Mining companies around the world have made great strides in digitalization. One of the most significant to date is the adoption of digital dispatch or Fleet Management Systems (FMS). This solution, which helps optimize truck routes, typically pays for itself in as little as four to six months on missed routes alone. Trucks burn through thousands of gallons of fuel daily. When haul trucks don’t take the best route or go to the wrong location, the cost adds up quickly. Now, as mining enterprises pursue the next phase of digitalization, many are actively exploring two game-changing capabilities: tele-remote operations and autonomous vehicles, including autonomous haulage systems (AHS).
With tele-remote operations, mining companies can deploy one operator to oversee drilling and dozers across multiple sites or multiple drills and dozers at a single site. An operator works from the safety and comfort of an office – a significant advantage for finding and keeping talent. Meanwhile, the mining company avoids the risk and expense of sending human resources to what are often extremely remote and dangerous locations. These locations require major investments to provide even the most basic room and board for mining workers.
Autonomous vehicles take humans out of the work altogether. These trucks run fully independently, “interacting” with shovels and dozers to move materials safely and efficiently. In some cases, autonomous dozers can sense trucks and fill them; the trucks then transport the materials to the crusher, dump, or other location as required. Companies can trim the number of humans working in highly dangerous environments.
Both of these digital capabilities yield significant improvements in worker safety, operational efficiency, and long-term cost reductions. In addition, both require highly reliable and ruggedized wireless network connectivity.
Catalyst IW9167 Heavy Duty Access Points will become available in 2023, enabling mining companies to begin implementing the infrastructure they need to reach new heights of digitalization and automation. Even better, they can implement new network infrastructure without a full shutdown to “rip and replace” legacy gear.
That’s because the IW9167 is a single access point that supports two types of connectivity: WiFi 6E using 802.11ax standards or Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul mode. With this access point, mining companies can toggle between the two modes. They can support mobile users, connect IoT sensors, and handle other traffic via WiFi – while carving out highly secure, ultra-low-latency connectivity to support tele-remote and autonomous systems.
In addition to being certified by Caterpillar, the IW9167 makes it possible to incrementally build a more robust and reliable network in mining environments. This one device replaces multiple legacy products – including the IW3702 Workgroup Bridge, the Cisco FM 4500, the Cisco Aironet 1572, and any other 802.11 access points that may be in use.
You can migrate in phases – for example, install several IW9167 access points each month or quarter. In time, the network will be in place to support tele-remote operations and/or autonomous vehicles, with a single type of spare simplifying ongoing maintenance and support.
As your mining enterprise explores the next phase of digitalization, consider the elegance and versatility of the IW9167. Review more of the details in the following materials, and let’s stay in touch as 2023 fast approaches.