Mining is an investment-heavy endeavor. So when producers shop around for the necessary equipment, they make their purchases with value in mind. And when Hitachi Construction Truck Manufacturing Ltd. develops its truck haulers, it also is mindful of value.
“What mining companies really want is maximum payload because payload pays the bills,” says Bruce Murray, executive vice president of Hitachi Construction Truck Manufacturing. “The more weight we design out of our trucks, the more they can carry. Our largest mining truck payload is around 320 tons, and it requires a robust structure to achieve that. Other factors also need to be considered including road conditions as well as climatic conditions. Hitachi products are well-suited to those particular conditions.”
At the 2012 MINExpo, Hitachi demonstrated its advancements in its AC-drive technology by showcasing a next-generation rigid-frame hauler – the EH5000AC-3. It features a Cummins QSKTTA60-CE diesel engine that generates 2,850 horsepower at 1,900 rpm. The all-hydraulic actuated braking system provides precise braking control and quick system responses, and a new Hitachi system monitor provides display information and diagnostics of all onboard systems and controls.
The most significant update is the hauler’s AC drive system. At the core of the system is the advanced propulsion technology, which delivers a new level of efficiency, vastly enhancing operations for mining professionals.
Hitachi’s other advancements include slip control for traction, which is similar to active traction control; slide control for grip – similar to an anti-lock brake system; pitch control for smoother ride control and control of bouncing when stopping; and skid control for stability in cornering when road conditions are slippery.
“Our development and growth is in our electrical trucks,” Murray explains. “The more traditional trucks are mechanical drive, having a mechanical link from the diesel engine through to the rear wheels. This new technology incorporates AC Drive electric motors that propel the vehicle. So while we do have a diesel engine, it’s part of the power generation system that supplies AC power to these very efficient electric motors that propel the truck.”
According to Robert Mueller, business development manager, new components are necessary to operate these advanced trucks; however, other parts are also taken away.
“There are fewer rotating parts, which means fewer bearings, fewer gears and fewer of the large, bulky items,” he says. “For instance, the electrical drive system doesn’t have a transmission or rear axle differential gearing. It takes some of the weight out of the truck and it reduces the amount of required maintenance.”
Reducing maintenance time increases uptime, which Mueller says is another dominant desire of its clients. It lowers operating costs and enhances productivity. Now, Hitachi Construction Truck Manufacturing is preparing to enhance its productivity to meet its customers’ needs. The company doubled capacity at its Guelph, Ontario, plant. It’s occupiable and will be operational in March.
“Doubling our output is in line with our five-year strategic plan,” Murray says. “We have three new mining trucks that are being introduced over the next two years. They were all designed by our Japanese parent company and incorporate our new advanced Hitachi AC-drive system.”
The company keeps most of its manufacturing in-house. Its core competencies include fitting, welding, assembly and painting. Murray says that it will take about six months to train its skilled employees on the new line of trucks, though the company will retain its traditional mechanical trucks, as well.
With the expansion, Hitachi Construction Truck Manufacturing has enhanced its manufacturing capabilities with robotics systems and new assembly methods that Murray says will lead to a more efficient process. “These advanced technologies will allow us to increase our output, as well,” Murray says. “It’s providing some extra synergies that allows us to meet higher value requirements. The markets we serve have slowed for now and will remain so for the next year or so. Mining activity is also fairly quiet right now, but markets do come back – they always do. The investments we are making now will have us sitting fairly well for the next opportunities and we will also be ready with new products.”
Expansion and investments in manufacturing are keys to Hitachi Construction Truck Manufacturing’s goal to increase its Canadian market share to 30 percent. The company’s recent investments combined with new marketing strategies will help it reach its target. Hitachi Group’s product lines focus on equipment in the mining, quarry and construction sectors. In addition to trucks, Hitachi Group manufactures mining excavators. It is synchronizing efforts between plants to offer equipment as a package solution. For every excavator, a customer generally requires four trucks to complement it.
“Because we design our trucks to match our excavators’ capacity, you get a better match,” Murray says. “Not every truck works for every size of excavator. We’ve been careful in our design to ensure they are compatible to each other. It also gives the customer a single face when any support is required to the excavator or the truck. Dealer expertise can handle both machines and that’s a major benefit.”