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Cutting edge wearable technology is enabling BHP’s teams in Perth to remotely assist Auto Electricians’ and Mechanical Fitters on site 1,300km away.

Alex Bertram, Manager Digital Transformation in WA Iron Ore (WAIO), said distance will soon no longer be a boundary thanks to wearable mixed reality devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens.

“When COVID-19 struck, our teams couldn’t travel from Perth to our sites in Western Australia,” Alex said.

“So we improvised.”

“In mining, people FIFO (fly-in, fly-out). Some DIDO (drive-in, drive-out). In the technology team, we think of this as ‘remote in, remote out’ or RiRo.

“This approach is essentially our teams providing remote assistance via live point of view video calls to our personnel on site.

“Utilising Cloud services and a mixed reality headset device, our technicians on the frontline can call for help and technical support when they need it most – during critical breakdowns and when undertaking new or complex tasks.”

BHP’s Western Australian Iron Ore mining and processing operations run at a very high performance rate, leaving very little room for unexpected breakdowns and equipment downtime.

When these situations do occur, it’s all hands on deck to solve the problem. Sometimes a phone call or a video conference is not enough for our teams to do this and we have to fly people to site which is costly and time consuming.

Working in this way will allow our engineers, IPRO operators and technical experts in Perth, in site offices or wherever they are in the world to see exactly what our people in the field see, in real time. They can then provide step by step guidance directly to the operator wearing the mixed reality headset device, even sending them schematics or technical manuals straight to our technicians.

Cristina Perbellini Silva, Manager Decision Automation in Technology, is now trialling the technology with our Rail teams at the Mooka Ore Car Repair Shop.

“Remote assist using mixed reality is the start of a promising journey – as we learn and adapt we expect our teams will find new and novel ways to use the technology to improve safety and productivity”

“During Covid-19, we have been able to move at an amazing velocity because we all have a clear goal and are empowered to make the right decisions – this helped us cut through the bureaucracy and red tape and implement solutions faster than we thought possible."

BHP Minerals Australia Vice President of Technology Pat Bourke said the strength of this technology is its simplicity.

“We are using standard platforms and hardware that already exist,” Pat said.

“What we are doing differently is thinking creatively. That’s where you can gain a competitive advantage, and I can see this way of working being a real game changer."

“During COVID-19, we’ve needed to think of innovative ways to have minimal amount of people on the group while still maintaining a safe operating workplace."

“Remote work using technology was always an option for us, however COVID-19 has pushed us to really harness innovative technology and we will only continue to improve our productivity as we make it widely available and perfect its use.”

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