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Modular helps iron ore mine increase productivity through improved use of DISPATCH system optimisation

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Global Mining Review,

Modular Mining takes a holistic approach to customer satisfaction. This multi-faceted strategy begins with gaining a thorough understanding of each customer’s challenges, requirements, and goals. The acquired knowledge then guides the deployment, implementation, and ongoing support of the installed technologies at the customer’s site.

During an engagement with a large iron ore operation in Brazil, early pre-sales conversations between Modular and mine personnel revealed that the mine’s primary objective was to improve the productivity of their existing haulage fleet. In response, Modular conducted a sequence of haulage simulations to estimate the productivity gains the mine could potentially achieve by implementing the DISPATCH® Fleet Management System (FMS).

Based on the positive simulation results, the mine decided to replace its existing FMS with the DISPATCH system. The same results were used to establish clear performance targets for the Modular Project Deployment team during project implementation and validation.

Productivity gains: validation process

At the completion of the testing phase, Modular performed a post-deployment assessment to validate the measurable improvements that were delivered. In doing so, Modular’s Product Deployment and Performance Assurance (PA) teams worked closely with the customer to ensure that the mine’s performance met expectations.

Modular and mine personnel agreed to use equivalent tonne kilometer per hour (ETKPH) to compare productivity among discrete time periods, mine layouts (grade and distances) and fleets. ETKPH provides a normalised comparison of haul distance by accounting for the grade of the haul road. For example, steep uphill road segments have a longer 'equivalent haul' than a flat or downhill road segment of the same length. Using this information, Modular monitored the mine’s performance for three weeks, with each week correlated to a phase, as described below:

Monitoring period

Phase 1 (baseline).

  • All equipment units operated in locked (non-optimised) mode to emulate the functionality found in most fleet management systems on the market.
  • Reassignment beacons and optimisation parameters were disabled.
  • Dispatchers’ FMS interactions limited to processing exceptions (accept or reject).

Phase 2.

  • All equipment units operated in unlocked (optimised) mode to utilise the DISPATCH FMS’ optimisation functionality.
  • Modular provided assisted operation.
  • Reassignment beacons and optimisation parameters were enabled.
  • Dispatchers’ FMS interactions included processing exceptions (accept or reject), changing parameters such as shovel priority and crusher feed rate, and stopping trucks in overtrucking situations.

Phase 3.

  • All equipment operated in unlocked mode.
  • Reassignment beacons and optimisation parameters were enabled.
  • Dispatchers’ FMS interactions included processing exceptions (accept or reject), changing parameters such as shovel priority and crusher feed rate, and stopping trucks in overtrucking situations.

Productivity gains: results

Phase 1 (baseline)

Modular established the baseline for comparison. During this phase, the mine continued to run the FMS in locked mode, with dispatchers manually assigning trucks to shovels for loading.

Phase 2

The mine increased its use of small shovels and decreased its use of large shovels, resulting in longer loading times. Because of this unanticipated change in fleet utilisation, productivity in Phase 2 improved by 2.4%. However, Modular and mine personnel maintained high expectations that additional gains were possible.

Phase 3

With guidance from the Performance Assurance (PA) team, the dispatchers applied their increased system knowledge and the mine operated the FMS unlocked almost exclusively. As a result, productivity increased by more than 5%. The improvements in ETKPH by phase, and the effects of DISPATCH FMS optimisation by shift, are shown in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1. ETKPH evolution by shift

Figure 2. Optimisation results by shift


At the end of the three-phase monitoring period, the mine understood the importance of proper FMS configuration. They also realised the positive effects that running unlocked could have on both short-term and long-term efficiency, productivity and performance.

Through the collaborative, integrated efforts of Modular’s Business Development, Project Deployment and PA groups, the mine had real-world proof that use of DISPATCH FMS optimisation could lead to substantial productivity improvements. The mine has also used the results to justify DISPATCH system investment at other affiliated sites.

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