Can Real-Time Deliver HS2 on Time?

With the recent award of the earthworks contracts for HS2, planning has begun for what will be the largest technologically enabled fleet the UK has ever seen. Having previously been described as a ‘Mine in a Line’ in issue 5 of Finning News, the scale of earthworks will see 65 million cubic metres of material moved to create the 140 mile long link from London to Birmingham.

Now that the winners of the lots have been announced, the key to the successful delivery of HS2 will not just be driven by the sharing and collaboration between main contractors, it will be how the supply chain can come together across the project, to share best practice, collaborate and integrate solutions relevant for its delivery. So, the real question is, will this ‘Mine in a Line’ project be the first to adopt the real-time process model that is now common place in the mining industry? And how will advanced technologies like Cat® MineStar™ and Cat Production Measurement impact the project?

In practical terms, if combined with the latest in Redbird drone surveying technology, the right training, and true collaborative working; the benefits of real-time project management are there for the taking and the rewards are very real.

When you have the real-time information, you need to make ‘in the moment’ fleet deployment decisions, you can increase productivity and efficiency through better cycle times, whilst reducing machine idle time and in-turn fuel burn. Take for example the scenario of a damaged haul road due to adverse weather conditions.

Through previous data where you have fully optimised the loading and hauling operations using on-board payload technology, you will have performance benchmarking data on your system. Therefore, if cycle times are dropping and machine alerts are showing irregular breaking or acceleration at certain stretches of the haul road, you will know in real-time that you have a problem.

Within minutes, you could send up a surveying drone that will map these areas against the previous optimised condition data. Downloading and processing this data will allow you to not only see the issue, but have an exact cubic metre measure of material that needs to be used to repair the damage. With a machine controlled grader and trucks dispatched to the exact locations, you can repair the road at the earliest and most convenient time, re-optimising the operation.

With this ‘single pane of glass’ approach giving you visibility of the entire operation from multiple devices, such as a computer in a control centre, or a section managers’ iPad onsite however you want to organise your site management, is up to you. Similarly, as the project progresses to different areas and through different seasons and more importantly weather conditions, the ongoing collection of data from connected plant assets can be used to compile operational trend information.

This can be further interrogated to highlight operator training needs, the delivery of preventative maintenance, payload analysis and many other factors that can have an impact on the planning and delivery of the project. So, whether HS2 will be delivered in real-time or not, the need for connectivity, intelligent reporting and integrated collaborative delivery, is a must.