The implementation of proximity detection systems (PDSs) has not been an easy journey. Although it has been around for 15 years, mines were initially reluctant to implement the technology due to heavy costs.

While Booyco Electronics CEO, ANTON LOURENS states that there is still a resistance to change, with some companies now arguing the technology is not far enough advanced, he believes that the industry’s drive for Zero Harm is seeing all options to achieve this being considered – including PDS installation. GERARD PETER reports.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN MINING REVIEW AFRICA ISSUE 2, 2021
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The argument that the latest PDS technology is not at a stage which delivers on its promises is simply not true – at least for those companies that are established in the market and have a track record to prove their value. Booyco Electronics is a prime example of this.

The company was established in 2006 and has more than 15 years of experience in the PDS field where significant development of late has identified and rectified the short comings of the initial and first generation of PDS equipment.

According to Lourens, the primary reason why a company chooses a PDS solution is to protect both its assets and more importantly, its people. “When companies first approach us, it is to ensure they are compliant with the Mine Health and Safety Act that states that you need to carry out risk assessments and address those significant risks.

It is with this in mind that Booyco Electronics developed solutions that show value and deliver a real return on investment. Lourens explains that once a company deploys a PDS solution, the functionality and opportunities that can be extracted from the technology and equipment deployed provides massive upsides from a productivity point of view, including maintenance scheduling and realtime checking.

One of the PDS solutions that Booyco Electronics offers for both surface and underground applications is its latest CXS offering, which is a comprehensive and integrated response to EMESRT (Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table) Level 7, Level 8 and Level 9 safety levels.

The Booyco CXS helps mitigate the risk of collisions between pedestrians and vehicles or between vehicles. “We have identified fit-for-purpose technologies and in our opinion the best fit-for-purpose technology for identifying people both on surface or underground is making use of magnetic fields called Very Low Frequency (VLF) technology.

“It is close range and can also detect people who should not be around machines on start-up. For surface operations, the Booyco CXS also uses GPS and RFID applications. RFID allows vehicles to ‘talk to each other’ through radio frequency. This helps identify potential safety threats among the vehicles,” Lourens adds.

The brains trust

All of this input is consolidated in the Booyco Host Unit (BHU) which Lourens says is the brains of the system. The BHU is based on best safety practices in the automotive industry. It receives information from the pedestrian sensors, the trackless mining machine (TMM) sensors and the wheeled mobile equipment sensors, and then conducts the necessary proximity calculations to alert users to any impending danger.

The device does all the calculations for potential risk scenarios. It carries all the information in terms of braking tables for different vehicles. Also, it is a CAN-BUS driven device enabling it to do effective health checks and diagnostics between the various sensory inputs.

Furthermore, Lourens adds that the BHU is very scalable. “For example, if a customer just wants a vehicle-to-vehicle solution, they simply purchase a BHU with a surface sensor and if in six months, they want to add people, they can just purchase additional sensors.”

The BHU connects seamlessly to OEM and third-party interfaces based on CAN-BUS and ISO 21815-2standards. It also offers additional functionalities such as electronic checklists and over speeding controls. “We also offer a key control, a control measure that ensures that only a person who has the valid credentials  to operate a vehicle can do so. All of this is a value proposition that resides in the BHU to ensure that we offer a value add to the customer,” adds Lourens.

In addition to this, the company has also developed BEAMS (Booyco Electronics Asset Management System), a cloud based software reporting suite. BEAMS can be used on web browser platforms, thereby making information available to every relevant stakeholder at any time.

Lourens believes that the utilisation of additional features such as BEAMS are now starting to come to the fore because companies are now seeing that they can have the tools that can be of real benefit to their operations while enhancing safety.

Collaborative partnerships

At the same time however, Lourens points out that there is no one-size-fits all solution. “For example, it is important to note that the technology used in underground operations is different to surface operations. For instance, you can use GPS on surface but there is no coverage underground so it won’t work.

“Also, there are times when a company discovers that the risk for people is quite low and as such, it only requires a vehicle-to-vehicle solution. On the other hand, when operations are very labour intensive, companies require a people-orientated PDS solution. So there are different requirements for different operations, but ultimately these PDS deployments are based on risk assessment.”

Therefore, it is important to understand the client’s operational requirements in order to deploy the correct sensing technology. It is for this reason that Booyco Electronics places an emphasis on creating collaborative partnerships with its clients.

“You need to have user buy-in and we have adopted an integrated approach,” explains Lourens. “This ensures that all stakeholders involved in the project understand the operational capability of the system and also its limitations. This ensures that there are no unrealistic expectations of what our systems actually do.”

It is for this reason that Booyco Electronics also has a dedicated training department to help its clients. Also, once a system is installed, the company runs a cold commissioning period where data is recorded to determine what interaction information is recovered from the systems so that efficiency can be improved, while also reducing nuisance alarms and identifying hotspot areas.

However, Lourens avers that the biggest contribution of PDS implementation is drive to Zero Harm. “Our absolute priority is to make sure that people go home safely at night and that is at the core of implementing a PDS solution,” he concludes.