Q&A with MINE Magazine
Could you provide some brief background to Thoroughtec’s simulation solutions and some of their applications?
ThoroughTec Simulation, a global company, headquartered in South Africa, has been designing heavy-equipment operator training simulators for over twenty years. During this time the company has grown to become one of the world’s leading suppliers of advanced simulator training solutions to the mining, construction and military sectors.
ThoroughTec started life as a military simulation company, quickly establishing itself as the de facto supplier of all landward simulator systems to the South African Military. This foundation of quality-driven military engineering, supported the development of the CYBERMINE range of mining equipment simulators, which quickly established a reputation for performance, reliability and extremely low cost of ownership. To date, ThoroughTec has delivered over 500 training simulators to mines, training institutions and universities around the world.
The CYBERMINE simulator range is the broadest in the industry, encompassing virtually every class of mechanised mining machinery for both surface and underground operations. From load and haul through to the most complex production and ancillary equipment, CYBERMINE mining simulator systems are designed and engineered to make mines safer, more productive and more cost effective.
Always sensitive to mining industry needs and leveraging the very latest training technologies, ThoroughTec’s current R&D efforts have focussed on providing mines with end-to-end workforce optimisation solutions. Entry-level E-Learning courses and intermediate Operator Familiarisation Trainers have been added to their CYBERMINE product range, seamlessly integrating with the high-fidelity Full Mission Simulators (FMS) to provide a flexible and effective, full-spectrum training system.
How do they enable companies to improve productivity / safety and cut costs?
ThoroughTec’s CYBERMINE training technologies are specifically designed to measure and improve mine operator performance through KPI-centric training. A highly intuitive and powerful workforce performance management system offers accurate measurement and analysis of each mine operator, facilitating the assignment of tailored training interventions to ensure that bad habits and safety lapses are eliminated. The result is a customised workforce optimisation system that delivers safe, efficient and productive operators to the ‘coal-face’, continuously driving down costs and driving up profits!
E-Learning systems have evolved considerably over the years and ThoroughTec prides itself in staying ahead of the market as new technologies and methods emerge.
Their entry-level training products guide novice recruits through a particular vehicle’s basic controls and operation, as well as providing mine environment and site procedure orientation. The courses are incredibly interactive ensuring that learners are totally engaged and advance at their own pace. Learning in this way helps with memory recall and students are able to gain knowledge at a quicker pace. Examples include demonstrating the importance of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), conducting walk-around inspections, recognising and responding to hazards within the mine and identifying various signage.
The Operator Familiarisation Trainer bridges the gap between the more theoretical E-learning products and practical, Full-Mission Simulator (FMS) training. It’s a supplementary system, intended to develop and entrench advanced, mine operator psycho-motor skills. The operator is taken through detailed exercises via an advanced interactive touchscreen incorporated with the cab’s controls. It’s designed to utilise cabs which are not being used by the FMS. This frees up the FMS for advanced training, increasing operator throughput and thus the return on investment.
Finally, the FMS itself allows for highly-realistic, ‘practical’ training in a safe and controlled environment. This prevents unnecessary damage to equipment and exposure to dangers on the mine site, further reducing the frequency of accidents and resulting in competent, productive machine operators. By concentrating on specific tasks and being continuously monitored, trainee operators receive accelerated training that improves their productivity and eliminates bad habits at the outset. CYBERMINE training simulators have very low running costs which, coupled with the avoidance of opportunity costs associated with practical training on production machinery, makes for an outstanding return on investment case. Successful mines around the world use CYBERMINE simulators to safely and effectively train operators for both surface and underground mining operations.
How are customer demands changing?
Customer demands are constantly evolving and ThoroughTec always strives to have the right products to meet their needs. Over the last few years the company has recognised a notable increase in system capacity requirements, particularly on new start-ups. The expectation is for a much higher training capacity, along with a complete end-to-end solution. This solution covers everything, from assistance with recruiting the right operators to supplying the training curriculum. Over and above the CYBERMINE training technologies, mines are also increasingly recognising ThoroughTec as the training experts and are using that resource to their advantage.
ThoroughTec has also seen much more involvement from mine management in the acquisition process. This, not only from a due diligence perspective but also because there’s been a shift from simulation being a ‘nice-to-have’, to a ‘must-have’ from an operational, productivity and safety perspective. Management have come to realise the impact that operators have on the production cycle and even the smallest improvements in operator efficiency can result in huge returns at the end of the production cycle.
Some of ThoroughTec’s more progressive customers have even started building quantitative models to accurately measure performance improvements at the “per operator” level. This directly contributed towards the achievement of their business objectives by developing training technologies with tracking and reporting metrics that could be extrapolated to real world scenarios in order to optimise operator performance across specific fleets.
Do you have anything new or exciting in the pipeline?
In recent months ThoroughTec has added a significant number of new surface and underground simulator cabs to its extensive range, now the widest in the industry. These include the Caterpillar 795F and 797B haul trucks, 740B ADT, 24M grader, Komatsu 785-7 water tanker and PC850 shovel, Liebherr 282B haul truck and Sandvik DS211L-M bolter and MH620 roadheader.
Another interesting development is the CYBERMINE operator motion tracking system. Unlike older technologies on the market, this system does not require the operator to wear any special devices or equipment, so it is entirely unobtrusive, intuitive and hygienic. This technology seamlessly puts the operator’s body and gestures into the simulation, helping him or her get a more authentic experience by being able to look around obstructions in the virtual mine world.
Finally, the company also plans to unveil some exciting new products at the upcoming MINExpo event in Las Vegas, this coming September.