From its offices in Pointe-Claire, Hewitt Equipment Limited can keep a close watch, in real time, on the machinery used by its clients in the mining industry. The operational state of trucks, excavators, scooptrams, drillers and other equipment is scrutinized as they work, wherever they are located. How is this possible? Let’s take a closer look at the D•tech software platform.
Pierre-Olivier Lamy, supervisor, business development, equipment management solutions, welcomes all visitors to a glass-enclosed room by clicking on a tablet to open the doors. Access to the room is controlled—nobody can just walk in.
Technology is present on all sides:
- each employee monitors several computer screens at once
- a central table has a smart surface
- on the wall, a giant screen is used for presentations
With another click on his tablet, Pierre-Olivier Lamy ensures that the meeting remains confidential, as the glass becomes opaque to prevent anyone seeing inside.
I booked an appointment with this distributor of trucks and other equipment used in the mining industry—but I wasn’t expecting to plunge into a hi-tech world.
D•tech and its added value for mining companies
D•tech is a remote equipment monitoring service, as demonstrated here.
The screen shows a map of North America with a series of icons, each representing individual equipment. Can we see all of a mining company’s equipment? Slowly all the equipment being used as we speak appears on the screen. Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say!
D•tech offers precise, important information about its clients’ equipment. After several years of use, the clients are unanimous about the impacts:
- Their productivity has increased by 20%
- Their operating expenses have dropped by 30%
“These figures have been checked by our clients,” Pierre-Olivier Lamy says proudly.
How is this possible?
Each truck, excavator, scooptram, driller or other equipment is equipped with a computer connected to its various components – 9 to 13 in general. In other words, the inner workings of each machine are monitored closely, and the smallest detail can be analyzed. Pierre-Olivier talks about “smart iron”. Am I still in the office of a heavy equipment dealer distributing construction machinery?
The next question: how is all this data forwarded to Hewitt?
“To start with,” Pierre-Olivier explains, “we used the satellite network, but now the data travels through the cellphone network.” An increasing number of mines have a wifi network that covers their underground galleries.
At hundreds or thousands of kilometres from the mine, in the Hewitt Equipment offices, the data is then analyzed.
D•tech examines four aspects:
- Equipment management (with constant monitoring)
- Productivity (everything that can be measured can be improved)
- Equipment and personal safety
- Equipment replacement/renewal
More specifically, what is analyzed?
- Electronic equipment data regarding the state of the equipment;
- Laboratory fluid analysis to analyze the equipment’s state of health (component attrition rates, oil condition, oil contamination, oil identification);
- Visual inspection reports;
- Equipment history and repair log;
- Work site condition (where the equipment is used).
Hewitt Equipment, an authorized Caterpillar dealer, has its own ISO 9001-2008-certified laboratory, also certified by Caterpillar to analyze equipment fluid samples. The laboratory has a capacity of 140,000 samples per year and its experts, divining a machine’s condition from the state of its fluids, can detect things that are invisible to the human eye. How precise are their measurements? A human hair has a diameter of about 80 microns; the apparatus in the laboratory can measure down to 1 micron.
The analyses lead to what Pierre-Olivier Lamy calls “exceptions” (anomalies detected by the artificial intelligence developed by Hewitt and Caterpillar) and to recommendations that allow action to be taken before an incident occurs. “D•tech is a predictive (and preventive) software platform, rather than a reactive platform,” he points out. “That is what creates the real added value for our clients.”
For the 1,800 machines connected to its service, D•Tech has generated 1.1 million exceptions, leading to 4900 recommendations. Just over 6,100 machines are connected to D•tech.
Background to D•tech
Who originally had the idea of designing and developing the D•tech web platform? This was the question I wondered about during the interview.
The idea came from Jim Hewitt, chairman and chief executive officer. He was convinced that technology was the way forward, and made it a strategic priority for his company.
The idea was taken up and a development committee was formed. Since the implementation of D•tech, a worldwide network of dealerships and Caterpillar are sharing all the knowledge they have acquired from this unique platform. “This is how we build artificial intelligence,” says Pierre-Olivier Lamy.
The room where the demonstration took place was built in 2012. It was designed in Montréal and is unique in Canada.
Hewitt Equipment Limited was founded in 1952 by the late Robert Hewitt. The Company is the authorized Caterpillar Dealer for the province of Quebec and Western Labrador, and, since 1995, through its subsidiary, Atlantic Tractors & Equipment Ltd., is also the Cat Dealer for the Maritime provinces. With headquarters in Pointe-Claire and 45 branches, the Hewitt Group sells, rents and services the full line of Caterpillar products through four divisions: Heavy Equipment, Material Handling, Energy and Trucks. Hewitt’s other subsidiaries are: Hewitt Material Handling Inc. (Ontario), Hewitt Rentals Inc. (Quebec, Western Labrador and Maritimes), Montréal Hydraulique Inc. and SITECH Atlantic Ltd. (Maritimes). The Company is also the dealer for Maschinenbau Kiel GmbH (MaK) for Québec, the Maritimes, and the Eastern seaboard of the United States, from Maine to Virginia. The Hewitt Group employs over 2,000 people across Eastern Cana.