RCT’s Automation Journey
“What benefit can Automation technology deliver for us?” That is the type of question being posed in boardrooms and among senior management in mining companies these days. There is a strong focus on identifying productivity constraints and inefficiency and finding ways to overcome them, which is where RCT differs in the market. RCT’s Automation technology is built to be scalable and agnostic to any machine make or model that you may find on a mine site anywhere and based on the data and feedback from customers our technology provides them the quickest benefit.
RCT’s automation journey started many decades ago at a time when serious injury and even fatalities occurred regularly throughout the mining industry. During the 1980’s the company’s founder Bob Muirhead worked with the CSIRO to pioneer remote control technology for the Australian mining industry as a way to protect mine workers from very hazardous situations. Over the years the company has seen many major milestones including being the first company to install its ControlMaster® Line-of-Sight solution on a bulldozer for a mining company in 1988 and the first company to deliver an off-the-shelf Teleremote solution. The technological packages were in keeping with Bob’s ethos that if an activity is inherently unsafe it should be remote controlled and if it is repetitive then the activity should be automated. The health and safety benefit to having workers removed from the hazardous mining areas is extremely significant. Furthermore a lot of processes in an underground load/haul/dump sequence are repeatable so being able to automate such a cycle offers many benefits such as increased and consistent tramming speeds, reduced machine damage & component wear, resulting in less unplanned machine downtime and maximising operational productivity. Many years of work in this space culminated in the commercial release of ControlMaster® Guidance Automation solution in Perth, Western Australia in 2009. It was the first Australian-designed and built automated system delivered to the domestic market and had a significant impact on mine design to support and maximise the benefits the technology offered and drive further productivity efficiencies including surface operation during shift change and mine re-entries.
At present Guidance Automation is proving to be the product that best meets the demand of mining industry executives who are interested in how they can get the most value out of their fleet & personnel by leveraging technology. Based on all of our data and all the customer feedback Guidance Automation is able to alleviate production bottlenecks and provide a quick ROI, which is in some cases in a matter of weeks. More recent product developments include Guidance Expand or Multiple Machine Control (MMC) enabling a single operator to control multiple machines, including mixed machine types at the same time from one operator station. A major key to RCT’s success has been our ability to provide an agnostic solution and deliver meaningful technology suitable for today’s mining operations but with roadmaps that will take them to the next horizon. This means our clients have the freedom and flexibility to choose mining equipment from a diverse range of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to suit their mining operational needs, safe in the knowledge that RCT’s industry leading solutions will interface to provide operational excellence. Our RCT Bridge solution highlights RCT’s reputation as an innovative and adaptable technology manufacturer, allowing clients to utilise their existing Teleremote communication (analogue) infrastructure to provide a cost effective pathway to mine digitisation. We have a solid 47-year history of delivering technology solutions keeping front-of-mind the client’s need to continue production. Our technology is designed to be easy to install, maintain and operate in a variety of challenging environmental conditions and geographical locations.
Over nearly half a century RCT has worked with 90% of the Australian market and has made significant investments in international markets with branches in Utah, USA and Sudbury, Canada. We have also worked for mining companies & contractors in 68 different countries installing various different automation products including Line-of-Site, Teleremote and Guidance Automation as well as delivering large-scale complex customised automation and integrated solutions. In 2019 RCT is solidifying its presence in South America by opening a branch in Santiago, Chile which will better enable our regional staff to support customers. We are also planning to open an office in Russia to better support clients in the region and bolster our existing support team throughout Africa. These offices will underpin our strategy to have greater on-ground support for all clients.
Our in-house engineers are currently testing RCT’s surface autonomous solutions as part of the company’s long-term development strategy. While the company has always been active in surface applications for individual pieces of mine equipment through remotes and teleremote options we are committed to developing our fully autonomous technology options for fleets of surface equipment utilising technology which has a proven record in the underground mining environment.
RCT is committed to developing its autonomous technology for application on all mobile equipment from heavy mobile production equipment to ancillary type fleet equipment. This will ensure interoperability and allow autonomous mobile equipment to seamlessly integrate to all mine operational platforms including dispatch, management systems and fully autonomous traffic management. RCT is a leader in machine control and automation and will continue to innovate to deliver bottom line profit to all customers.
Brett White is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of RCT