It was therefore crucial to seamlessly transition to a new radio system to ensure operations were not interrupted and that workers were kept safe.

In both industries there is a lot of pressure to keep communications active and running, and in both industries there are a lot of stakeholders involved.  Contractors often own the vehicles, but the mining company owns the radios.  It is therefore the company’s responsibility to ensure the contractors have work.  Similarly, assets such as mining trucks, drills, buses, and trains are all very expensive.  A company loses a lot of money for every minute that asset is not being used.  As Bruce Magee, General Manager for Mining at Tait said ‘You don’t want a thousand dollar radio shutting down a ten-million dollar machine.’

Health and Safety

Health and safety is a huge priority in both the mining and transport industries.  In mining, the environment is typically remote, dangerous and workers operate heavy machinery.  In transport, accidents are always a possibility, and injuries involving public transport are all too common.  Long periods of intense concentration and a system run on time targets inevitably have consequences for safety.

A solution that can be used for both industries is data communication through a DMR network.  A report published by the London Assembly Transport Committee found that the most common cause of injury on London public buses is “slips, trips or falls” caused by sharp braking and other poor driving practices.  The passenger survey they undertook reflects this – 55 per cent of respondents said they had experienced sharp braking on their bus in the last month.  Nearly as many had experienced acceleration that they considered to be too sharp.

Over the last two years, 25 people have been killed by buses in London, and a further 12,000 injured.  Transport for London is going to improve the data it uses for bus safety analysis and trend reporting.  Radio technology is already used for dispatch timing and data, and keeping track of operations, and now Intelligent Speed Adaptation and Automatic Electronic Braking are going to be implemented to monitor driving.

This kind of technology is already being used by mining organizations.  Data comes through a vehicle’s radio system that indicates break usage, speed, and gear shifts.  Vehicle operators all get ranked on this data, and get trained/retrained in a simulator if needed.  Kinross Fort Knox Mine trucks found that through this data and consequent operator training they were able to save 6% fuel.  A mine in Indonesia reduced its fuel consumption by 6.9%, saving around $500,000USD annually.  If you think of this data being used for public transport, there is obviously a huge financial advantage as well as a safety advantage to this technology.

Change Management

Synergies between transport and mining industries aren’t limited to communications, people and situations can also draw a lot of parallels.  These industries have similar operations, and therefore similar concerns.  As with any large-scale project, change management is key to ensuring smooth sailing through a transition period.  It is a well-known fact that people don’t like change, and when you are responsible for operating heavy and dangerous machinery, it is easy to understand hesitations to change.  Perceptions of a new solution are therefore paramount because as Bruce Magee, General Manager for Mining at Tait simply put, ‘That first opinion is bloody hard to change.’  It is crucial for both mining and transport industries to identify and manage anxieties before change, and ensure correct training and education accompanies the change.

Support and services can encourage perceptions of change and embracing new technology.  Queensland Rail chose a Tait DMR system for Australia’s largest rail network.  Brett Smyth, General Manager for Tait Asia-Pacific at the time explained –

‘The emphasis on a comprehensive implementation and support plan, incorporating deployment, risk management, change management, and project management were all key factors in securing the contract with Tait. – This isn’t just a technology project, it’s a people project.  So we place just as much importance on supporting the employees who use the system as we do on the hardware, software and applications that create the system.’

Similarly, Oman Polypropylene in Sohar, Oman, sought training for their maintenance engineers to ensure that they were fully equipped to respond immediately to any reprogramming requirements.  Tait provided training sessions to employees at OPP and also assisted with defining the numbering scheme and working groups to suit OPP’s requirements.

Durability

Miners typically work in 12 hour shifts, in very tough conditions.  Battery life of their radios is therefore very important, along with environmental durability.  Tait has supplied a communications system to a tropical gold mine in Papua New Guinea.  The mine is subject to extreme levels of heat, moisture, and dust as it is situated in the caldera of an extinct volcano that is geothermally active.  The site also receives over three and a half meters of rain a year.  In these harsh conditions the miners needed robust and reliableradio equipment and a communications system that would seamlessly link workers across the mine.   Tait products have been built for these environments and have proved completely reliable through lightning strikes, storms, and power outages.

Although transport does not have these same intense conditions, a reliable and durable network is needed for the mission critical nature of operations.  Transport for London has said this is a big reason why they chose to work with Tait out of their 17 original options – a low failure rate saves time, money, and sometimes even lives.  The radios that now sit in the London buses are the same radios that we deploy in mines.  When talking with Bruce Magee, he explained that ‘Rugged comes first.  If a radio works in a mine, it will undoubtedly work for transport in terms of the environment.’

Solutions

When it comes to critical communications, we at Tait find that solutions for transport are also relevant for mining.  DMR Tier 3 for example, is a scalable network that offers many benefits to users.  Open standards, supreme audio quality, and data transmission are just some of the reasons why transport organizations upgrade to DMR.   Transport for London is a big and recent example of where DMR was employed to manage the increasing number of voice calls that came with an expansion of their bus network, as well as to provide data communications and improved coverage.  Tait DMR Tier 3 was chosen because the end-to-end digital nature of DMR enables data applications as well as voice, with incredibly efficient use of radio spectrum.

Tait Unified Vehicle provides a vehicle area network that combines mobile radio and broadband connectivity with an on-board edge computing and application platform. Learn more about this advanced mobile communications solution here.

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