The wheel-loader driver tips the final bucketload of limestone onto the dumper truck, which then drives away – unmanned, battery-powered, autonomous. This futuristic-sounding project is not based near Silicon Valley, but in rural Villigen in the canton of Aargau. The use of electric dumper trucks is part of Holcim’s digitisation initiative Plants of Tomorrow.
Like clockwork, the fully laden vehicles trundle from the quarry to the production plant. Michael Suter, Plants of Tomorrow/Manufacturing 4.0 Programme Manager at Holcim, looks eagerly at the screen where he monitors the trucks’ path. “We have to ensure that the vehicles are monitored at all times. We therefore looked for a mobile technology-based remote monitoring solution for the vehicles and found it with Swisscom,” explains Suter. “We have high connectivity requirements and the solution needs to be secure, stable and scalable.” This is no easy task. As a result of mining of limestone and marl, the topography of Gabenchopf quarry changes constantly. In addition, huge volumes of data need to be transmitted and, for Holcim, low latency, or the time taken for the data to reach the control centre from the vehicles, is of critical importance.
The mobile private network used by Holcim deploys the latest mobile communication technology to monitor and control the autonomous e-vehicles. By specifically allocating the available resources to Holcim, Swisscom ensures that critical business processes operate as smoothly as possible. Swisscom’s MPN provides a bridge from the mobile network to the customer’s LAN. Holcim’s control centre always has the latest vehicle data, and this forms an important piece of the safety puzzle in the quarry.
The mobile data from the MPN is carried swiftly and securely through a separate D channel via Swisscom’s mobile core to the customer’s LAN, where it can be processed. The customer specifies who or which devices have access to the private network’s capacity.
When the technology for the prototype was initially implemented in Villigen, the connectivity was measured. It was immediately clear that the existing mobile communications mast would need to be upgraded and modernised. To ensure that the autonomous dumper trucks fitted with SIM cards could be video monitored at all times, Swisscom and Holcim decided to build a second mast in the limestone quarry. Swisscom’s investment was motivated not only by operational stability but also by the sustainability of the project. Swisscom wants to help its customers with climate-friendly, innovative ICT solutions that will save 1 million tonnes of CO2 by 2025. The Holcim/Volvo project for battery-powered electric dumper trucks, which are both quieter and safer than conventional dumper trucks, is a sustainability first for the sector.
Swisscom is currently on a global quest to identify start-ups and research teams whose climate protection and energy efficiency solutions contribute to the reduction of CO2. For more information and to register for the 10th Swisscom StartUp Challenge, click here.
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