Envisioning a Promising Future with Automated TechnologiesBy José Escobedo | Mon, 03/22/2021 - 12:47
Q: What problems and issues does your technology solve and what are some of the advantages it brings to your clients?
EP: In regard to the digitalization and modern technology challenges we see in mines around the globe, as well as in Mexico, what we need is to get data communication into underground mines. We provide dedicated underground communication technology all the way from traditional levels of Leaky Feeder UHF communication, enhanced with localization of people inside machines up to modern, broadband Wi-Fi booster connections with outstanding range results not achieved anywhere in the world, as far as we know. This allows for seamless data logging and analytics for productivity, measurement and tracking, as well as for maintenance usage. Automation is another main focus for us. Automation is a great safety feature because in mining, people need to go to dangerous places. The core benefit of all of these things is increased safety, especially with moving vehicles. These are the tangible benefits for our customers.
Q: What are the advantages of implementing Level-9 technology?
EP: We have successfully developed this technology for more than six years in South Africa. Approximately 2,000 underground machines benefit from our machine interface and control technology. This enables any Proximity Detection Vendor to fit their Proximity Detection System to any mining machine to achieve intervention control (level 9) in response to the detection of threats picked up by their system. With basic detection-level solutions there is a screen in the cabin that indicates that something is getting dangerously close to you, leaving the system still reliant on the operator to react. Level-9 means that there is not only a creation of awareness but also what is industry termed as “machine intervention”, meaning that the Nerospec SK controller intervenes in the control of the machine and two actions happen: the machine is slowed to a crawl and then it is stopped by applying the brakes. This is the definition of Level-9 and in South Africa it is becoming a standard requirement in the mining sector to avoid people getting harmed.
Q: What is Nerospec SK’s vision regarding underground wireless communications solutions, data logging and analytics and machine automation and how does that translate to Mexico?
EP: Our technology can benefit the Mexican market in the categories of safety and automation, while enabling very efficient underground communications and data visualization systems. Our vision is that the new generation of miners expect mobile phones to become regular tools to obtain data, and they expect this to work like a coffee machine or like your regular mobile phone. Today in underground, we are still a long way from reaching this point but there is no question that future generations will expect the technology to work very naturally, also underground. Especially autonomous solutions are defining this vision and setting the requirements, defining the underground workspace to be highly connected and safe. In the future, people will not want to go underground because it is time consuming, it is dangerous and you need to be prepared for it. I envision a future in which there are vehicles capable of autonomous operations everywhere.
Q: Délano Schmidt & Kranz distributes your technology in Mexico. What is your working relationship and how has this relationship evolved regarding delivery times, safety and logistics?
EP: We have had a very long-term relationship with DeSK. There is a whole breadth of products coming from the Schmidt & Kranz group and companies that are distributed via the DeSK organization. This has been essential for our success in Mexico, especially having the footprint in place with the language, the culture, the proximity, the readiness to go and have a meeting wherever. All of this has been very valuable for us and has helped us to develop the GHH business. Regarding Nerospec SK, we now have a whole sequence of business opportunities in Mexico that are very active and vibrantly engaged.
Q: What do you bring to the table in terms of the implementation of certain safety measures?
EP: Our sweet spot is what you call the PDI proximity detection interface. This PDI is the controller that connects to the vehicle, meaning that we control the vehicle functions and whatever needs to be done. What we provide the Mexican market and elsewhere is the ability to retrofit traditional classic machines that are the installed everywhere. These are electro hydraulically controlled machines, not the newest generation, but the hundreds of machines that are out there. For these machines, there are no retro fit solutions, except the solutions that we provide. We are absolutely ready to put data collection and machine control solutions on your old-school machines. Our simple solutions can be applied to old-style machines. I also want to point out that we will integrate our products and services into any specific mine. That is the value offer and benefit we provide. We integrate across the whole fleetof vehicles such as Caterpillar, Sandvik, Epiroc, GHH as well as Toyota trucks and other utility vehicles, like cements trucks, people movers and others.
Q: How has your partnership with Neurospec evolved in Mexico?
JD: Délano Schmidt & Kranz started its partnership with Nerospec SK sometime in the middle of last year. We have been very straightforward with our presentation. Eric is a very open and direct executive who has a strong knowledge of the solutions that can be applied and he also has a strong background regarding Nerospec SK partners. They have many years of experience, mainly in the South African market, and have introduced many applications in other countries. An additional point that DeSK brings to the table with our Nerospec SK relationship is that we have a strong experience in telecommunications, which is also part of the solution. This means the ability to talk to miners and present them with solutions. An example is to present them with the opportunity to have excellent quality cellphone conversations. To understand that part of digitalization that we are leading in the telecommunications arena and bring it to the underground mine creates a strong liaison for the product we want to introduce. So that also is part of the wealth we bring to the table and part of this wonderful relationship with Nerospec SK that we are developing. We are working on a couple of projects and we know there are many more on the way.
Q: What are Nerospec SK’s plans in Mexico for this year?
EP: I am looking forward to coming to Mexico this year because we are going to be winning a couple of projects that we are working on right now. We are going to do some quick installations on some vehicles to collect data and use that to the mine’s advantage. Specifically, my target for Mexico by the end of the year is to have the first 10 vehicles equipped with our system, with individualized customer specific solutions. That is our target.
Nerospec SK develops the newest generation of specialized underground mining products, innovating underground wireless communications, data logging and analytics, as well as machine automation.
Délano Schmidt & Kranz (SK) was founded in 1885, producing shaft-sinking equipment and tunnel-drilling machines. Today, SK Holding consists of a group of companies focused on mining, construction and tunneling, recycling, hydraulic and pneumatic solutions, automation and related services.