PEORIA — Caterpillar Inc. this month publicly acknowledged its first major agreement to retrofit a mine operator's mixed fleet of mining trucks with autonomous capabilities.
Approximately 100 Cat and Komatsu trucks at Fortescue's iron ore mines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia will be outfitted with the Cat Command for Hauling system.
Fortescue already operates 56 autonomous Cat 793F CMD trucks at one of the operations where the autonomous fleet will be expanded. The mining company has worked with Caterpillar to integrate the autonomous system since the first half of 2013 and reported 400 million tons of material safely hauled by the autonomous fleet in August.
Fortescue also claims the autonomous operation has increased productivity at the site by 20 percent.
"Caterpillar is pleased to build on the success we have had working with Fortescue to implement autonomous mining solutions,” said Jean Savage, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for the Surface Mining & Technology Division. “Working with all the partners, we look forward to growing the entire MineStar suite of technology products throughout Fortescue’s operations and working with them to drive process efficiency, increase productivity, lower cost per ton and enhance safety.”
Caterpillar first announced the autonomous retrofit program more than a year ago as a means to help mining customers maximize the efficiency of their fleets after a severe downturn in the market.
Mining equipment sales at Caterpillar suffered the most of any of the company's segments during a four-year downturn that began after peak sales of such equipment in 2012.
The company responded with a major restructuring that saw more than 16,000 layoffs in 2015 and 2016, a majority in Caterpillar's Resource Industries division, which includes mining machinery.
As part of a new business and enterprise strategy that company executives outlined earlier this month, Caterpillar plans to leverage its technological capabilities, such as the autonomous systems and connected machines, and work more closely with customers to deliver products that enhance the efficiency of their operations.
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.