Caterpillar Team Faces Ice Road to Deliver First 994K to Mine Site Near Arctic Circle
Carlos Duarte was far away from home. Over a two-week period in March, he traveled more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) across North America – but such is the life of a Caterpillar product service analyst. His last stop, the Ekati Diamond Mine in Northern Canada, is located just 200 kilometers (124 miles) shy of the Arctic Circle. Dominion Diamond is the world’s third-largest producer of rough diamonds by value, and the Ekati mine is Canada’s first diamond mine.
Although temperatures were dipping into 40 C (40 F) degrees below zero, Carlos was anything but numb. His team did what some thought impossible by producing and delivering the first production Cat® 994K Wheel Loader to Dominion Diamond’s Ekati mine. And now he was on-site to help finish assembly.
When the order for the first 994K came through, it was all hands on deck as cross-functional teams collaborated to ensure the first production unit could be fabricated, assembled and delivered to the customer before over-the-road delivery became impossible. The product group teamed up with operations to ensure everything was running smoothly throughout the process and that the shipment was on track to hit the order promise date.
You see, the only feasible way to transport this monster of a machine was over an ice road. And missing the ship date was not an option.
“The single ice road leading to the Ekati site is only open for 2-3 weeks of the year for shipments of this size, so we were determined to get the 994K to the customer in time,” says Carlos. “If the deadline was missed, the customer would have to wait until the next winter for the product to get over the ice road safely.”
Another challenge the team faced was the weight of the machine itself. In regular circumstances, the machine would have to be shipped on several trucks, but given the unseasonably warm temperatures during the time of the shipment, delivering the machine in 12 shipments was even more vital.
Once the machine was safe at the customer’s site, the fun really began. Carlos worked with four mechanics from Cat dealer Finning Canada to construct this 18 meter (60 foot) long beast. Carlos really enjoyed the customers’ regular visits to the 994K build site, and their excitement about having this new Cat loader on site. “Dominion Diamond was excited to see such a big machine and couldn’t wait to put it to work.”
But with such a big machine comes big expectations.
“IF THE DEADLINE WAS MISSED, THE CUSTOMER WOULD HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT WINTER FOR THE PRODUCT TO GET OVER THE ICE ROAD SAFELY.”
“(Customers) like Cat equipment because it’s a good product and they get the support they need,” says Carlos. “They purchased it to use as their main loading tool and expectations were high that it wouldn’t break down.”
At the end of the day, the first production 994K was delivered and fully assembled in six weeks. The temperature at the mine site may have been cold and harsh, but the end result was anything but.
“There were many moving puzzle pieces, but at the end of the day they all fit together,” explains Carlos. “It was awesome to work with Finning to serve the customer. It was incredible to witness the collaboration at the Aurora facility to make sure the product was shipped on time and with great quality. It was a great partnership all around.”