Powering through with innovation

Karen Poulton is the Marketing Manager for John Deere Construction and Forestry Division. She reviews some of the most popular John Deere products for the quarrying industry and why they hit the mark for safety, efficiency and innovation.

From your perspective, how did the Australian quarrying industry perform during 2022?

Year 2022 has brought continued skilled labour shortages, higher transport costs, increased wage costs to attract and retain staff, planning and implementation of sustainability and diversity and inclusion initiatives and management of multiple regulations across different states. Whilst supply chain has improved, it’s still not where we all need it to be and if that wasn’t enough, let’s not forget about the devastating impact of flooding. All of this, coupled with strong demand for finished goods, has made for another challenging year for the industry. But quarry people are a resilient, innovative and supportive group of people that dig deep and get on and do what needs to be done.

Which John Deere machines are most popular within the Australian extractive industry? Are there particular features in these machines that quarries are particularly interested in?

We’re seeing loads more of our production class wheel loaders and crawlers in quarries. The new 904 P-Tier wheel loader is built off the success of the 844L aggregate handler. It’s purpose-built for the rugged demands of the aggregates industry and is equipped with key features like increased horsepower, breakout force, hydraulic pressures, and bucket offerings. This true two-pass loader has automation of repetitive tasks like return to dig, return to carry and bucket shake to help new operators become good and all operators become less fatigued. On our 1050K crawler, we introduced a suspended double-bogie undercarriage. It can absorb vibrations caused by rough operating conditions, the 1050K rides smoother and is more durable than previous models. A reduction of peak vibrations in the cab by up to 75 per cent helps operators carry on in comfort while moving faster, boosting production. But that’s not all. Both Extended Life and Heavy-Duty undercarriage options with sealed and lubricated track (SALT) are available to match the quarry application.

How advanced is John Deere in development of electric power, hybrid or hydraulic engines for its equipment range?

We have experience innovating in this space with products like our hybrid 944K wheel loader. The hybrid wheel loader was introduced into the US and Canadian markets in 2015, and in 2020 machines had collectively racked up over a million machine hours. This loader is unique in that it runs four electric wheeled motors, which allows the system to recover energy and send to the power electronics to manage where the most efficient path for energy to go. This allows the machine to be highly productive in the pit face while managing wheel slip. This means operations can process more material while burning less fuel. This helps reduce the 944K’s overall environmental impact. The journey to hybridisation and electrification is part of John Deere’s multi-faceted approach to achieve 30 per cent carbon emission reduction by 2030. The electrification journey goes beyond just mobile equipment, it’s also about ensuring that quarries and our dealers have the infrastructure needed to get the required power to charge the machines at the right time, in the right place. We’ve already made investments in some of the technologies that will be needed with our recent purchased in a battery company called Kreisel Electric, which produces innovative battery technology for e-mobility and stationary systems. The journey also includes focus on improving diesel engine and vehicle efficiency as well as technology to support use of renewable fuels. We know that fullbattery driven (e-powered) equipment will start with smaller machines than is needed in quarry, and that the diesel and hybrid (e-drive) versions remained a feasible choice for the larger quarry machines. So, we’re looking at adopting technologies to allow diesel engines to work with renewable fuels that emit less harmful emissions. We’ve made investments in Illinois-based start-up company, ClearFrame Engine Technologies, who are dedicated to the development of clean engine technology. Their technology enables low-carbon fuels such as ethanol or other renewable fuels to be integrated into compression ignition engines, offering a sustainable solution without compromising engine performance.

What other innovations are your products adopting to promote safety?

No one ever said safety second! The new 904 P-Tier wheel loader has obstacle intelligence features such as Advanced Vision System – an industry-first for loaders. This provides a wider field of view than conventional mirrors. It also increases the visibility to sides of the machine by integrating digital cameras on the rear-view and side mirrors and combines these views into a dedicated single display in the cab. The 904 P-Tier also offers an improved rear object detection system. This feature overlays projected vehicle reversible path within the same dedicated monitor, enhancing the operator’s experience and situational awareness. It also provides an audible alert of objects behind the machine that increases in intensity as objects get closer. By combining cameras, radar and machine learning, obstacle intelligence gives operators eyes in the back of their head.

John Deere offers programs, services and advice beyond the installation of key mobile products. What sort of programs and services are accessible and why should quarries use them?

Our remanufacturing program reduces our impact on the environment by reducing our reliance on raw materials through the reuse of parts. This enables us to eliminate waste and reduce energy use compared to manufacturing new parts. By bringing parts back to the original specification, our John Deere Reman business provides quality remanufactured products such as engines, drivetrains, hydraulic and electronic at a lower price point than new parts and provides alternatives to customers looking for value and uptime. In 2021, we recycled 12,609 tonnes of material through our remanufacturing process.

What else do you foresee to be major challenges for the Australian extractive industry over the next two to three years?

Recruiting a skilled, diverse and dynamic workforce will continue to be a challenge, as is attracting more women and young people to the industry. Also managing inputs, not just from a dollars and cents perspective but from an environmental perspective.

How can John Deere best assist its customers with meeting these challenges?

Our latest model wheel loaders help new operators become good, quicker. They are easier and more intuitive to operate, we feature automation of repetitive tasks and the inclusion of an advanced vision system and a rear object detection system boost operator confidence. All of our equipment is equipped with JDLink onboard telematics. In addition to monitoring your maintenance and machine performance, you can gain actionable insights and have a data driven conversation with operators. To meet sustainability targets you need a base line to start and to monitor from. JDLink provides that machine data now and on an ongoing basis and the subscription is free. We’re excited to continue to be active members of the IQA at both national and branch levels. People in the quarry industry are some of the nicest, most humble and generous people we have the privilege of working with. Here’s to an amazing 2023.

For more information about John Deere’s quarrying equipment and services in Australia, visit: www.deere.com.au

This article originally appeared on Quarry magazine.

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