BHP improvises with use of wearable tech during COVID-19

Image: BHP

BHP has used wearable technology to allow its Perth-based teams to assist auto electricians and mechanical fitters on-site from 1300 kilometres away.

The company is using wearable mixed reality devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens to manoeuvre travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

According to BHP manager digital transformation in Western Australian Iron Pore (WAIO) Alex Bertram, the teams could soon start a new travel arrangement termed as remote-in, remote out (RiRo).

With RiRo, teams can provide remote assistance via live point of view video calls to BHP personnel on site.

“Utilising cloud services and a mixed reality headset device, our technicians on the frontline can call for help and technical support when they need it most – during critical breakdowns and when undertaking new or complex tasks,” Bertram said.

This also addressed the insufficiency of a phone call or video conference, and the high cost and time investment involved in flying people to site when unexpected breakdowns and equipment downtime occur.

“RiRo will allow our engineers, IPRO (integrated planning and remote operations) operators and technical experts in Perth, in site offices or wherever they be in the world to see exactly what our people in the field see, in real time,” BHP stated.

“They can then provide step by step guidance directly to the operator wearing the mixed reality headset device, even sending them schematics or technical manuals straight to our technicians.”

BHP manager decision automation in technology, Cristina Perbellini Silva said the technology was being trialled with the rails team at the company’s iron ore car maintenance facility in Mooka, Western Australia.

“During Covid-19, we have been able to move at an amazing velocity because we all have a clear goal and are empowered to make the right decisions – this helped us cut through the bureaucracy and red tape and implement solutions faster than we thought possible,” she said.

According to BHP Minerals Australia vice president of technology, Pat Bourke the company is using standard platforms and hardware that already exist.

He said the RiRo way of working could be a “real game changer”.

“During COVID-19, we’ve needed to think of innovative ways to have minimal amount of people on the group while still maintaining a safe operating workplace.

“Remote work using technology was always an option for us, however COVID-19 has pushed us to really harness innovative technology and we will only continue to improve our productivity as we make it widely available and perfect its use.”