Not all fleet management systems are created equal – not by a longshot. Selecting the right one could not only influence your mine’s immediate growth prospects but also prime the pump for the next 10 or 15 years. This blog will explore the critical factors that separate the leading systems from the also-rans in the constant quest to maximize mining rate and minimize all-in sustaining costs (AISC).

In general, fleet management systems have not developed sufficiently to meet today’s mining challenges. The hardware tends to be proprietary and, therefore, inflexible and the business processes outdated. The best systems can be customized as the basis for implementing Short Interval Control (SIC). Long a mainstay in manufacturing, SIC systems are starting to gain traction in mining because they enable more ore to be hauled without increasing labor and equipment levels.

On any given day, the brilliance of a kick-ass SIC system is that it can help miners determine where they can find most of the ore. But none of that is possible without a kick-ass fleet management system. We’ve identified four critical factors to weigh when choosing a fleet management system:

1. The connectivity challenge: Fleet management systems rely on Wi-Fi. But Wi-Fi is prohibitively expensive in underground mines (installation costs range from $4 million to $40 million), and service can be unreliable. The required wireless access points are vulnerable to physical damage in a mine; this technology was designed primarily for office environments.

For underground mines, peer-to-peer networking is a superior connectivity solution. Peer-to-peer leverages the dynamism of the mining environment — in which multiple pieces of tablet-equipped machinery are continually moving past each other — to quickly transfer data to the control center, where it is interpreted and used to inform decision-making. In a peer-to-peer configuration, tablets or phones can communicate with each other, and any one of those devices can push data to the server. That’s a critical advantage! The groundHog fleet management system uses both Wi-Fi and peer-to-peer networking; in areas of the mine where Wi-Fi is unavailable, peer-to-peer takes over. This robust solution enables miners to receive data using a tablet, smartphone or smartwatch. Because real-time data is readily available, front-line personnel can make informed decisions on-the-fly to optimize operations.

2. Breadth of functionality: Safety is a major part of groundHog, which strives to keep its users connected, smart, and informed. For example, urgent messages are flashed on the screens of users to capture their immediate attention. In addition, groundHog is scalable to work with large and small mines alike, and it’s also extensible in its functionality. For example, it enables underground driving directions as the first stage toward eventual full-blown traffic management.

Most fleet-management systems cover haulage alone and cannot capture the mining rate of other activities: drilling, mucking, blasting, power loading, refueling, and supply management. However, groundHog captures all of these activities. By actively monitoring the mining rate at each heading, groundHog can predict and dynamically adjust subsequent activities throughout the mine. For example, you will know who’s waiting on what and, as a result, minimize the wait time in your schedule. This ability to auto-adjust schedules helps miners meet their production targets. In short, groundHog supports all activities underground leading up to the stockpile.

3. Who owns the data? Many fleet management systems do not allow the user to own the data. Lacking the ability to access their own data whenever they need to, users feel locked in. With groundHog, the mine owns its data and is not dependent on a third-party data provider. Own it and access it at all times!

4. Software upgrades: Typical fleet management systems require access to on-site hardware in order to make software updates. However, groundHog saves enormous time and costs by enabling over-the-air updates. Completing these updates securely from a central remote location eliminates the need for consultants or IT specialists to be on hand to ensure that each tablet or electronic control module has been updated. Another software issue that has plagued fleet management systems is the difficulty of finding SD replacement cards after the hardware has begun to fail. Some mining companies have experienced this problem just five years after installing new software.

These four factors loom large when you choose a fleet management system to grow your bottom line for years to come and to drive an SIC implementation. A robust and flexible fleet management system can overcome myriad mining challenges. Unfortunately, many of today’s solutions offer limited utility and cannot enable efficiencies and real-time decision making in a holistic way. groundHog stands out because it gives users full visibility. By tracking activities and receiving real-time insights throughout your mine, you are empowered to reduce AISC and maximize productivity. What’s more, groundHog is designed with the user in mind: Configure it to your own mining method and easily integrate it with your other systems.

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