While many companies continue to struggle during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Nordic Minesteel Technologies’ subsidiary Specialized Maintenance Equipment (SME), has used this time to boost its service and maintenance solutions using remote access.
With borders closed during the global COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult for companies with international customers to complete the training and maintenance assistance that comes with providing a product.
While some industries have shutdown completely, and endured lockdowns with its employees working from home, the mining and resources sector continued to operate.
The combination of remote operations with its importance to the world’s economy meant that regular production continued, which caused challenges for some suppliers of specialised equipment.
Specialized Maintenance Equipment (SME), a subsidiary of Nordic Minesteel Technologies, instead used this time as an opportunity to improve its customer service with the development of supporting software upgrades and diagnostics through remote access.
SME is the producer of a remote-operated, battery-powered truck jacking system called the Titan220e that can lift and secure the complete front or rear axle of the world’s largest haul trucks.
Titan220e incorporates an all-in-one truck jack, safety stand and work platform that can be used for a wide range of haul trucks.
Nordic Minesteel Technologies business development specialist Heather Johnston says the company has also been adapting to the pandemic by developing an extensive digital library of operator training videos which can help customers understand the equipment anywhere around the world.
“It has been a wonderful tool for us,” Johnston says. “We have been able to remote dial-in to machines in Chile, Peru and Brazil, which gives us the ability to understand and investigate any problems with the machine.”
In order to alleviate some of the operator errors, the company has created a digital library of training videos and made them accessible to customers and distributors.
“Because we can’t physically be there to do the training we would traditionally do, it has been a great tool and, moving forward, it will also be able to save both time and money for customers,” Johnston explains.
“Even when the world opens up again post-COVID, we can do our training and commissioning straight from our head office in North Bay, Canada, especially if there is a rapid solution required which exceeds travel time needed to get to the sites.”
The training videos have also proven helpful due to the high levels of staff turnover in the mining sector, as new employees are able to conduct the training without the need to send an instructor to site.
The Titan220e has been specifically designed with safety in mind. The jack’s use of battery power provides greater worker health and environmental benefits to a mine operation, as it can be used in workshops without emitting fumes like diesel-powered equipment.
It also allows employees to work in an environment with noise levels far below the harmful decibel level as that of a diesel jack, protecting employees’ hearing.
The remote-control capabilities of the Titan220e mean workers are removed from the line of fire and protected from the high risks of getting sprains, strains or pinched from using traditional jacks and safety stands.
It is also equipped with mechanical locking arms so technicians can visually confirm that the Titan220e is locked in place and the truck is supported, instead of relying on clumsy internal locking features.
In 2017, two diesel prototypes were developed and sent to be tested at mine sites in the high-altitude mountains of Latin America, where they are still operating today.
Johnston says there were some valuable lessons learned from the original machines, which led to the design of the current Titan220e.
“Our customers wanted a cleaner solution so they could operate the machines in their shops, which they couldn’t do with the diesel model, but they could with a battery,” she says.
“There are also the operating costs to consider as there are more moving parts in a diesel-operated machine compared to using a battery. We use dry cell batteries which are maintenance free, you can get around 12 lifts per charge.
“We do recommend that customers give the machine one full charge per week, but you can also do opportunity charging as needed while it is supporting the truck and you are using it to change tyres.
“We also made the battery model smaller, so it is compatible with most 250 to 400 ton ultra class haul trucks” Johnston adds.
The company was able to take the Titan220e to the Komatsu proofing grounds in Tucson, Arizona and tested it on all the haul trucks Komatsu had at the facility.
“We can lift as low as the 830 Komatsu truck and up all the way to the 980,” Johnston says.
“Trucks are all a little different so it was important to be able to create a product that would fit between the rear tyres as well as under the front bumper. In order to fit a greater variety of trucks we have developed a variety of adaptors which can be switched out to accommodate mixed fleets.
“The development of a distribution network has supported our “boots on the ground” sales and service in countries that we can’t travel to due to the pandemic. We have already established distributors in Peru, Chile and Australia, with more in various stages of development.”
Johnston explains that the companies have already received positive feedback from mine sites and contractors interested in the benefits of the Titan220e.
“A lot of our customers are excited to receive a battery powered, remote-operated solution with safety you can see that lets them keep up with maintenance demands of larger haul trucks,” she says.
One of the key design elements of the Titan220e is that anyone can operate the machine.
“While the internal mechanics of the Titan220e could be considered complicated, the operational side of the machine is very straight forward,” Johnson explains.
“It also promotes equal opportunity because no matter your size, age or physical ability, you can use the remote control to operate the system and perform your job.”
The team that developed the Titan220e have been in the mining industry, both underground and open pit, for more than 30 years. Their whole career has been built on finding solutions to the mining industry with a focus on safety and time saving.
Johnston refers to the design team as “challenge junkies”, which means if a customer has problem, the team will want to fix it, keeping safety in mind.
“We understand the importance of keeping the workforce safe which is a key part of the Titan220e’s design,” she says.
This article also appears in the January/February edition of Safe To Work.