Accelerating the rate of change in quarrying 

The quarrying  industry plays a crucial role in the global economy, providing important raw materials for various industries including construction, manufacturing, and power generation1. Developing technologies and software solutions are ensuring that quarrying operations are safer, more sustainable and profitable...

The wider construction industry has historically been one of the slowest growing industries, however an explosion in technologies will speed up this rate of change globally. 

Senior Komatsu engineer Richard Clement, Deputy General Manager of Smart Construction, leads the rollout of digital solutions to a wide customer base. 

He outlies his top five ways the sector can look to improve productivity in the coming years by adopting technological advancements and maximising the potential that digital processes bring to quarrying.

Allowing and embracing change … particularly in earthworks

As the UK moves towards digital transformation, the quarrying industry must tackle one of its biggest challenges: the introduction and implementation of digital technology. There is a huge opportunity here for us to revisit the way we think about the quarry site, as with improved digitisation comes more efficient processes and the ability to make decisions with precise information derived from actual data. This increases productivity for the team on the ground and has a huge impact on the way we work as an industry.

The bottom line 

Many digital solutions can be implemented into current quarrying practices to optimise every stage of the process, from earthworks to transportation of materials and more. We’re already seeing the introduction of digital technologies across the industry, but what we need to encourage is their optimisation and our ability to reach the potential that these changes instil. This in turn will enable us as an industry to reap the subsequent benefits. 

Increasing productivity

Because of current delays in information creation and monitoring, time is often wasted at the job site while decisions are processed and relayed. Utilising technology will increase the speed and accuracy in which information from the site to office and the response is relayed, aiding informed decision making and negating the need for excessive commuting and communication. 

Consume less fuel… and reduce unnecessary emissions

In 2022, diesel and gas oil inventories had fallen to 1.57 million tonnes by the end of February, down from 2.23 million at the same period the year before2. The rebated fuel ban in April 2022 saw the ban of red diesel across plant hire companies and construction sites, creating a multitude of complications for plant and construction workers.

With the cost of fuel still a huge challenge, contractors face a renewed obstacle for cost saving.  Fuel economy is an essential component of an efficient operation. By streamlining payload and utilising technology to make optimal recommendations for efficiency, we can ensure less fuel is consumed by machinery as well as reducing mileage on site visits. 

Not only this, but there is plenty of scope within quarrying to reduce emissions, as a natural partner to consuming less fuel. Multiple efforts are required to address the main sources of emissions, including better resource definition and extraction planning, operational efficiency improvement, new drivetrain technology and a switch to green electricity3.

 Recruitment and upskilling

By improving digital capacity and ability, the quarry sector will attract more talent and retain skilled members of the workforce. This perspective shift to the focus on digital is an obstacle in itself as the quarry industry faces a faster-ageing workforce than many other sectors. Currently, nearly 50% of skilled engineers are reaching retirement age in the next decade4.

Richard Clement is the Deputy General Manager of Smart Construction.