Truck Simulator
Truck Simulator

NEW SIMULATOR PARTNERSHIP PROVIDES A COMPREHENSIVE TRAINING SOLUTION

By Caterpillar | Posted July 11, 2022

Heavy equipment operators have a direct impact on the profitability and safety of mining operations. Mining companies know that the better their skills, the more positive their impact. But dedicating the time, money and equipment necessary to refine those skills can be a deterrent.

Using equipment simulators to train operators can help address those challenges. Simulators provide a way for new operators to gain familiarization and understanding of machine controls and learn proper operating procedures before training on actual machines. They also help experienced operators refine skills and techniques to increase production levels.

As the provider of a broad lineup of machines for mining, Caterpillar has long been a proponent of using simulator training for heavy equipment operators. From developing its own entry-level equipment simulator solutions to working with third-party developers of advanced high-fidelity simulators, the company is committed to helping mining companies use simulators to boost operator performance and safety.

While equipment simulators have been around for many years, today’s simulators take advantage of the latest developments in software, high-definition displays, motion tracking and more. To ensure Cat® equipment operators benefit from these advancements, Caterpillar has complemented its own offerings by entering into an agreement with ThoroughTec® Simulation, one of the world’s leading training technology organizations.

“This agreement allows us to bring our customers a comprehensive equipment training solution that will help them improve safety, boost productivity, increase machine availability and create more sustainable mining operations,” says Kent Clifton, a senior application specialist for Caterpillar’s mining organization.

Headquartered in South Africa with offices around the world, ThoroughTec Simulation has been designing advanced, high-fidelity training simulators for over 30 years and has deployed hundreds of simulators around the globe. Its CYBERMINE® range of simulators cater to both surface and underground operations.

Under the agreement, Caterpillar Mining recommends ThoroughTec Simulation as its approved supplier of equipment simulator products. In turn, Caterpillar provides ThoroughTec access to confidential Cat machine technical data and allow the company to directly interact with machine product group engineers.

“ThoroughTec simulators are known for their value and realism,” says Clifton. “When combined with actual Cat machine data and operating characteristics, these simulators significantly enhance the overall operator training experience through the highest level of realism and authenticity.”

Caterpillar customers have access to the entire ecosystem of CYBERMINE solutions. Centered around the company’s fifth-generation CYBERMINE Full-Mission Simulators, this includes customized e-learning and interactive pre-trip inspection trainers, as well as the first-in-class Workforce Excellence platform (WX).

The WX platform incorporates two discrete products: WX Training Management System, a holistic enterprise-level management solution built specifically for mines, and WX Analytics, which analyzes real-time operator performance data to inform targeted training interventions.

“Together, Caterpillar Mining and ThoroughTec Simulation are committed to helping our customers effectively train operators in the most efficient, safe and realistic way possible,” says Clifton. “This agreement is a testament to our continued dedication to the health and safety of mining companies’ most important asset: their people.”



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Dozer Simulator

 


SIMULATOR TRAINING: THE BENEFITS

Mining companies are well aware that their operators — and their operations — can benefit from increased and regular training. But training in actual machines requires a considerable investment in time and resources along with a significant opportunity cost in terms of lost production.

For example, when an operator is being trained in a truck, that truck may be taken out of production. The costs of this traditional training include not only the lack of production from that machine, but also the cost of fuel burned and running hours at the hands of a novice operator. And when an unskilled operator is in the pit and learning on the job, he or she is likely the slowest on site — setting the pace for the rest of the production circuit.

Simulator training addresses these challenges and offers a number of additional benefits:

  • Consistency. All operators are trained to the same standards, and simulators are totally objective and impartial in their evaluation of performance.
  • Improved safety. Operators train without risk to machines, themselves, instructors, co-workers or property.
  • Emergency scenarios. Simulators allow operators to safely and realistically enact detailed emergency scenarios — something that is impossible to do in a real machine.
  • Increased production. Simulator-trained operators are generally more efficient and productive on real machines.
  • Reduced training time. Data shows that simulator-trained operators require less time to achieve competency and specific training objectives.
  • Training flexibility. Training can take place any time, night or day, on-site or off-site, and regardless of weather conditions. Operators can be trained on the simulator under all conditions (e.g., snow or sun, night or day).
  • Reduced costs. Training costs are lowered by pre-screening applicants, decreasing training supervision requirements, and reducing training time and machine operating costs.
  • Decreased production loss. Simulators minimize the use of production machines for training and reduce the impact of untrained operators on the production cycle.
  • Greater sustainability. Fewer greenhouse gases are produced through simulators when compared to a real machine. And improved skills lead to fewer repairs, less fuel usage, fewer greenhouse gases, and fewer components and parts used during production.
  • Relevance and expectation. The next generation of trainee operators are tech savvy and have grown up in a highly digitized world. Not only will they adapt easily to technology-based training, but surveys suggest that it will be an expectation and a drawing card to such careers.

 

THOROUGHTEC SIMULATION: A FIFTH-GENERATION SOLUTION

ThoroughTec was established as a military technology company in the mid-1990s and over the past three decades has grown into an international business, deploying simulators around the world. Operating from a state-of-the-art, 38,000-square-foot research and development facility in Durban, South Africa, the company’s global offices are strategically located to service each of the major mining sectors in their time zones and language requirements.

CYBERMINE simulators

ThoroughTec’s flagship CYBERMINE 5 simulator system is in its fifth generation of products. Features available to Caterpillar customers include:

  • Original Caterpillar instruments and controls
  • Ultra-high-fidelity software modeling based on confidential Caterpillar technical data
  • Full HD, laser projected visual displays with up to 360° field of view
  • Contactless, full-body motion tracking
  • Military-grade 6 Degree-of-Freedom motion platform
  • Native interoperability with ThoroughTec's Workforce Excellence Training Management and Analytics operator performance platforms.

CYBERMINE simulators are available in two configurations to cater to different infrastructure needs. The freestanding option is a ruggedized, self-contained environment for those with little or no pre-existing infrastructure. It’s easily transported by rail, sea or road to the training location. ThoroughTec also offers a prefabricated system designed to be assembled and housed within a dedicated classroom environment.

Cabs are easily swapped and immediately recognized by the CYBERMINE simulation software, which automatically initiates the correct mining equipment simulation. In addition, a cross-platform adaptor kit allows surface and underground mining simulator cabs to be used on a common simulator base unit, significantly lowering the total cost of ownership.


 

Loading and Hauling Simulator
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Loading and Hauling Simulator

 


Realistic operation

CYBERMINE mining simulator cabs are highly realistic replicas of the actual mining equipment, where instruments and controls look, feel and operate as they do in the actual mining vehicle. Motion platforms provide realistic simulation of effects such as rotation, acceleration, braking, suspension characteristics and collisions. Electronic steering feedback systems complement the realism of the driving experience, providing return-to-center feedback and the sensation of tire rotation and interaction with the terrain.

The CYBERMINE mining simulation software accurately models the behavioral characteristics of the systems and sub-systems of the mining equipment being simulated, such as engines, braking systems, suspension and hydraulics sub-systems. External interactions with the simulated environment — such as bucket-with-material and drill-steel-with-rock face interactions — are all mathematically modeled to provide accurate feedback to the operator. The software also simulates various faults and failures and their effects on relevant sub-systems to permit realistic operator training under these fault conditions and in emergency situations.

“Our military pedigree and approach to simulation means that we mathematically model every detail of every sub-system making up the simulated vehicle, as well as the virtual world and environmental conditions in which it will operate,” says Justin Collins, ThoroughTec CEO. “This ensures that the simulated equipment behaves correctly, under all circumstances. The quality and realism of our simulators is a point of pride.”

Advanced instruction

A feature-rich instructor operator station provides the instructor with a range of capabilities. The instructor can set up and modify a set of standard exercises, choose artificially intelligent objects like other mining machines and people to operate within the simulated mine world, and vary interactive events such as rock spillages, rock hardness and crusher states.

Instructors also have visibility into student performance. They can inject faults such as tire failure or brake systems failure and then monitor student responses. They can view a display showing the current state of all instruments and controls during execution, view an event log of students’ operating procedure violations as they occur, replay exercises in 3D for review, and export current and historical student reports.

The audience viewing area facilitates optimal use of the CYBERMINE mining simulator, allowing additional trainee operators to observe and interact with the instructor while the primary student operator undergoes training and evaluation.

According to Collins, the CYBERMINE instructor experience is unmatched in the industry. “We’ve really concentrated on providing the instructor with a powerful toolset to train and evaluate students both during the exercise and thereafter by analyzing reports or utilizing the full 3D After Action Review facility, which allows the instructor to ‘fly’ freely around the 3D world showing the student exactly where he or she made mistakes,” he says.

 

TRAINING MANAGEMENT: A HOLISTIC SOLUTION

While simulators are at the heart of the ThoroughTec solution, the company offers a suite of complementary products — from e-learning and interactive walkaround inspection systems to its Workforce Excellence platform, WX, which consists of both a training management system and an analytics module.

“Recognizing that human operators are the last, critical piece of the mining puzzle to be integrated into the digital mine ecosystem, we have invested extensively in closing this glaring gap,” says Collins. “WX means we can continuously monitor and improve the performance of all our machine operators. This is the Holy Grail … the piece of the optimization puzzle that has been missing for so long.”

Training ecosystem

Designed specifically for the mining industry, the WX Training Management System (TMS) facilitates the integration and management of a mine’s entire training ecosystem — from content and resources to people and time. It allows instructors to schedule and host training activities, manage curricula and courses, and maintain a database of employee qualifications with respective validities. TMS provides a single interface through which mines can plan and deliver training that is intelligently targeted to improve operator performance.

While optimized for the management of CYBERMINE products, WX TMS is technology agnostic and easily incorporates traditional, non-digital media and methods as well as third-party solutions, for a truly unified management experience.

The platform is also intended to interface vertically and laterally with existing mine ERP and HR systems, simplifying their access to and consumption of operator training and compliance data, all of which can be presented to mine management through a highly customizable reporting tool suite.

Performance monitoring and management

Closing the loop between training and operations is WX Analytics, which includes a vehicle-mounted behavior monitoring system that continuously monitors an operator’s in-pit performance. These behavioral measurements are analyzed by proprietary Big Data and Machine Learning algorithms to identify deficiencies and negative performance trends in the context of OEM guidelines and mine KPIs. Any such deficiencies automatically trigger targeted training interventions aimed at remedying operator behavior and driving workforce performance.



Underground Simulator
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Underground Simulator

 


CAT OFFERINGS: COMPREHENSIVE AND GROWING

ThoroughTec will continue to add new Cat products to its simulator portfolio, developing new models in accordance with client orders.

"If we don’t have a particular model that a client needs, we’ll develop it and absorb the R&D costs so that the client pays only what he would have for an off-the-shelf model.," says Collins.

Caterpillar simulators currently available include:

  • Articulated trucks: 740B, 740B-WT, 745C
  • Haul Trucks: 773F, 777F, 785B, 785C, 789C/D, 793F, 795F AC, 797B
  • Wheel Dozer: 834K
  • Track Dozer: D10T, D11T, D11R CD
  • Wheel Loaders: 980H, 992G, 992K, 993K, 994F
  • Rotary Drills: MD6290, MD6640
  • Motor Graders: 140H, 24M
  • Hydraulic Shovels: 6020B, 6040, 6060
  • Electric Rope Shovel: 7495 HR
  • Underground Trucks: AD30, AD45B, AD55B
  • Underground Loaders: R1600G, R1700G, R2900G

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