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VantagePoint System Makes the Most of Quarry Data

Fri January 18, 2019 - Northeast Edition #2
Aaron Witt – CEG Correspondent

Carter is already looking beyond quarries to see how VantagePoint measurements may be applied to heavy civil job sites, coal mines and landfills.
Carter is already looking beyond quarries to see how VantagePoint measurements may be applied to heavy civil job sites, coal mines and landfills.
Carter is already looking beyond quarries to see how VantagePoint measurements may be applied to heavy civil job sites, coal mines and landfills. Carter Machinery is a well-known Cat dealer that sells and services yellow iron across the Virginias. VantagePoint system collects data from every machine at the quarry site. VantagePoint displays the data it collects on an intuitive, easily interpreted dashboard.

America's quarries supply the rock needed to build the solid foundations of everything from schools to airports to homes. With such an important mission at hand, and with the year 2020 in the not so distant future, you'd think quarries would be streamlined and efficient.

In reality, however, there are many opportunities to take advantage of. It's easy for most modern businesses to track transactions and make decisions based on web traffic, but how do you measure how well a loader operator is loading trucks over a 10-hour shift?

The answer, according to Carter Machinery, is data. Carter partnered with its customers and business intelligence developer TADA to deploy a powerful data platform named VantagePoint, which is designed to give local aggregate producers the ability to understand how their quarries are performing every hour of every day.

"The desire has been there for a long time, but there hasn't been an economical solution to even get the conversation started until now," said Jason Threewitts, the man on the ground from day one.

Carter Machinery is a well-known Cat dealer that sells and services yellow iron across the Virginias. It has a long history of helping some of the nation's oldest quarries by providing the right machines to increase production.

For most dealers, you'd think successfully selling and servicing machines would be enough, but Carter went further and asked its quarry customers what their other needs were. Quarry managers needed a better understanding of how they were actually producing, and Carter teamed up with TADA to work on a solution.

"We can be deeper partners with our customers by enabling data and helping them solve problems past our traditional machine, parts and service offerings. They are asking and we are delivering," Threewitts said. "Our customers started using basic data and were asking, ‘What's next? Help me find the value.'"

Carter customers had been dabbling in telematics, measuring fuel burn and identifying basic machine health codes, but they wanted more, specifically about productivity. Unfortunately, the big-brand options weren't economically feasible for a producer with a single loader and a fleet of three trucks.

Thanks to the subject matter and the domain expertise of everyone involved, VantagePoint was born.

VantagePoint offers quarry managers and operators the ability to understand exactly how their quarry is performing, based on their existing processes. It measures truck idle time, truck exchange time, load time, crusher wait time, crusher production, black belt time, locations where idle events most frequently occur — and the list goes on.

Data are collected from every machine on site, fed to servers, digested, and then transferred to an intuitive dashboard fit not for an engineer, but for a mine foreman.

"We speak their language," said Threewitts. "We listened to how they talk and how they make decisions."

The VantagePoint team spent months in quarries observing operations and understanding exactly how each worked. Every quarry has different needs, so they worked with each to create a custom-tailored platform that's still affordable.

Installation is quick and easy, utilizing existing telematics devices found on newer machines or retrofitted to older machines. These devices talk to the machine, collect every bit of data they produce, and then relay the data to a server.

Completing the holistic view of the site, hardware can also be installed to communicate with the customer's crusher belt scales, based on site needs.

"We realize that customers have mixed fleets, so it was necessary to partner throughout their entire business, helping solve all problems, regardless of what make or type of equipment," Threewitts said.

Hardware takes roughly a week to install, and then a second week is spent adjusting the dashboard and data streams to fit the quarry.

"We don't make assumptions that could be incorrect," Threewitts said. "We ask the local foreman and superintendents to walk us through the operation. Where do they think the bottlenecks are?"

The dashboard is even tailored to the specific quarry's vocabulary.

Once the data are dialed in, the operation instantly has access to how production looks at that moment. This is often the first time small aggregate producers understand how their machines are actually operating, apart from occasional time studies.

From there, quarry operators can identify bottlenecks and figure out what to focus their effort on improving. For example, idle time percentages have drastically dropped, and load counts have improved, which, in turn, has led to reduced material costs.

"If you can get one more load up the hill just because you're aware of how you're producing, that directly affects cost per ton," said Threewitts.

What about operational performance training? VantagePoint helps there too.

Everyone thinks they have a good training program, but until now, most of that training was related to tasks or safety. To realize the true potential of a performance-based training program, VantagePoint opens up a way to measure effectiveness with key data sets.

Say the quarry foreman decides that a new pit loader should be loading trucks faster, due to a review of average load times for the past month, and the operator is trained and returned to production. The old measurement of success would be to sit with a stopwatch and time a few loads. Now, a foreman ― or even an executive ― can sit down and see the actual improvement due to the data in an easy-to-use platform.

Data only go so far, however, and the VantagePoint Team knows that. That's why they work with both the operators and the foreman to develop the understanding and soft skills necessary to make adjustments.

"When we first arrive, we focus on the positive," Threewitts said. "We show the operators exactly what we're capturing, and we get their opinion on it."

The team is transparent with the operators and educates them on how the tool is for everyone's benefit, instead of being out to get them fired. Once crews get used to it, they tend to love it. Now there's a scoreboard, and they can strive to beat the numbers from yesterday.

Overall, the VantagePoint solution is a dynamic new way for quarries to understand how their machines and people are performing.

Due to Carter's inherent drive to go above and beyond for the customer, it has partnered in developing a solution that is scalable and fully supported with global potential.

VantagePoint opens the door to connect the pit all the way through to the controller's office.

Carter is already looking beyond quarries too ― from heavy civil job sites to coal mines to landfills.

"Our customers have big needs. We listened, and now there's a solution developed that'll make the industry better for everyone," Threewitts said. "That's good business."

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