Today’s mining companies are on a continual journey to do more with fewer resources — whether they are addressing a lack of skilled workers, working to minimize their environmental impact, looking for ways to boost operator efficiency, or trying to get the most from their investment in machines.
Many are turning to technology to address their challenges. And a Cat® dealer in Idaho is finding that the new Cat® MineStar™ Edge is making it easier than ever for miners to leverage technology to gain critical insight to activities across the operation and find the efficiencies they need to do more with less.
“With new and exciting mining projects on the horizon within Idaho, there is growing need to mine efficiently, minimize impact, and make sure all employees make it home to their loved ones,” said Tyler Simmons, Industry Solutions Manager at Western States Cat, the dealer for southern Idaho. “Mine operators, who already have many tasks on their plates, feel the additional pressure of needing to do more with fewer resources and often turn to technology to help bridge the gap. Increasingly, this technology has become every bit as critical in helping mines succeed as the highest quality machines and world-class availability.”
More than 25 years ago, Caterpillar introduced Cat MineStar, a suite of mining technologies that helped change the way mining companies operate by targeting individual portions of the mining operation and delivering unprecedented gains in efficiency, safety and productivity.
“We’ve continued to improve, refine and add to these offerings over the years to offer more capability to our customers and to better align with the way they work,” said Ryan Howell, Cat MineStar Solutions Commercial Manager. “And now, with the introduction of the new Edge platform, we’re taking MineStar to the next level.”
Howell explains that Edge is able to deliver more connected, integrated, scalable and intuitive products that extend further up and down the value chain. “Edge makes it possible to measure, manage, analyze and optimize the entire mining operation,” he said.
Western States Cat understands how critical technology is, Simmons said, and is committed to using it to support and supplement the industry knowledge and experience that already exists within a mining operation.
“We focus on ways to provide organizations with data that they might not previously have been able to capture, with the goal of bringing insight and clarity to the decision-making process,” he said. “We select and validate each product to ensure it adds value to our clients’ businesses and meets their needs. One specific technology that has been invaluable to our clients is MineStar Edge.”
Introducing Cat MineStar Edge
Cat MineStar Edge creates an operational ecosystem for mining companies, aligning with the way many already manage their businesses. Rather than having data that exists in individual silos, Edge brings visibility to the entire mining operation and enables mines to see how activities early in the process impact those further down the value chain. It helps miners more efficiently execute the mine plan and deliver optimal quality to the plant and to the surface.
At its core, MineStar Edge delivers better solutions. Edge leverages the latest technology advancements — including data fusion, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence — so it will continue to get smarter as it collects data, identifies patterns and learns to make decisions with minimal human intervention.
Edge also significantly improves the customer experience. Because it is delivered as a cloud-based, subscription managed application, it lowers network requirements as well as associated costs of deployment, service and training. Edge is internet browser-based, meaning that shift supervisors can access the data from a computer or tablet anywhere on the site with an internet connection.
Delivering quality information in near-real-time
Access to information is critical to mining operations, and Edge is making that information even more valuable in two ways: by delivering it in near-real-time and by ensuring accuracy up to 98%.
“Edge delivers more accurate data by gathering it without requiring operator input,” Howell said. “Most data is provided by the machines themselves, freeing operators to focus on their work and eliminating the risk of incorrect data entry.”
MineStar Edge gives operations new insight into daily load counts, shift change duration, hauling equipment payloads, machine idle time, fleet utilization and more. “These data points are focused on supplementing the knowledge and experience of mine operators,” said Simmons.
Simmons said near-real-time reporting is one of the most powerful features of MineStar Edge. “Mining operations have found the most success when shift supervisors have the most up-to-date information on load counts, hauling tool payloads, material load and dump location, idle equipment, break time durations and physical equipment locations within the mine,” he said. “The shift supervisors use this information to make immediate adjustments to meet production goals rather than waiting until the end of the shift to determine if goals were realized.
Operations have achieved additional productivity by aligning equipment payloads and asset capacities, he said. In addition, they have seen increases in mining operation teamwork due to better operational visibility as well as reductions in shift-change duration.
“Our goal is to provide data leading to more informed decisions and lowering the overall cost-per-ton for the entire mining organization,” Simmons said. “In fact, several of our current Idaho mining clients have found that MineStar Edge paid for itself in as little as six months after implementation.”