At the core of every efficient logistics site or operation there is a complex network of people, processes and equipment all of which need to be performing at optimum levels to maintain business advantage in a highly competitive market-place.
Therefore, anything that makes life easier for staff, that automates repetitive manual tasks essential to business outcomes or that ensures equipment is maintained for optimum performance and maximum lifespan has the power to deliver genuine bottom line benefits.
A new state-of-the-art tools management application developed by Australian-based asset tracking software and services vendor, Hardcat, has recently been released to a rapidly expanding global customer base.
Hardcat Tool Manager provides organisations with full visibility and control over their entire tool inventory through optimising the management of large and small tools of trade.
It facilitates better tool utilisation and helps to lower stalled productivity that may arise from tool losses and/or breakdowns.
By ensuring that all tools are tracked over their full lifecycle based on key data such as how, when and by whom they are being used, Hardcat Tool Manager discourages mis-use by employees because they automatically become more accountable for the tools they are using.
It also supports best practice tool management by using automated notifications to ensure that warranty claims or calibration and maintenance events aren’t missed.
According to Hardcat managing director Dan Drum the new Hardcat Tool Manager suite allows organisations to know exactly where their tools are, who has them, when they are due back and what they are being used for.
“In organisations where accountability of tools and equipment is essential, Hardcat Tool Manager lets you to know exactly where all your tools and equipment are, where they have been, and who has been responsible for them at any given time,” Drum said.
“Better lifecycle management of full tool inventories has been identified by business process engineers as a simple and effective method of improving bottom line business performance in industries where large and small tools represent significant capital investment.
“This product was developed in close consultation with several of our global asset management customers in the logistics, engineering, resources and energy production sectors who wanted a specialist system to manage their tool inventories.”
Hardcat’s Tool Manager works by tagging all tools using barcodes, Direct Part Marking or RFID tags while also generating detailed records for each staff member and external contractors.
Hardcat Tool Manager allows companies to structure and categorise their entire tools and equipment register within the core module and at the same time collect, track and report on a wealth of information about each piece of equipment.
Information held against each item can be accessed and sorted by virtually any field. Each item in the database can have as many as 10,500 associated fields.
The solution is extremely scalable accommodating companies with a few hundred tools to those with several hundred thousand tools.
“Our system is built for better transparency on tool usage, efficient notification of events such as scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and producing reports that provide genuine business value on the utilisation of tool assets,” Drum said.
“It allows for the automatic scheduling of common tasks or templates and automatically issues work orders for maintenance, inspections and calibrations on all tools and equipment.”
Hardcat Tool Manager is also platform agnostic which means that it can be used by SQL, Sybase or Oracle databases, and the Hardcat Smartphone app, Micat is available for Apple or android mobile devices allowing dynamic tool management to happen in the field and on job sites.
Collected data can also be directly exported to broader ERP applications such as SAP.
Since the 1980s, Australia, like many industrialised countries, has experienced rising inequality and growing concentration of income, wealth and power. Within the workplace, there are major concerns about working hours, work intensity, work-life balance, pressures on women, “overemployment” and underemployment, demands on employees for flexibility, insecurity, micro-management of time and managerial efforts to control “culture”.
Upward redistribution of income and power has accompanied the spread of “market liberal” or “neoliberal” policies in most industrialised countries – without any distinguishable improvement in productivity to justify it.
In this grim context, are unions part of the solution, or part of the problem?
Unions and the problems of the past
Through much of the 20th century, unions’ high membership and industrial and political strategies gave workers – both members and non-members – substantial gains, helping moderate or reduce inequality.
In the 1990s, though, what had worked well for unions (tribunal advocacy and doing politics with the ALP) became a liability in a context where employers and governments became belligerent and the workplace, not the tribunal, became the centre of wage determination.
Membership declined. To varying degrees unions sought to reorganise, devoting more resources to the workplace and training of workplace delegates. This boosted influence in some workplaces but the environment remained adverse. A rare but major success was the Your Rights at Work campaign against the Howard government.
Now the problem?
Although the decline was stabilised by the early 2000s, membership failed to grow sufficiently to match workforce growth, so union density (membership as a proportion of the workforce) continued to ease. If unions were once part of a solution, their situation now is a barrier to redressing the growth in inequality, and hence is part of the problem. Increased inequality in several countries has been linked to fallen union density. Few Australian unions have been fully transformed and it is important not to understate the magnitude of changes now demanded of them.
Australian unions are in a weaker situation than during the Accord of the 1980s and early 1990s. Competition for “rents”, generating a spiral of unemployment and inflation, had prompted the Accord as a solution. These days rents are still being extracted, but by different groups – extremely high income earners, top managers and directors of large firms, and some financiers.
By the Rudd-Gillard years, unions were relegated to just another lobby group. They maintained links with the Labor Party, but that government seemingly figured, “where else could unions go?”. Unions put resources into the ALP, which badly needs the resources but does not want the unions.
Structurally, unionism is no longer a primarily male, blue-collar affair. Soon there will be more female trade unionists than males. White-collar unionists now out-number blue-collars by two to one. Professionals are unions’ biggest occupational group. Manufacturing accounts for only 7% of members, less than half those in health care and social assistance. Many of the “heartlands” of unionism are no longer so.
Governance remains an issue. There are well-argued claims that proceedings of the Royal Commission on Union Corruption demonstrated bias against unions, but also no doubt that some corruption existed within some unions. To the extent certain union officials enriched themselves and disenfranchised members, this anti-democratic activity undermined workplace unionism. The governance challenge is how can unions be demonstrably pure without also appearing impotent.
Meanwhile there is a clear need for major rethinking of economic and social policy, in Australia and overseas. Despite the failure of liberal market policies through the global financial crisis, pushing millions out of work globally, the ideas behind market liberalism showed zombie-like persistence. Civil society failed to develop and articulate an alternative vision.
Can unions be part of the solution?
The net effect of globalisation’s contradictory tendencies – promoting economic and employment growth alongside greater demands for flexibility and risk shifting – depends on choices taken by many actors.
But what is unions’ capacity to shape these forces and mobilise responses? Australian unions do not face unique problems, though national factors have exacerbated them. Canadians Lévesque and Murray identified key “power resources” for unions, including their internal solidarity and infrastructure. But unions must also be capable of using these resources as contexts change. Much depends on unions’ capacities for learning, framing issues, fostering collaborative action and networks, and devising actions across time and space.
Effective union mobilisation requires power and capabilities on many levels. But perhaps the foundation is the workplace. Workplace influence requires workplace activism. This depends on effective delegates with self-belief, supported by union offices, with access to networks providing back-up, information and ideas. Formal training of delegates is essential but almost wasted if resources are not put into follow-up of training. Necessary structural changes can be both expensive and controversial.
Workplace influence requires delegates and members believe they can and do influence what the union does. Workers cannot have power in the workplace if they don’t have power in the union.
Democratisation is not so much about elected structures as it is about members’ and delegates’ ability to shape what the union does and how open it is to members’ preferences and their diversity.
An effective response to workplace and national problems requires new ways of doing and thinking about things. The prominence given to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century reflects how it “suits the mood of the times”. The need to develop an alternative vision is greater now than ever before.
But can unions mobilise outside labour? Are they capable of engagement in a ‘big conversation’ about alternatives? It would require change to the “insider” mentality – precisely what the Accord did when pensioners and poverty became industrial issues. It would require confronting unions’ old anti-environmental image – but already many actively engage in environmental and climate issues. Unions are probably the only group with the resources, breadth of membership, and organising capability to draw together the disparate groups and individuals concerned with developing an alternative. In that way, they could be central to the solution.
In the end, if unions are to be part of the solution, there is much to be done. It requires action in developing and empowering workplace delegates and members, democratising union processes, strengthening articulations between levels, developing framing capabilities, managing governance, becoming learning organisations, deepening links and networks with other organisations and movements in the community, and using such links to build and articulate an alternative vision of society. It is a huge task. But if unions don’t do this, who will?
This is an abbreviated version of a fully-referenced article in Australian Review of Public Affairs.
What distinguishes a trucking company with a good safety record from one that performs poorly on safety? That’s the question which has focused the mind of UNSW academic Lori Mooren.
Mooren’s research is partly funded by Zurich Insurance Australian Limited, insurer for the transportation and logistics industry. She shared some of her findings at a Zurich customer forum on road safety held recently in both Sydney and Melbourne.
‘Heavy vehicle fatalities have decreased by 32% over the past decade,’ Mooren said.
‘The trucking industry is one where employers do know that there are serious risks to their employees, to their cargo and to their business in using the road.
“They have been a lot more proactive than most employers in managing risks of using the road.”
Mooren said road safety is a huge issue for businesses across the board, not just the trucking industry.
“Of all work fatalities, 67 per cent are vehicle related,” she said.
“That’s not surprising, when you think about it. There are lots of other workplace accidents but when you have a vehicle incident, it’s such a violent event that the injuries are pretty severe.”
It was also shown that a person is 50% more likely to crash in a company vehicle than a private vehicle. Why?
“When people don’t own their own vehicle, they don’t treat it as well. When they are travelling for work, they are often doing things like talking on a mobile phone, or they are in a hurry. The combination of distractions, speed and sometimes fatigue, are some of the reasons,” Mooren said.
She noted, however, that employers can strongly influence the safety of vehicles and cites the example of BHP Billiton which last year started purchasing passenger vehicles only with five-star safety NCAP ratings.
Mooren’s research in the trucking industry has shown that the ‘safety culture’ of the particular business affects the crash rates.
“You can measure things like the perception that workers have that their bosses are committed to workplace safety above other objectives. It’s a demonstration of clear commitment and a sense ‘safely is the way we do things around here’. When you have that culture of safety, then crash rates are likely to be lower.”
The converse is also true. “A lot of research has found that some employers haven’t fully embraced the problem of crashes. There is the attitude that someone else manages road safety, whether it’s the police or road authorities, and it’s really up to them to get people to follow the rules of the road. These employers are not owning the problem.”
In terms of the companies which have got on board with road safety, Mooren said that Dupont is a stand-out.
“They’ve always tried to encourage education of their employees’ families, as well as the employees themselves, about road safety and other safety issues.”
Another significant factor for truck safety is the pay system for drivers.
“Do they get paid for waiting time, for loading and unloading? That’s a big issue for fatigue. I’ve spoken to drivers who say they start at 6pm and then they wait for sometimes up to four hours for their trucks to be loaded, which means that when they start driving, they’re already not fresh when setting out to drive all night.
“A lot of the industry is still being paid on a piecemeal basis, and that can be per kilometre or per truckload. This encourages drivers to work longer hours and do more shifts. When drivers get paid a regular wage per hour, day or week, they are less encouraged to work excessive hours.”
Measurement accuracy is vital to ensure an efficient production process and determine the true cost of a product’s value.
It’s estimated that, each year, over $400 billion worth of goods are sold on the basis of a measurement in Australia.
Measurement inaccuracies are worryingly commonplace in the Australian transport and logistics industry.
The transport and logistics industry is worth more than $150 billion to the Australian economy representing in excess of 14 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
The costs involved in the shipping and delivery of goods is entirely dependent on measurements; inaccuracies can severely affect companies’ profits.
The Importance of a Measurement
Incorrect measurements may not make a huge difference on a case by case basis; but consider these inaccuracies when multiplied by the number of parcels distribution centres process in an hour, a month or a year.
For example, one of Australia Post’s large parcel sorting machines can process over 12,000 parcels every hour.
Recording the correct measurements of parcels is not only important in regards to billing and invoicing; it also determines whether the allocated parcels can fit on the delivery vehicle and how much this will cost the distributor.
The option of weight or size is important as road and air transport costs depend on the space occupied, by number of packages that can be carried as well as their weight.
Knowing the exact measurements allow carrier companies to optimise their loads and, in turn, reduce costs.
Measurement accuracy is regulated by The National Measurement Institute (NMI), Australia’s peak measurement organisation, which is responsible for maintaining the nation’s primary standards of measurement and for providing the legal and technical framework for the dissemination of those standards across varying industries.
For each and every transaction made, the NMI’s trade measurement is there to ensure ‘you get what you pay for’ – meaning no loss in revenue or cost.
The NMI enforces its standards with regular checks and fines across all trade industries; in the past 12 months, they have recorded more than 1,000 complaints, issued 2,388 organisations with non-compliance notices and completed more than 40,000 tests for measurement and labelling accuracy.
So how much do these inaccuracies cost?
According to Jean-Michel Maclou, intralogistics and transport sales manager at SICK, carrier companies lose hundreds of thousands in revenue due to inaccurate measurements of packages.
This doesn’t take into consideration the larger of these companies who churn through 1000s of packages per hour.
UPS’s air hub in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA sees approximately 95,000 parcels and documents sorted every hour, day after day – when you consider these figures, it’s clear that the accumulative lost revenue can quickly become astronomical.
How can postal and delivery companies combat this flaw in their system?
SICK’s Dimensioning, Weighing and Scanning systems (DWS VMS 420/520) aid revenue recovery, capture data for automated generation of transport documents and provide accurate measurements for load optimisation.
The SICK DWS system automatically enable an accurate price to be charged, based on either the weight or the volume, whichever is greater.
Clients who purchase a weighing system generally reduce revenue loss by $250,000 within just 12 months, with some paying back in half the anticipated time – just through recovered revenue.
Norsk-European technical director Gary Bartoletti claimed that SICK’s DWS systems have played a key role in the company’s operations.
“Previously we had to rely on customer-declared weights and dimensions to calculate charges which, unfortunately, were not always accurate.,” he said.
“Since the installation of SICK’s DWS systems, we have been able to capture correct weights and dimensions, and charge accordingly.”
Rapid revenue recovery can benefit all sizes of parcel and package carriers, from the smaller operations to those handling many thousands per hour, making the DWS an essential purchase.
Image: Angela Wiley
An Australian manufacturer of lubricants for the mining industry has been awarded a contract with O&K- Carraro that will see its products used in machines right across the sector.
O&K- Carraro, a leading manufacturer of transmissions, hydraulic drives, axles and gears, said it awarded Anglomoil the contract because of the ‘excellence’ of their products.
O&K is a member of Carraro Drive Tech, an 83-year-old German company that is represented across the Asia-Pacific region by Australian company Cram Fluid Power.
Cram Fluid Power founder Kevin Moore said Anglomoil lubricants are well-suited to the extreme operating conditions in final drives, slew drives, undercarriage components and drill rigs.
Moore said end users are frequently looking for Australian-made products that provide them with better quality because the high-value machines they’ll be helping to run include high capacity shovel loaders, slew drives, winch drives and a wide range of undercarriage driver systems.
Moore said his company also works closely with Anglomoil to providing solutions to customers with great results.
Anglomoil has supplied grease for use in heavy mining applications such as loaders and haul trucks and Cram has been supplying this grease to one of its heavy excavator fleets for nearly four years.
“During this time there have been no failures in their fleet,” Moore said.
“Prior to using the Anglomoil grease, they were experiencing a grease related failure rate of, on average, two per month. Cram supplied and manages this grease product in bulk 1.5 tonne bins. This is typical of the stories we are hearing from our mining companies.”
Cram now has operations in Wollongong, Newcastle, Singleton, Mackay and Perth so it can readily service the mining sector.
In other efficiency-related news, a new technology contract will ensure future fuel cost savings for Anglo American’s coal operations in Australia.
Canadian company Blutip Power Technologies will supply Anglo American with their Advanced Universal Controller (AUC) for coal haulage, after successful trials on Caterpillar 797, 793, 789 and 785 series haul trucks at the Dawson, Capcoal and Drayton mine last year.
Blutip president Chuck Knott said he was very proud to be working with Anglo American to help them achieve fuel efficiency objectives.
“We are committed to assisting Anglo American maximize their efficiency by allowing them to reduce the fuel consumed per tonne-hour across their fleets and by providing real time fuel management analytic tools,” he said.
The new AUC provides engine remapping that reduces fuel consumption while maintaining engine power output and other functionality of the original equipment provider’s electronic control unit.
Blutip said the improvement in Anglo American’s fuel efficiency through use of the new AUC would reduce particulate matter emissions, in turn helping Anglo American to reduce its carbon footprint.
The controllers provide data analytic tools for engine loading time distributions, GPS data and the capability to evaluate other fuel saving initiatives.
A new year is an excellent time for making predictions: The media turns to forecasts for everything from consumer spending to politics, interest rates to sport, trying to second guess what to expect in the year ahead.
But rather than looking ahead, I've decided to take a quick look backwards to see what happened to three of the biggest predictions made about the manufacturing and logistics industries 12 months ago.
Prediction #1: The rise of the demand-driven supply chain
Thanks to the rising popularity of agile methodologies, there's been a lot of discussion about changing the focus of the supply chain from pull (forecast driven) to push (demand-driven).
However, creating a market-responsive system relies on the ability to readily access and share data along the supply chain.
In particular, it requires an accurate knowledge of inventory, exceptional visibility into demand and consumption, and the ability to quickly act on changes.
Five years ago, the technologies to support such a view were not within reach of many organisations, especially small to medium enterprises, due to cost and resource considerations.
By the eve of 2014, this had changed: The cloud had brought apps for every logistics need within the reach of all, offering businesses the opportunity to gather more data about their business, market and customers than ever before.
In addition, companies adopting Agile approaches to the supply chain were reporting solid market success.
Hence, the prediction that the demand-driven supply chain would finally gain momentum.
Twelve months on, we may not have seen the end of the forecast-driven supply chain but it's clear a shift has begun.
Demand-driven strategies are gaining adherents and continue to intrigue the market. With additional developments such as big data (see below) on the horizon, it's reasonable to assume that the change from pull to push will continue into 2015.
Prediction #2. Big data and analytics
For the last year at least, everyone seems to have been spruiking the unrealised value of big data, the mass of structured and unstructured data that sits within every organisation.
The idea was that by mining this information, by correlating diverse, previously siloed data, organisations would gain insights that would enable them to improve production, better forecast demand, engage in analytics and more.
At the end of 2013, many vendors were said to be working hard to develop ways of easily and quickly harnessing the data, and analysts were predicting that big data would be one of the biggest trends of the year ahead.
So has it lived up to expectations? The topic has definitely made waves, primarily among large enterprises and government departments, but if we were to be honest, it remains a tool for the future.
The potential uses are so broad that while everyone agrees there will be benefit from using big data, exactly how data should be used, what data should be used, and the benefits will be remain ill-defined.
My guess is that it will take a few more years before big data catches on in a big way.
In the meantime, use cases will emerge almost by stealth as businesses applications begin to engage a wider and wider range of organisational data.
Because of their comparative agility and reach, cloud applications will lead the way in this trend.
Prediction #3: The need to upgrade systems will see businesses become more open to new approaches to technology
The ERP and supply chain systems that are being deployed today are vastly different to those of five or ten years ago.
The cloud, mobile apps, mobile devices and social media are redefining the way we do business.
We have tremendous flexibility to select from on premise, cloud and hybrid systems, integrated suites of applications and best-of-breed solutions.
Where old-style solutions embraced a certain predictability, in the post-GFC world, technologies that enhance responsiveness and agility are key.
The prediction was accurate, but openness to new experiences, approaches and methodologies will become an essential trait in the foreseeable future, when everyone in a market is chasing competitive advantage.
Industries heavily dependent on big logistics have well and truly entered the world of big data.
Nearly every aspect of the logistics, from minute processes in manufacture, through to transport and warehousing and maintenance, all activities are measured, tracked, and stored.
ERP software helps to deal with these issues and gain both a granular and wider view of business operations.
However, due to the mass of data that collection generates, the need for systems that can deal with level of data while providing multiple access points such as mobile and web is high.
Many developments in handling big data are coming from the mining industry, which is at the razors edge of the need for efficiency in all aspects of production and transport.
Rio Tinto’s global business services head Scott Singer explained it has had a number of issues with its digital data management, and the need for cloud and web based applications.
“We generate a huge volume of unstructured data and growth rates are expanding significantly,” Singer said, and "like most companies we are not good at 'hitting the delete key'.”
"Like most businesses we don’t have the core expertise to manage this.”
But this problem doesn’t just affect the majors, from explorers through to mid-level miners as well as their suppliers, all face the issue of dealing with multiple complex business processes throughout a multi-tiered system, with much of it now occurring over many sites all interlinked over the internet.
Dealing with all these factors can cost a business dearly if it not ready or able to adapt to the changing nature of the market.
According to Sage Business Solutions managing director Mike Lorge a recent study carried out by Sage in Europe and North America showed “midmarket companies with improved data accessibility, quality, intelligence, and usability can expect approximately 35 per cent more incremental revenue year over year than lower-performing companies
Sage Business Solutions has recently launched its latest iteration of its SAGE ERP X3 software – version 7 – which “brings flexibility and an entirely redesigned web and mobile experience, giving all employees the information they need wherever they are,” Sage stated, with Lorge adding
Importantly, the program has scalability allowing the response to grow or contract as work progresses, giving businesses more options as they develop projects or wind down certain operations.
Lorge explained: “As companies grow they can lose agility and profitable growth; Sage’s ERP X3 version 7 provides the tools to simplify and speed up the use of information to revive this growth.”
“The primary focus of developing the new version – which is focused predominately on the mid-market space- was integrating next gen user interfaces; making it web based and device agnostic, and really using the BYOD trend, as we see more consumer trends entering the business software world,” Lorge said.
The new X3 system provides a next generation alternative to Excel spreadsheet systems that many workplaces still use, with the program featuring embedded workflow, integrated businesses intelligence, easy-to-use dashboards, and device independent reporting, which allows for remote access and a BYOD style of operation as well as on site and in the field applications, as it can be used with iOS, Windows phones and most Android devices.
It also allows for global management capabilities, giving operations with multiple sites or global offices, greater integration of workflows.
The software has already been picked up by project and engineering design firm Saitec Australia, which is integrating ERP X3 throughout its business, into its analysis and reporting, financial accounting and management control, and operational management in areas such as production, purchasing, sales, and inventory.
Importantly, it also gives added support in terms of traceability and tracking of compliance and controls, helping businesses to ensure their entire supply chain from start to finish complies to regulations.
Sage Business senior vice president for AAMEA, Keith Fenner, told Australian Mining the new ERP provides a lot of flexibility for businesses.
“For instance, the agility it allows for operators in monitoring and controlling their stocks. As it has an overview of the many different facets of an operation the system can scrape sales, purchasing, and stock information, showing an increased sale of certain parts, compare that against existing stock levels, and that present this upcoming inventory issue,” Fenner said.
“One major miner has adopted it and within 30 days of using X3 for inventory administration they freed up a number of efficiencies, and had a greater visibility as well as better stock/procurement management. On top of this it brought in the concepts of seasonality to their supply chain and provided forecasts for likely demand, which was all based off of existing stock plans.
“These operators are able to now get a granular analysis using X3 version 7, using big data,” he said.
“While most companies can’t change their cost base for operations, with greater visibility they can address efficiency issues and help with stock and IT management.”
This also allows for more predictive, rather than reactive, business decisions and actions.
Lorge added that the latest version of X3 is building the foundation for greater visibility and the ongoing convergence in IT and operational technology currently being seen in Australian industry.
“If you don’t have the right architecture in ERP then your business will find it more difficult to keep up with the changes in compliance and regulation and efficiency developments, you need to get it right at this level otherwise it will add unnecessary cost and delays to operations.
The Intermedia Group, publisher of the longest serving and most popular supply chain management magazine in Australia, MHD Supply Chain Solutions, is from today making the magazine available online, free for Transport and logistics News subscribers.
For over 40 years, MHD Supply Chain Solutions magazine has been bringing its readers leading-edge supply chain management information from the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners, together with in-depth case studies and the latest innovations in equipment and software. MHD is published bi-monthly, now also online.
We are making your job easier: all the authoritative commentary, expert advice, industry-best warehouse equipment information, supply chain management theory and practice, and of course, the latest in materials handling, is now accessible at your fingertips – anytime, anywhere.
The magazine can be viewed on a variety of equipment, from desktops, laptops, notebooks, iPads, right down to the iPhone and Android smartphones.
The latest issue includes:
- Forklifts are not just forklifts: read about the enormous service support they come with these days. Read now.
- Racking for an earthquake: how to design and install racking that will survive just about anything. Read now.
- Mobile racking in a cold store: yes, automation does work fine at -28ºC. Read now.
- A success story a la francaise: how a major French fashion store chain revolutionised its warehousing, picking, packing and distribution system. Read now.
And much, much more.
Linfox has recently upped the ante on truck maintenance, ushering in a new era in standards of cleanliness for their assets running through Port Hedland.
With construction recently completed, Linfox’s newest industrial truck wash has been put through its paces, and has cut the wash time on a prime mover B-double from five hours down to 15 minutes for a general wash.
The wash system was designed by a number of partners from Australia and Germany working in close consultation to assist Ken Harrison, business development manager for Karcher, and car and truck washing industry professional for 16 years.
“It’s a very personal design,” Harrison told LMH.
“This is the first of its type that Karcher has done, and it’s absolutely sensational.”
Problems on the Road
When Linfox chairman Peter Fox first brought the brief to Cameron Mole, Karcher’s Managing Director, it had to be recognised that there were a number of problems associated with running heavy haulage in the Pilbara region.
“It depends on the season,” Harrison said.
“First there is the mud. In the wet season you can have around 300 kilograms of mud stuck underneath a single truck.
“The mud gets stuck to the drive trains, the sump of the motor, gearbox, transfer cases, diffs, and of course the parts are insulated by the mud which prevents them from cooling properly.
“The oils and lubricants can get too hot to properly function, and this was destroying the drive trains, they just can’t breathe properly with mud stuck all over them, so getting that mud off was the first issue.”
The second problem was the heat during summer, with trucks coming in off the road at soaring temperatures from 60 to 80 degrees.
Harrison pointed out that the trucks needed to be cooled down before bringing any chemicals or detergents into the mix.
“You can’t put washing detergents on a hot vehicle, it cooks it on, it goes all streaky and wrecks the paint,” he said.
The other problem encountered in dry conditions was the presence of iron ore dust, ever-present in a heavy mining region such as the Pilbara.
“During the dry season the iron ore dust gets into everything, brakes, brake drums, the various connections and bearings, it’s highly abrasive and capable of destroying everything under the truck.”
Out with the old, in with the new
The old truck wash at the Port Hedland depot was in a pretty sorry state when Ken Harrison went up to quote the Linfox job.
The whole operation consisted of a pressure cleaner, buckets and brooms and a concrete pad.
Over the course of almost 12 months Harrison and the Karcher team designed a system that was customised to deal with the rigours of outback long haulage issues, but also designed to be suitable for the region in a way that ensured no environmental impact would result from operation.
With the help of Melbourne building contractor John Courtney of Bolte Bay Industries, after about a month of construction the end result was a state-of –the-art truck wash bay that immediately improved the speed of washing by a factor of 20.
Solutions in soap
The entire truck wash system at Port Hedland was custom built to cope with the pressures of outback haulage.
In the first stage, a dirty truck that’s fresh from the road passes through a system of cooling, or dousing arches, which spray on 750 litres per minute of cold water in order to cool the truck panels down from soaring Pilbara road temperatures, allowing the use of chemicals and detergents without damaging the paintwork.
Next the truck passes over the underbody wash, for eroding the hundreds of kilograms of Pilbara mud and abrasive iron ore dust from the undercarriage.
This stage includes “sidespinners” which deal with muck that gets caked into the wheels and on the sides of the truck, running at 350 litres per minute each.
The key stage of cleaning is a manual washing system, with upstairs and downstairs gantry on both sides that enables four staff to clean at once, two up and two down, with a Karcher HD-C Multistack Pump unit, feeding four washguns that can be pulled along the gantries, for hosing down and injecting detergents to wash the muck off the truck.
The final stage before exit is a rinsing arch to ensure a sparkling finish on the prime mover.
A new era for truck washing
Harrison said he has been involved in the car and truck wash business for around 16 years, and has worked with Karcher since 1984, but this is the biggest and most satisfying project he’s ever been involved with.
“Absolutely, it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done, it’s absolutely sensational, but on top of that it runs like clockwork,” he said.
“The word from Linfox was that it sets the benchmark for truck washes for Linfox Australia.”
It is understood that Linfox has plans for two more truck washes, including an upgrade at Port Augusta, and a greenfield site at Newman, which will utilise the same technology.
“A lot of the gear we’ve used in this installation came from my previous job sites, drawing on all the key experiences, used in hundreds of car and truck dealerships installations around Australia,” Harrison said.
“We’ve used a lot of the technology that I’ve brought across in the last year and a half to put this all together and design the beach pits.
“The settling systems for the iron ore dust, there’s no other system like that, it was personally designed by myself, and it works 150 per cent, the water is absolutely spot on.”
Looking after the environment
The key to sustainability for the system is in water management and recycling.
All water from the wash is drained to a beach pit, which runs alongside the truck wash.
“The beach pit is like a huge swimming pool. It’s the pre-settling system for all the mud and muck that comes of the truck,” Harrison said.
Conventional big budget systems work by taking the dirty water and running it through a water recycling plant using reverse osmosis and chemicals and flocculants, however some of these systems run at a very high cost, around $700,000 for the initial build, followed by expensive ongoing running costs.
However, the new Karcher system has integrated a low-tech approach for keeping costs down, while maintaining the ordinary mineral content of the water.
“My theory was to settle all the oil and mud out of the water in-ground manually, then process it through a water recycler, without using chemicals at all,” he said.
“This reduces cost considerably, by hundreds of thousands each year.”
Key considerations were that Port Hedland has no stormwater or sewerage connections, with all waste water going into tanks or seepage pits underground, and the water tables are also quite shallow, sometimes only a single metre deep from the surface.
The system cannot allow any hydrocarbons to get into the shallow local water tables, so it functions as a closed loop, with regular waste disposal.
The real heart of the recycling system is what Harrison calls the beach pits, a low tech alternative to reverse osmosis.
In essence, everything from the 30m long washbay flows sideways into the beach pit, which runs alongside the truck wash.
The pit is used to settle out sand and heavy iron ore from the water, which passes through a series of baffles, resulting in 80 per cent of the water being recycled for reuse in the wash system.
Harrison has also designed an ingenious system for ensuring the water is kept at safe temperatures to prevent bacterial growth, to ensure health and hygiene for workers who also have to deal with washing roadkill from the vehicles, but he has told LMH that this is a trade secret.
LMH understands that a system like this can cost around $450,000 to $500,000 for full installation, with added costs for building and infrastructure over two million.
The end result is a system that washes 20 times faster than the old ‘hose and broom’ system, with the ability to wash a single truck and trailer in 15 minutes, a rate that can be kept up all day and night if necessary.
“When you consider a single truck can be worth 1.2 million, it’s a cost effective outlay,” Harrison said.