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At BHP, automation is all about creating more efficient, more productive and safer operations, according to BHP Chief Technology Officer, Diane Jurgens.

Speaking at the recent BAML SmartMine conference in London, Ms Jurgens listed a number of “transformational technologies that were driving significant cost savings, productivity gains and safer outcomes for BHP people."

"For example, in Western Australia we are using autonomous blast hole drills, increasing productivity by 25 per cent, reducing maintenance costs by over 40 per cent, but most importantly keeping our people out of harm’s way,” she said.

Similarly, she added, Haulage Automation at our Jimblebar operation in the Pilbara has reduced heavy vehicle safety incidents by 80 per cent and BHP is considering opportunities to accelerate truck autonomy across our Australian sites.

Ms Jurgens said BHP's “Decision Automation” is also being used to seamless integrate autonomous processes and data from different sources to create near instantaneous, optimised decision making.

"Machine learning is being applied to maintenance on trucks in iron ore and coal to analyse component failure history," she said.

"By automating the maintenance-related data from a variety of sources we are creating analytics to better predict failures and plan maintenance further in advance, with a greater degree of accuracy."

Ms Jurgen cited Yandi as an example where haul truck maintenance analytics have increased truck availability to above 90 per cent and generated recurrent cost savings.

"Replicating these strategies to our trucks in energy coal in the Hunter Valley, we have also seen an increase in truck availability," she said.

Looking across BHP, Ms Jurgen said, "The goal is for our Maintenance Centre of Excellence to replicate these early wins across our operations to reduce cost, cut unplanned downtime, improve production and ensure our equipment is safe and reliable for our people.”

Ms Jurgens also spoke on auto logistics and how the technology is leading to safer, more efficient rail operations across BHP.

She explained that the rail network scheduling system, which controls over 10,000 ore cars and transports about 270 million tonnes of iron ore each year, is becoming more effective through the use of powerful self-learning algorithms, ensuring trains arrive at port, on-time. 

"In WA, material density scanning and laser precision have delivered an additional 2.4 tonnes of iron ore per car while reducing safety risks of overloading," she said.

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