Need for Speed - AMM article

Otraco was featured in the September 2014 edition of Australia's Mining Monthly for their Tyres and Tyre Management feature.

Need for speed

By Sadie Davidson

Otraco is set to have its most productive year yet with a host of new projects underway aimed at boosting the speed and safety of the tyre changing process.

Despite a downturn in industry trends, Western Australia-based Otraco has managed to secure its biggest contract to date through a major coal mine on the east coast. And the company has a number of new technologies attracting big business, both at home and overseas.

Otraco general manager Alistair Swanson told Australia’s Mining Monthly the company had seen more change in the past six months than in the last five years.

“The company is moving towards a Formula One-style of tyre change,” he said. “There is only so much we can increase efficiency through people, but by focusing on improving the availability of the right systems and machinery, the improvements we see are significant.”

Otraco is working alongside Canadian manufacturer B&D Manufacturing on a jack and stand system named Super Jack. The system is designed to reduce not only the time taken to jack the vehicle but has also seen huge improvements in safety. By reducing the need of the miner to carry heavy equipment and eliminating the need for the person to be under the truck at any time, Super Jack is set to dramatically revolutionise the tyre changing procedure and safety standard.

Super Jack has made an impact on customers in Canada. Suncor Energy is one of the first companies to use Super Jack and have been more than impressed with the speed and efficiency of the jacking process.

“Two minutes to line it up, and two minutes to lift it up,” said Suncor Energy Tech services field manager Greg Thompson.

Closer to home, Otraco is also working on an automated wheel change system. Wheel changing is the top area of injury according to Swanson, with 50 per cent of injuries occurring in the 5 per cent of mining operations which involves tyres. Unsurprisingly, most of these injuries affect the hands.

The wheel changing robot developed by Machinery Automations & Robots is able to seamlessly change wheels and dramatically reduce the risk of accident or injury. MAR Robotic Tyre Change is a self-contained support structure equipped with manipulators that assist in the removal of mining truck wheels. The RTC is fitted with hydraulic tyre clamps and a hydraulic platform for smooth and safe wheel removal and replacement. This makes it capable of mounting wheels onto hubs without causing any damage to studs and hub spaces.

Both products “provided added value,” said Swanson, by “manipulating the tool time and reducing the potential for injury.”

Swanson said the push for automation posed little threat to the jobs of those working in the sector, and instead brought great benefits. He believed increased automation in the area of tyre changing would dramatically reduce workload and heavy lifting, enabling workers to remain on site for longer and be more productive.

While looking to the future, Otraco has taken steps to procure the next generation of miners with expertise in the tyre industry. It recently launched a Certificate 3 in tyre fitting so trainees can gain an industry-specific qualification, the first of its kind nationally. The company has also reached out to school-age kids, inviting Brisbane schools to work aspiration days. Otraco worked alongside The Smith Family, an Australian children’s charity that works with disadvantaged youths to get the most out of their education, offering youngsters hands on experience and an insight into the tyre industry.

In the future, Otraco plans to develop its next generation of tyre maintenance software and is looking to combine the successful Otraco programme with its scheduling software.

A PDF version of the article is also available here.