Oils well that ends well

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.

The 2014 Scorecard

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.

Solving the problems of Big Data

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.

MHD magazine now available online, free

MHD Jul Aug 2014

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.

CLAIM YOUR FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION NOW

 

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.

As a Transport and Logistics News subscriber, you can also subscribe to MHD magazine online at no cost. Be one of the first to read MHD online – subscribe now!

A new era in truck washing

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.

Capital expenditure

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.

Navman Wireless launch new online driver assessment academy

Navman Wireless have been at the forefront of real-time GPS vehicle tracking and data analysis for several years, which are perfect for monitoring driving behaviour in terms of legality on the road, but how can companies assess at-risk driving behaviours that don’t set off the alarm bells?

Driving behaviour can be checked with traditional driver instruction programs, but this means taking drivers off the road for assessment, which ultimately costs in terms of productivity.

Launched in April, Navman Wireless have brought a new, online driving academy to the table.

The driving academy includes a driver assessment system which measures key driving behaviours and attitudes in order to identify drivers who may be at-risk in terms of driver and vehicle safety.

Navman Wireless solutions specialist Chris L’Ecluse said the driving academy is not intended to train drivers.

“As opposed to traditional instructor-based driver training, which is skills based coaching, what this program aims to do is challenge driving behaviour,” L’Ecluse said.

“As far as we’re concerned, if they have a licence for the vehicle they are driving, they have already been tested for the skills needed to drive that vehicle.”

L’Ecluse comes from a police background, with 20 years of experience in Western Australia where he worked highway patrol, crash investigation and driver training, and has been involved with the Navman driving academy for the past two-and-a-half years.

L’Ecluse has ensured the program is tailor-made to suit local conditions and laws where the drivers work, with specific programs available for Australia and New Zealand rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

“The key benefit of the program is that all the footage is filmed locally, it’s developed in Australia for Australia, with Australian laws in mind, and the voiceovers are Australian. The footage for New Zealand is actually filmed in New Zealand, because quite often when we have two countries like this we only see the Australian footage,” he said.

L’Ecluse regards the Navman driving academy to be better than other online driving assessments that he has reviewed, as it has real life driving scenarios in which the participant has to identify, on a ten second high definition video clip, a driving scenario from real life.

“It’s not staged, and the participant has to identify the greatest hazard within a ten second window.”

The way the program works is it grades each individual against the main criteria for driving competence, through six core competency areas; scanning, space management, knowledge of danger zones, speed management, awareness of other motorists, and attitude.

“Where they fall down is in their driving behaviours,” L’Ecluse said.

“That comes down to a culture and human behaviour, so we’ve done a lot of research into the psychology of driving, and at-risk behaviours, and that’s where this program seeks to challenge those behaviours, and seeks to identify a risk profile for an individual.

“Once that’s occurred, it’s identified where their deficiencies lie, and then it selects from the library of modules for that individual as a remedial action, and customises a course for that individual.”

In all there are 48 assessment criteria, broken up into 20 real-life video scenarios, and 28 multiple choice questions.

“Each one of those 48 assessment criteria relates in one way or another to those six driving competencies, and the driver is then scored according to the algorithm,” L’Ecluse explained.

“Part of the assessment includes a knowledge test of the policies relating to driver liability.”

L’Ecluse said that traditionally a driver would be given a copy of the policy during induction, and they would have to sign to say they had received it, without any further test of understanding.

“From a liability standpoint it’s very important for drivers to not only know or be given a copy of the policy, but to understand that policy… So we give a test for knowledge and understanding, which gives protection to the organisation of knowing that their drivers understand the policy.”

If the system identifies any at-risk behaviour in a driver during assessment, this can be brought to the attention of the employer, however knowledge of these potential risks can become a liability for the employer, requiring remedial action to change behaviours.

“Once we have that risk profile, by law now you’re obliged to act on that, so if a company fails to act on that identified risk, then they become liable,” L’Ecluse said.

A driver with at-risk behaviour identified will then be prescribed a series of training modules to ensure the driver has an opportunity to examine their own behaviour and become much more aware of the kinds of risks involved.

Each module takes no longer than 20 minutes, so there’s minimal impact on work time, and the duration also stays within the average maximum adult attention span.

“A low-risk driver might be given two training modules; a high risk driver might get 15,” L’Ecluse said.

“Those modules are metered out, it’s not 15 in one week, they will get reminders from the program to their email inbox that advise them that they have another course ready.

“It’s about making sure the attention span is far greater.”

Australian wholesale distributors lag behind in E-commerce adoption

Research has found the Australian wholesale distribution sector is lagging behind in e-commerce adoption, with only 10 per cent of companies currently able to receive orders directly over the Internet.

The study, commissioned by NetSuite, shows that despite strong optimism about their prospects for growing the e-commerce channel, with almost 75 per cent of businesses viewing it as an opportunity, the study conducted by Frost & Sullivan has indicated just how unprepared wholesale businesses are to handle this growth.

“For wholesale businesses, e-commerce is both an opportunity and a challenge,” said Mark Dougan, managing director for Australia and New Zealand for Frost & Sullivan.

“It offers a way to build closer and more direct relationships with the end customer, the ultimate consumers of their products, but also presents both strategic and operational challenges. The strategic challenge largely lies in the risk of bypassing long-established distribution channels. Our research identified that the main operational challenge is in linking the e-commerce front-end to existing internal business systems.”

The sponsored survey of 102 Australian businesses in the manufacturing and wholesale distribution sectors was carried out by Frost & Sullivan in September 2013, to understand the importance of the Internet as a channel for their future business success.

It revealed that businesses in these sectors see the opportunities and benefits that e-commerce can offer, particularly convenience for customers, reduction in distribution costs and linking customer orders directly with central business systems.

While 76 per cent of respondents envisage that customers will increase online ordering over the next few years, ordering direct from their websites is much less common than in the retail sector, with most currently only receiving orders via e-mail.

However some businesses still identify a number of challenges that are keeping them from adopting e-commerce, including losing direct relationships with B2B customers, system integration issues and the feeling that they need to offer lower prices online.

According to Frost & Sullivan, while only a small percentage of B2C consumers are able to order directly from wholesalers and manufacturers online, more than 50 per cent of Australian manufacturing and wholesale businesses now place orders directly with suppliers online.

Over three-quarters of businesses expect to increase their online ordering from suppliers, citing quicker and easier ordering processes, access to a wider range of suppliers, less paperwork involved and lower prices than other channels as the top reasons.

Social media broadens communication channels with customers

The Frost & Sullivan study indicates that adoption of social media as a communication channel with customers is increasing, with 30 per cent of manufacturing and wholesale businesses now having a social media presence. Looking at manufacturing specifically, while take-up of social media is low compared to other sectors, it has doubled in the past three years to almost 15 per cent. For both sectors, however, telephone and e-mail remain the dominant communication channels.

“Social media is becoming an increasingly important platform for customer communication and engagement,” said Dougan.

“Businesses in the manufacturing and wholesale sectors are increasingly recognising the benefits of establishing direct communications with their end-consumers through social media.”

Integrated software platform overcomes challenges

According to the research, a major challenge faced by many Australian manufacturers and wholesale distributors with a web presence is a lack of integration between their web front-end and internal back-end systems, with less than 20 per cent having automated links.

Respondents cite a lack of integration as a major issue for exploiting e-commerce, followed by a lack of systems to service customers that cross between online and other channels, as well as a lack of systems that connect inventory to online sales channels.

Without a unified software solution, these businesses face difficulties in maintaining a consistent brand experience in areas such as customer support, pricing, as well as increased operational costs to run and maintain each channel.

“Manufacturers and wholesale distributors have, in general, been unfairly portrayed as having a fundamentally conservative approach; however, what we are now seeing is that thriving and successful businesses have embraced change and understand the generational shifts in process and technology they need to make to remain relevant, competitive and grow profitably,” said Mark Troselj, managing director of APAC and Japan for NetSuite.

Image: lerablog.org

Workplace insurers take interest in wireless physical assessment technology

The future of workplace health assessments is looking much more precise, with insurance companies beginning to recognise a revolutionary medical aid, the ViSafe.

Melbourne-based company DorsaVi is a specialist in body movement technology, and was founded in 2000 by physiotherapists Andrew and Dan Ronchi.

Since 2008 DorsaVi has been producing wireless sensors that are capable of measuring range of motion, and muscle impulses in the body, through the use of biomechanical and electrophysiological technology.

The sensors are stuck to the wearer’s body (usually along the spine) with sticky pads, and use accelerometers to measure the movement of the body in relation to the other sensors.

The sensors wirelessly feed information in real time back to an ordinary computer terminal or tablet, where the results can be immediately viewed by a clinician and their patient, a researcher and their subject, or a workplace assessor and an employee.

There are several products with specific uses: The ViMove is for clinical assessment, ViPerform for sports development and therapy, and the ViSafe is aimed at the OH&S market.

The software for each product is continually upgraded to provide new components for different types of measurement and assessment, and the latest upgrade has been aimed at golfers, to analyse their movements and the risk of potential injury.

Of course, for industrial application the ViSafe is without parallel.

It enables a doctor or physiotherapist to accurately quantify an employee’s (or a prospective employee’s) range of movement.

ViSafe can tell you in a quantifiable way how far a worker can bend over, in degrees.

This kind of ability to measure bodily movement can allow employers to screen employees at pre-employment medicals, and record to the degree their full range of movement.

Pre-existing injuries can become immediately apparent, and the data can be kept to compare with testing after a workplace injury, not only for legal reasons, but to facilitate the rehabilitation of injured workers and their reintegration back into the workfront on suitable duties, in precisely the same was that professional sportspeople can measure their movements and review the information to refine their technical skills.

The ViSafe system can also be worn by a worker while performing duties, to assess the safety of performing particular tasks, such as work in a confined space or lifting objects of a certain weight or shape.

ViSafe is currently used by a number of large employers to assess the ergonomics of different tasks, such as Crown Casino, Coles, Woolworths, Toyota, Toll, and BHP Billiton.

In fact, the basic formula for the systems was developed initially for sports physiotherapy and development, with DorsaVi founders Andrew and Dan Ronchi counting AFL teams among their clients.

Attention from the insurance industry

With workplace injuries costing the Australian taxpayers billions, it’s little wonder that these devices have captured the attention of the workplace insurance market.

In late march DorsaVi announced a new alliance with insurer Allianz, which from now on will recommend the use of the ViSafe in Australian workplaces.

DorsaVi CEO and founding partner Andrew Ronchi said the alliance was part of the company’s strategy, to form key partnerships with insurers to build on the their market in occupational health and safety and help build the Dorsavi’s revenue.

“ViSafe offers unique insights as to where higher risk areas exist in occupational environments,” he said.

“Once risks are identified, ViSafe processes and data capture can be used to re-engineer work environments to reduce risks and at the same time increase productivity.”

Allianz general manager Norm Cockerell said they were very pleased to recommend such a groundbreaking product for use in the workplace to improve safety and reduce injuries.

“This is clearly good for workers but there are also significant benefits in reducing the economic impact of workplace injury on employers and the broader community,” he said.

He indicated that if the device is able to reduce workplace incidents, then employers will make fewer claims on insurers, enabling to manage their insurance premium costs.

According to Safe Work Australia there were 132,570 worker compensation claims for serious injury or illness in 2011-2013, with 20 per cent of those claims involving back injuries, 42.4 per cent involving sprains and strains, and 13.7 per cent for musculoskeletal disorders.

In 2008-2009 workplace injuries cost the taxpayer $60.6 billion, representing 4.8 per cent of the nation’s GDP at the time.

 

On the ground – Heavy industry

At Prominent Hill in South Australia the ViSafe has provided some fresh perspective on manual handling.

Byrnecut Australia safety manager had the charge crew at Prominent Hill tested during surface work, and was able to identify some key risks to the physical health of the workers.

“That was quite interesting, because the utes have big boxes on the back that you load the explosives into, and it’s just above waist high so it picked up quite a bit of strain as they [workers] were lifting the boxes up,” Wilson said.

“That alerted us to an area of manhandling that we can have a look at, and when we order more vehicles we’ll have them modified to reduce that risk.”

Wilson said that the ViSafe is very useful for identifying areas in a manufacturing or industrial environment where machinery could be modified to better suit the ergonomics for workers, but the biggest advantage for miners was in enabling education of the workers to improve their manual handling practices.

“They are very useful for identifying bad work practices and manual handling techniques, that’s where a big benefit is, being able to show the bloke what they’re doing in a highly physical environment.

 

The user’s view

Physiotherapist Danny Redrup  has been using the ViMove device to assess and treat patients since 2008.

“This was something that really excited us when it first came out,” he said.

“We worked with DorsaVi really early with their development… We started out in sport, treating spinal injuries in cricketers, and then in the clinic here we’ve moved the application to the clinical population of private patients, and now we do workplace assessments.”

Redrup said that while the device is not a replacement for a physiotherapist, the device has benefits that extend to outside of the clinic, and the ordinary sight of a physio.

“We do have tradespeople come in with workers compensation claims, and we’re able to assess them, but the real beauty of the ViMove is that you can give it to a worker and they can wear it at work, and we can look at what they’re doing at work.”

The ViMove and ViSafe sensors can be programmed to monitor the wearer for undesirable movement or posture, and warn them if they begin to fall into debilitating habits.

“It has alarms that can remind the wearer about health risks,” Redrup said.

“Say you’re driving a truck for eight hours today and you really shouldn’t sit in a slumped position.

“We can set the device to recognise if you’re in a slumped sitting position, and if you start to slump and you go into that position for more than ten seconds, the machine will start beeping and it’s going to remind you.

“It will also give an overall report once you’re finished, when you bring back the device we can download the information and see, for example, that if your discs don’t like static inflexion, it takes seven hours to recover from two hours of sitting, in regards to a disc, and that sort of data is invaluable when making assessments.

The company

DorsaVi has recently announced their half-year financial result, recording revenues of $387,127 for the second half of 2013, with a net loss after tax of $1.07 million.

The company achieved public listing in December, putting up an initial public offering which was over-subscribed at $18 million, and on December 31 DorsaVi recorded a cash balance of $16.63 million.

Flagship Lift Truck Reaches New Heights for Operators

Yale’s new MR reach truck pushes levels of productivity and dependability to new heights for warehouse operators while squeezing cost of ownership to an absolute minimum.

Redesigned from the ground up by one of the industry’s most respected materials handling equipment manufacturers, Yale’s new MR redefines the standards warehouse managers and forklift operatives can expect of a modern reach truck in a range that is both highly productive and pleasing to the eye.

After over 55,000 hours of product development – including operation in the warehouses of some of the world’s most demanding end users and a rigorous test cycle of over one million operations – the new MR reach truck is unlike anything else on the market. Featuring a new chassis, new mast design, new operator compartment and new control systems, the MR series sets a new standard.

The truck’s maximum travel speed of 14km/h and lift speed of 0.8m/sec, coupled with its manoeuvrability and ease of use will help users achieve the very greatest productivity: test cycles have demonstrated that the new MR can deposit and retrieve more loads per hour than all major rivals.

A unique new design of mast channel on which a patent is pending offers improved deration performance as loads are raised while reducing mast deflection to a minimum. This allows smaller capacity trucks to be used for lift heights that would previously have required substantially larger and more expensive models.

A wide access step and dedicated grab handles help operators enter and exit the truck smoothly while the operator’s compartment features generous leg room, new high-quality fully adjustable full suspension seat (which reduces transmission of vibration from uneven floor conditions), adjustable armrest with integral mini-lever module and an adjustable steering column.

When it comes to keeping drivers aware of critical truck information, the new MR is again ahead of the competition with its industry first optional touch screen display, providing operator with information on the truck’s status from battery charge and direction of truck movement to mast position and load weight, and allows easy tailoring of the truck’s operational performance characteristics. The standard display module with LCD screen, carried over from Yale’s successful electric counterbalanced truck range, also provides truck status information and performance mode selection.

Visibility from the operator’s seat has also been enhanced, with the MR’s new mast channels not only helping to increase residual capacities but providing better line of sight than ever before, both forwards and when looking up through the overhead guard. Operators will also appreciate the smooth, quiet transition of the mast sections.

Easy preventative maintenance has also been designed into the new MR, with long service intervals, component commonality across the Yale range and straightforward access to the major components all helping to maintain maximum uptime and keep the costs involved in servicing to a minimum.

Commenting on the launch of the new model, Warehouse Product Strategy Leader Robert O’Donoghue said its innovative design, outstanding productivity, leading use of technology and tailored ergonomics would make it “the reach truck of choice for every fleet manager” in the future.

“This truck’s high levels of performance, sector-leading ergonomics and low lifetime costs will help Yale customers achieve increased productivity while reducing their fleet size, lowering their energy consumption, achieving a faster return on investment and boosting their profitability,” he added.

 “This really is a reach truck that sets new standards in the market.”

Customised conveyor investments cut energy costs

Bruce Granger, general manager with Industrial Conveying, one of Australia's leading project orientated conveyor companies, says that with the increasing cost of electricity, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important for his clients and end users.

"Companies are now looking closely at what their energy consumption is, so anything they can do to reduce it is a huge advantage for them," Granger said.

Granger explained that the refurbishment project in question involved a multi-national manufacturer consolidating one of its Sydney plants, and was a prime example of what can be achieved using customised equipment.

"It was not just energy savings we were able to offer the client, there were substantial savings in installation and wiring costs as well," he said.

"While the project is in an existing building, it had been completely stripped and refurbished inside with new equipment from us and equipment from other plants."

Granger said there are two phases to ICA's part of the project.

"One phase is taking cartons from the plant's manufacturing cells through an overhead conveyor system, then carrying the cartons down to a sophisticated palletising system, with around 250m of conveyors in total."  

He said the system has several automated mergers where cartons from four different manufacturing cells travel on the overhead conveyor systems.

"Then they all merge onto one main trunk line which takes the cartons to the palletising system."

Granger explained that the manufacturer has 30 plus SKUs with two main variations of cartons; one measuring 400mm x 250mm x 200mm with the larger carton measuring 650mm x 300mm x 280mm and weighing up to 20kg.

"While the flow rate through the system is modest at the moment, the system has the ability to be increased when needed as production rates increase.

"We have designed the overhead conveyor system to accumulate via particular types of belts that we use, with the ability to turn the drives off and on as needed.

"From the overhead conveyor systems, the cartons feed down to the palletising unit itself where the sorting system sorts the cartons into various lanes.

The company is using SEW-EURODRIVE electrical equipment with various types of the MOVIGEAR Mechatronic drive system, which it says is ideal for materials handling systems.

Granger said that the Mechatronic drive system comprises an efficient electric synchronous motor and gear unit with matching electronics in a single compact housing.

 "Overall, we are using 56 SEW-EURODRIVE motors on this project; the MOVIGEAR SNI, linked to MOVIFIT field controllers, and MOVIGEAR DRCs.

"The MOVIFIT system has allowed us to control up to ten of the MOVIGEAR drives from just one controller, which has significantly reduced our field wiring component and simplified the controls.

"It has also considerably cut our installation times by allowing us to do the pre-wiring of many of the components, such as the photo-electric cells where they are connected straight back to the MOVIGEAR units, in our factory set-up.

"By doing a lot of the pre-installation work and dry commissioning the system in our Bendigo factory this gives us the considerable advantage of reduced on-site work."

As one of Australia's leading project orientated conveyor companies, operating since the mid-70s across a wide range of industries, Granger said this project is a prime example of a customised project designed and built to the client's specific requirements.

"This project, with its 56 motor system, is just one example of what we can achieve using SEW-EURODRIVE equipment", Granger said.  

"Across the drives, we estimate the current draw will be as low as 20 Amps, whereas if we had designed the project the conventional way the current draw would be much higher, could be up to 60 Amps, and cost the manufacturer considerably more to operate.

"Over the life of this equipment, there will be substantial savings in energy consumption; savings in the region of thousands of dollars every year."

Granger said the main reason ICA uses SEW-EURODRIVE equipment is its high quality.

"It is very reliable and efficient, plus we get excellent service and back-up. It's the whole package."

The technology

John Gattellari, SEW-EURODRIVE's national industry specialist – food and beverage, said the MOVIGEAR drive system is an intelligent device and one every manufacturer should be taking advantage of.

 "A systematic development approach was taken right from the start of the design process of the drive system with a very high level of system efficiency, which in turn helps lower energy costs," Gattellari said.  

"The motors comply with IE4 (Super Premium Efficiency) energy efficiency classification, and higher, offering impressive energy savings.

 "Depending on the application, the MOVIGEAR drive system offers customers potential energy savings of up to 50%, every year," he said.

According to the company,the MOVIGEAR SNI (Single Line Network Installation) also allows simplified installation, which leads to significantly reduced installation and system costs.

 In contrast to current decentralised automation technology, which relies on two separate cables for energy and communication, the single line technology deployed with MOVIGEAR communicates over one of the phases of power, reducing the complications and cost of on-site installations.

 "This simplified system structure can often reduce the time taken for start-ups from weeks to a matter of days," Gattellari said.  

"With this project, the manufacturer has linked the MOVIGEAR drives to MOVIFIT SNI controllers which have been designed for decentralised installation in the field.

 "The MOVIFIT SNI can control up to 10 MOVIGEAR drive units, passing the control information via Ethernet signals."

Customers are also able to optimise a MOVIGEAR unit for different speeds, meaning a reduction in the number of variants required, with the corresponding number of spares required also heavily reduced.

Gattellari explained that when it comes to old and new technologies, the difference is huge.

"With this new technology, the payback is often within two years, as opposed to old technology, which is considerably longer.

 "In fact the ROI on this project is expected to be even less than 18 months," he said.

Gattellari went on to say that as well as providing the conveyor systems for the new section of the plant, ICA is also upgrading other parts of the plant and installing SEW's MOVIGEAR DRC motors.

 "These motors can simply be plugged into our standard gearbox. In this section of the plant, the manufacturer didn't want to change anything mechanically, they just wanted to lower their energy costs and improve efficiencies.

 "So they took off the old gearboxes and put new ones in with the same mountings."

Gattellari explained that there are two variants of MOVIGEAR DRC motors available, one with brakes, one without – with both types used on this project.

He also said that the MOVIGEAR is a hygienic drive, with no sharp edges and totally smooth.

"It is also fully enclosed with no air, dirt or germ swirls, and with low noise emissions, due to the drive operating without a fan, it is ideal for use in manual work stations.

 "The optional HP200 coating is designed so nothing can stick to it, making it ideal for hygienic or 'wash down' applications in the food and beverage industry," he said.

Gattellari reports that more and more customers are taking advantage of the MOVIGEAR drive system, including major global companies such as Coca Cola.

 "They have all been very impressed with the system's ease of installation and the on-going reduction in energy costs," he said. 

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