Orange is the new black

Orange is the new black

Hitachi's diggers have always been held in high regard in Australia. In the Hunter Valley, they operate across many sites that by and large include their popular EX2600, EX3600 and EX5600.

This however has not traditionally been the case with their range of rigid dump trucks, that until recently represented a mere fraction of the domestic haul truck population.

So why the discrepancy? It's a good question and one that perhaps needs to be reviewed in context of the mining 'downturn' and Hitachi's strategy to fortify its mining business, leveraging the success of its backhoes and face shovels.

Domestically, Hitachi offer three rigid dump trucks that include their EH3500AC-3 with a nominal payload of 181 tonnes (think Cat 789, Komatsu 730), EH4000AC-3 at 221 tonnes (Cat 793, Komatsu 830) and their range topping EH5000AC-3 coming in at 296 tonnes and placing it slap bang in the middle of the ultra-class battle with Komatsu's 930E as well as Caterpillar's 794 and 795F AC Haul Trucks.

Designed for use in large-scale mining operations, Hitachi has made two strategic decisions in the positioning of their haul truck offering.

The first, providing customers the option of engine installations with either Cummins or MTU and the second more telling move, to internalise the design and manufacture of their electric wheel motors once supplied by Siemens. A bold move and perhaps masterful stroke, differing from their competitors that outsource this core technology to third-party providers.

The result, Hitachi's Drive Control System, with claims of reduced tire slippage on acceleration, tire lock-up during braking as well as preventing chassis oscillation in a front-rear direction and tyre skid while steering; some of the problems that plagued their earlier series trucks.

In keeping with mining trends, Hitachi has successfully deployed autonomous trucks in field, partnering with its subsidiary Wenco International Mining Systems to incorporate a broader mine management system.

First introduced and tested at Stanwell's Meandu Mine in Queensland, this system was installed on three EH5000AC-3 trucks, that Hitachi hope to make commercially available before 2019 or 2020. Able to be retrofitted to existing units, this automation system will allow trucks to be either driver or autonomous operated with the flick of a switch.

Albeit a little slow off the start, Hitachi's strategic decisions appear to have been vindicated with the recent deployment of trucks to Roy Hill that have openly stated that they wish to be completely autonomous in the coming years.

This article was originally published by the Components Only team in the October - November 2018 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.

Published 23 October, 2018
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