MINExpo 2016 surpasses attendance expectations
Innovation, technology and safety are key topics
MINExpo International® 2016 put up some impressive numbers: 1,900 exhibitors filling 840,000 square feet for 3 days. Nearly 44,000 attendees representing 130 countries.
Attendance surpassed expectations, with international participation and delegations at a record level. While attendance was down from 2012 levels, exhibitors found that those who did attend were key executives and decision-makers who spent more time on the exhibit floor for all three days of the show.
“We had strong traffic on our exhibit even on the last afternoon,” recalls Tony Johnson, Caterpillar marketing manager for mining and leader of the company’s MINExpo program. “Our exhibit workers and dealers have told us that attendees were much more serious and engaged with the show than in past years.”
The state of the mining industry today and predictions for its future were on the minds of everyone in attendance — from the dignitaries at the ribbon-cutting to the industry leaders who participated in the opening session to the attendees who walked the floor.
Thousands attended the opening session, titled “The Global Outlook for Mining.” Leaders representing equipment manufacturers as well as gold, copper, silver and coal mining served on a panel that discussed dozens of industry issues — from environmental concerns to safety to technology. Their outlook for 2017 and beyond, while cautious, was positive.
“Our customers are talking about, maybe we’re getting into a turnaround. They’re feeling more positive about the business,” said Caterpillar Group President Rob Charter, who has responsibility for Caterpillar customers and dealer support. “It’s exciting to be here,” Charter said in a show-floor interview. “They’re talking more about productivity than just cost. We’re starting to have that shift to ‘how do we get up and going again.’ ”
Showcasing a world of innovation
Sponsored by the National Mining Association, MINExpo is the largest show of its kind in the world and draws an international audience representing all major mining regions of the world. Its dedication solely to the global mining community makes it a show “like no other,” according to Caterpillar’s Denise Johnson, Caterpillar Group President for Resource Industries and chairperson of MINExpo 2016.
Johnson said she was honored to chair such an expansive exhibit of mining equipment, technology and expertise. “MINExpo 2016 is showcasing real technologies, advancements, innovations and solutions that will impact the bottom line of mining companies today — and into the future.”
Innovation was a key message at MINExpo. Billed by the NMA as “a world of innovation in one place,” mining technologies and products for the future were a key focus, starting with the opening session.
“I think we’ve got to move away from being thought of as an industry of the past. We are an industry of the future,” said Kevin Crutchfield, chairman of Contura Energy Inc.
The future of mining means technology, and it was everywhere on the MINExpo show floor. Caterpillar, for example, dedicated an entire corner of its 4,831-square-meter (52,000-square-foot) booth to showcasing its technology offerings.
While the company has showcased technology during previous MINExpo exhibits, its 2016 display was its largest ever. And unlike previous shows, where actors were employed to talk about “what’s coming,” the 2016 display showed technologies that are ready, available, and operational on mine sites around the world.
Cat® MineStar™, the company’s suite of technology products for surface mining and underground mining, was featured on large interactive multi-touch stations, alongside the machines displayed on the show floor, and in a series of videos that showcased the technologies delivering real results on mine sites around the world. As part of its MINExpo program, Caterpillar also took customers to its demonstration area in Tucson, Arizona, to see the technologies in action, including mining trucks and large dozers operating and interacting autonomously by using Cat Command.
“We have the largest autonomous truck fleet in the world,” said Craig Watkins, marketing and sales support supervisor for mining technology enabled solutions. “We’ve moved over 300 million tons autonomously and we’ve also outpaced or out-produced manned operations by 20 percent — and that’s pretty significant. Results that we are really excited about.”
But while Caterpillar is proud of its autonomous haulage system, Watkins stressed that the company is working hard to deliver technologies that can make a difference for mines of every size and with every type of equipment.
“I’m really excited about Command for dozing,” said Watkins. “And the reason I’m excited about that one is because it’s an automation technology that’s accessible to all miners, as opposed to fully autonomous systems or haulage trucks where not every miner is at that point on the journey.”
Using technology to lower costs
Caterpillar’s Tom Bluth, Vice President of the company’s Surface Mining & Technology organization, said the boom in technology offerings coincides with a mining industry desperate for new ways to control costs and get more from less.
“I think this current environment is interesting,” said Bluth. “Obviously the pressure from everyone on costs. But at the same time … a lot of these technologies which have been in an incubator stage, a pilot stage, are finally at the point that they’re practical, they’re reliable. So I think we’re going to see more in terms of technology application in an intelligent manner to drive down costs and increase productivity — probably more in the next five years in this industry than what we’ve seen in the last 20 years.”
Bluth also referenced “big data” and how mining companies are just beginning to be able to harness the power of the information that is coming from their mining equipment. “I think we’re really starting to see right now the first examples where we can take all this data that’s around it, but leverage it in a practical and intelligent way — in a way that we can see that benefit in terms of TCO, and in terms of product availability, in terms of overall cost structure,” he said. Caterpillar also had an area of its exhibit dedicated to this topic, emphasizing the importance not just of having access to data, but in partnering with experts who can help make that data useful.
Finding innovative ways to improve safety
While technology and innovation were headliners at the show, safety continued to be one of the main focus areas — as it has always been at MINExpo. A goal of zero harm is top of mind for every mining company and every manufacturer.
“Mining companies compete in different areas, but safety and health is not one of them,” Gary Goldberg, president and CEO of Newmont Mining Corp., said during the opening session. “We work together. We share the information.”
Technology and innovation aren’t just about improving productivity and efficiency. Many of the technologies on display have improving safety as a core benefit. For example, autonomous systems remove worker from dangerous environments altogether. Fatigue management technologies, like the Cat Driver Safety System on display at MINExpo, use technology and information to monitor and manage this important safety issue. Other technologies, like Cat Detect’s object detection and proximity awareness offerings, improve operator visibility.
“All of our customers are trying to produce more with less and actually enhance safety at the same time,” said Caterpillar subject matter expert Jagath Samaraweera. “A number of Cat technologies help in this effort. We’ve autonomously moved over 300 metric tons in 3½ years with zero lost time injuries. I can tell you for a fact that Command is safer than a manned operation.”
Machines on display also featured new safety enhancements, like factory-installed fire suppression systems, improved access platforms and working-at-heights protection that were displayed on a number of Cat machines.
Focusing on safety education
Safety education is another important focus of the NMA and part of its MINExpo program. The organization leads a partnership called CORESafety, which aims to prevent accidents using a system that involves leadership, management and assurance. Its objective is to have zero fatalities and a 50 percent reduction in mining’s injury rate within five years.
For its MINExpo 2016 program, the NMA offered two educational sessions dedicated solely to safety topics — from continuous improvement and competency training to hearing protection and dust collection.
MINExpo visitors also had an opportunity to test their safety knowledge with an Immersive Technologies Virtual Reality Safety Experience in the Caterpillar exhibit. The experience used a headset to place the wearer in a virtual environment where they were challenged with finding safety hazards in an underground hard rock mine.
During MINExpo, the NMA honored nearly 20 U.S. mines for their outstanding mine safety achievements in 2015. The NMA’s Sentinels of Safety Awards are given to coal and mineral mining operations that record the most hours in a calendar year without a lost-time injury. In addition, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) presented its Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovation Award, which recognizes mines and companies that have made an extraordinary effort to apply technologies in ways that will improve mine worker safety or health. The goal of this award is to promote the identification, adoption, and dissemination of safety and health technologies throughout the mining industry.
“These awards are a timely reminder of the importance of safety in the mining industry and of the further progress we are making to ensure every miner returns home safely after each and every shift,” said NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn. “The companies we honor today are the true sentinels of safety, not only the safest mines in this country but among the safest mines in the world. The industry is inspired by the example they have set.”
Making a commitment to mining
One of the key messages that the came out at MINExpo — from equipment manufacturers and technology providers to mining companies and supporting organizations — was a commitment to this important industry in both the good times and the challenging ones.
The theme of the Caterpillar exhibit, “Our Partnership Goes Beyond the Iron,” was selected to show the industry that the company is committed to being a business partner — helping mining companies control costs, improve production, optimize the life of their mining equipment costs and adopt and adapt to new technologies.
“I think it’s a really important message,” said Charter. “This show demonstrates that this is a partnership. How do we come to solve your problems? How do we make you more profitable?”
As leader of Caterpillar’s surface mining products, Bluth reinforced the company’s commitment to providing quality equipment that meets the needs of individual mine sites. “Every site has different challenges, has different issues, so we need to be close so that we can align what our resources and knowledge are to help,” he said. “As always we’re going to stand behind our equipment, we’re going to be there close with the customer. And I think finally, even in challenging times, you can expect us to continue to invest … not only improving our solutions but our products, also on a retrofit basis to keep trying to drive improvements on total cost of ownership.”
Predicting a bright future
As Denise Johnson toured the exhibit floor and met with Caterpillar workers, she described the atmosphere as positive, with workers and attendees expressing enthusiasm about the future.
“All of the workers at the show feel the sense of optimism being projected here,” she said. “They're also seeing signs of a real optimism in the miners themselves, not just the equipment providers, and I think that will help carry us forward knowing there are brighter days to come.”
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