Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying

Senior Komatsu engineer Richard Clement, deputy general manager of Smart Construction, discusses how the mining and quarrying industry must embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to drive efficiency and sustainability, outlining how the sector can look to improve productivity in the coming years by adopting technological advancements and maximising the potential that digital processes bring to quarrying.
Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying

The mining and quarrying industry must embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to drive efficiency and sustainability

Richard Clement

The quarrying industry plays a crucial role in the global economy, providing important raw materials for various industries, including construction, manufacturing, and power generation. Developing technologies and software solutions ensures that quarrying operations are safer, more sustainable, and profitable.

The wider construction industry has historically been one of the slowest-growing industries. However, a technological explosion will speed up this rate of change globally.

Smart Construction is a digital transformation strategy created by Komatsu together with Sony Semiconductors, NTT Communication and Nomura Research Institute under the entity EARTHBRAIN Ltd.

Smart Construction experts utilise digital tools to assist clients in the earthmoving and quarry industries by finding the optimum way of using resources like machines, materials and people for enhanced productivity, quicker project completion, cost savings, improved safety, and reduced CO2 emissions. 

Allow and embrace change 

As the UK moves towards digital transformation, the quarrying industry must tackle one of its biggest challenges: introducing and implementing digital technology. There is a huge opportunity here for us to revisit how we think about the quarry site, as with improved digitisation comes more efficient processes and the ability to make decisions with precise information derived from actual data. This increases productivity for the team on the ground and has a huge impact on the way we work as an industry. 

The bottom line 

Many digital solutions can be implemented into current quarrying practices to optimise every stage of the process, from earthworks to transportation of materials and more. We are already seeing the introduction of digital technologies across the industry, but we need to encourage their optimisation and our ability to reach the potential these changes instil. This, in turn, will enable us as an industry to reap the subsequent benefits. 

Increasing productivity 

Because of current delays in information creation and monitoring, time is often wasted at the job site while decisions are processed and relayed. Utilising technology will increase the speed and accuracy in which information is relayed from the site to the office and the response, aiding informed decision-making and negating the need for excessive commuting and communication. 

Consume less fuel 

In 2022, diesel and gas oil inventories had fallen to 1.57 million tonnes by the end of February, down from 2.23 million for the same period the year before. The rebated fuel ban in April 2022 saw the ban of red diesel across plant hire companies and construction sites, creating a multitude of complications for plant and construction workers.

 sing drones to survey sites is one example of how new technologies are increasing efficiency within the sector Using drones to survey sites is one example of how new technologies are increasing efficiency within the sector

 

With the cost of fuel still a huge challenge, contractors face a renewed obstacle to cost saving. Fuel economy is an essential component of an efficient operation. By streamlining payloads and utilising technology to make optimal recommendations for efficiency, we can ensure less fuel is consumed by machinery as well as reducing mileage on site visits.

Not only this but there is plenty of scope within quarrying to reduce emissions as a natural partner to consuming less fuel. Multiple efforts are required to address the main sources of emissions, including better resource definition and extraction planning, operational efficiency improvement, new drivetrain technology and a switch to green electricity. 

Recruitment and upskilling 

By improving digital capacity and ability, the quarry sector will attract more talent and retain skilled members of the workforce. This perspective shift to the focus on digital is an obstacle in itself as the industry faces a faster-ageing workforce than many other sectors. Currently, nearly 50% of skilled engineers are reaching retirement age in the next decade.

Got a story? Email: duncan.moore@aspermont.com

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