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TOMRA introduces AR tool for remote assistance

Published by , Editor
Global Mining Review,

TOMRA is tapping the potential of digitalisation with a constantly expanding offer of digital services to help mining operations improve their efficiency and profitability – most recently with the introduction of the new augmented reality tool for remote assistance, TOMRA Visual Assist.

In a challenging market, mining companies under increasing pressure to improve the environmental performance, efficiency, and safety of their operations are turning to digitalisation and advanced analytics. Data captured in their mines provides valuable insights, enabling them to make fact-based strategic decisions, improve their processes, reduce downtime, shrink their environmental footprint, and enhance safety. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are proving useful in training and problem solving on-site.

The mining sector is in the early stages of digitalisation, but the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically accelerated the process as companies have looked for solutions to protect employees and address mobility restrictions to maintain effective sales and service support to customers. For example, in October 2020, management consulting firm McKinsey wrote that mining companies seeking to mitigate the impact of the pandemic had started to relocate around 15 – 20% of their on-site workforce by setting up ‘control towers’ to facilitate remote working. It noted a renewed interest in remote operating centres that build on remote working capabilities, with some companies implementing cloud-based systems that enabled the collection and analysis of data from the mines for decision support. The process of digitalisation is set to continue, as more mining companies become aware of the huge potential in operational and financial benefits.

TOMRA is applying its holistic approach to helping customers to unlock the potential of digitalisation, with digital services covering the complete customer journey – from sales support and technical consultations to remote service and training. All its digital solutions collect, manage and store data securely following data security best practices.

The cloud-based data platform, TOMRA Insight, turns sorting machines into connected devices that generate valuable process data, which is gathered in near real-time and can easily be accessed on a desktop computer or mobile device. It transforms sorting into a strategic management tool that helps processors in near real-time and retrospect. On the one hand, machine operators can take prompt action in response to changes in material composition on the line. On the other hand, managers can make operational and business decisions based on more complete information. They can also make more accurate comparisons between multiple sites or lines, and monitor remotely difficult-to-reach operations. TOMRA is constantly expanding its portfolio of digital services, and it is now introducing the new AR tool for remote assistance, TOMRA Visual Assist. It enables remote experts to provide specialist support to a customer or a TOMRA Field Service Engineer on-site.

“Our service teams cover large areas, generally with one hub per continent, so giving troubleshooting, maintenance and guidance remotely can be a great help,” explained Klaus Berns, Head of Service at TOMRA Sorting Mining. “It enables us to be more efficient and ensure a fast response. If the technical expert is a far away, the customer doesn’t have to wait for qualified and detailed feedback. Some mines are particularly difficult to reach, for example at high altitudes, 4000 m above sea level, or in harsh climates with temperatures well below zero. In some cases, it may take 2 or 3 days for the technical expert to arrive on site. TOMRA Visual Assist can save time, and long and difficult journeys.”

TOMRA Visual Assist can be used on standard devices like cell phones or tablets, but also with advanced tools such as Smart Glasses, which provide an AR experience, so that the technician on-site can follow the remote expert’s guidance with their hands free, working in maximum safety.

“TOMRA Visual Assist can also make a big difference for diamond operations where the equipment is located in a red area, where mobile phones or cameras are not allowed, as we can use the headset linked to the local network,” added Berns.

TOMRA has also harnessed digital technology to provide mining companies with a Virtual Demonstration and Test Solution to enable them to test the sorting solutions on their samples without leaving their office. By providing them remote access to its Test Center in Wedel, Germany, which has capabilities for all applications, it enables them to identify the best sorting solution for their mine, discuss the options with TOMRA’s experts, and make a fact-based decision.

TOMRA is also proactively engaged in spreading knowledge about the potential of sensor-based sorting solutions in mining through regular webinars. The sessions explore the various technologies, discuss financial and technical aspects, and analyse how they can add value to different mining operations.

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