Augmented Reality helping our customers through COVID-19

04 Nov 2020

This year, the world has changed in ways we could never have predicted. 

The resources and mining industry has not been exempt, but, thanks to the lateral thinking and creativity of our people, we’ve been able to continue servicing even our most remote customers, while ensuring our teams all across the globe are kept safe.

Amid global travel restrictions and community lockdowns, one of our biggest challenges has been getting specialised Orica personnel to remote sites where they can check equipment, perform safety exercises and provide technical assistance to customers.  

Orica’s continued investment in technology has enabled us to act quickly, devising, testing and rolling out new ways of working that will reduce the impact felt by our stakeholders across the world. 

Augmented Reality (AR) is a perfect example; it’s been instrumental in helping us navigate COVID-19 related challenges, such as safety and productivity for our teams and business continuity for our customers.

AR allows the user to experience real world objects enhanced with superimposed computer-generated images. Data and other information can be overlayed in real-time, often via a headset or smart device. Working with our partners, we have developed specialised AR solutions to provide remote support to areas we couldn’t visit personally. 

Augmented Reality helping our customers through COVID-19 

In Australia, interstate travel was made almost impossible when most borders were closed early in the pandemic. 

When a boiler at the Pippingarra mine site in Western Australia became due for its quarterly inspection, travel restrictions meant Orica was unable to get a specialist worker to the site.

Rather than halting work, Orica partnered with Librestream to provide an AR platform capable of completing a full and thorough inspection of the boiler remotely. Deploying a licence to an existing Orica team member’s iPhone at the site and a guest licence to the third party’s PC, the team were provided 30 minutes training and then performed the inspection remotely. 

While a task like this generally takes up to four weeks to complete, AR reduced the task to just four days. Just removing travel expenses for this task will deliver a projected saving of $15,000 per year for the site. 

Orica’s Senior Manager Business Engagement Chris Zeegers is excited by the huge potential benefit this technology offers customers. 

“Thanks to AR, we have been able to address and overcome numerous COVID-related issues quickly and effectively, and keep moving forward to support our staff and partners,” he said.  

As the world begins its recovery from the pandemic, Orica will continue exploring the ability to conduct operational, engineering and safety audits remotely, and using remote experts to diagnose issues more efficiently to reduce equipment downtime. 

Senior Manager Operations Support Australia Pacific Theresa Sonneveld said: “It is early days, and we are only just beginning to understand the effectiveness of what AR can bring to our organisation and to our customers, but we are already so excited by its potential. We have no doubt AR will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our teams by enabling them to conduct their work remotely, enhancing the service level we provide our customers.”

 

AR ONE

Orica personnel completing remote safety inspection at the Pippingarra mine site

Meanwhile, with international travel restrictions in full force, Orica’s technical support team based in Kurri Kurri, Australia were unable to travel to a customer site in Zambia, Africa to support the first-time trial of an Orica bulk explosive product.

Understanding that time was a crucial factor for this customer, the Orica team, partnering with Librestream, used AR technology to connect those in Australia directly to the surface of the mine site  to diagnose and troubleshoot any issues, which was vital to the continuance of the trial. 

Commending the ease of the technology, Orica’s Senior Engineer Sustaining – Global Explosives Rodney Willmore said: “The AR Onsite Connect Platform was really useful, particularly in trouble shooting the sensor issues we were having. Being able to get to the bottom of that issue quickly was critical - if unresolved, it could have derailed the trials.” 

AR2

Orica technical services team surveying the site remotely

Improving safety and productivity at Orica through Augmented Reality solutions

At Orica, safety is our priority, always. The most important thing is that we all return home safely, every day. It’s this commitment to safety that drove the decision to roll out AR technology at every one of our Initiating Systems and Packaged Explosives (ISPE) manufacturing sites across the world. 

Utilising the MIRA AR platform, Safety Leadership Interactions on site which are traditionally performed face to face – including job cycle checks, key control verifications, and walk-around inspections - are now able to be undertaken remotely. 

With a geographical footprint spanning 23 sites in 18 different countries, Orica’s Vice President ISPE Leah Barlow has already seen the significant benefits of this technology at sites across Australia, North America and Latin America. 

“I’m passionate about exploiting the use of more technology in our business, and we saw a fantastic opportunity to leverage AR to drive better safety and operational outcomes for our teams.

“When we were hit with COVID-19 earlier this year, we had recently finished the pilot in Australia and were in a position to rapidly roll this out to all of our sites. This technology streamlines our ability to connect with our global teams, encourages better control compliance and allows remote experts to assist teams where necessary.

“Leaders, functional experts, and other teams are now more connected to these sites than ever before, allowing a more rapid exchange of information, problem solving and verification of key controls and safety systems without the need for travel. Digitising checklists and registering compliance using AR has greatly improved our procedural control, ultimately making our teams and workplace even safer,” Leah said. 

AR3

Vice President ISPE Leah Barlow conducting a remote safety inspection at an ISPE manufacturing site

The benefits of this were seen firsthand at Orica’s packaged explosives manufacturing site in Kalgoorlie, Australia. When the team experienced issues with a blender shaft on site, AR was used to instantly connect the local plant manager with a site manager in Perth 600km away, and a principal packaged explosives engineer in Kurri Kurri, on the other side of the country, to identify the issue and categorise its severity. 

IMG_1699Having instant, interactive exposure to the site and issue, the team were able to quickly diagnose the problem, reducing both the time required to restart the plant and travel costs. 

And for our IT team in Lurin, Peru, team members recently had the opportunity to learn about the IT infrastructure system on site via an AR platform. Individuals from different IT integration streams were able to get a real-time understanding of the site, troubleshooting issues immediately with the help of the broader team. With the ability to include multiple team members on the demonstration, the team saved valuable time with just the one demonstration required.

For further information on Orica’s augmented reality solutions, to discuss our AR journey or to find out how these could benefit your business please contact christopher.zeegers@orica.com.

 

 

 

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