Innovation is alive and well at Kal Tire Mining Group

The team at Kal Tire Mining Group has cracked the code on engaging team members to share their knowledge and ideas for improving

by Timothy Fowler
Giant tires on mining truck.

Everything is bigger on mining trucks. — Photo Courtesy Kal Tire Mining Group

Changing 5,454-kilogram (12,000-pound) tires on a CAT 797 mining truck is no regular tire change, unless you are a technician on site responsible for maintaining rubber on a fleet of mining trucks. Four recent innovations at Kal Tire improve safety, propel productivity and drive value for mining customers.

Tapping into experience across five continents

The suggestion box isn’t dead. Investing in Innovation, Kal Tire’s electronic suggestion box, allows mining team members to provide suggestions, giving voice to years of experience across five continents. Added to this is Velocity, Kal Tire’s data collection tool, which sorts information on new incidents, near misses and close calls––leading indicators of where to improve safety. Through these two methods, the company strives to enhance its operations.

Peter Nilsson is the innovation and R&D manager for Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group at the Innovation Centre based in Vernon, British Columbia. His role is to assist global operations in developing new, safer tooling solutions for the mining tire division. Part of Nilsson’s job is to sort monthly submissions to Investing in Innovation, measuring each idea and assigning a score based on time and cost to develop and impact on safety and productivity. The top five suggestions are scheduled for development and implementation.

“We look at innovation as a differentiator,” Nilsson said.

Kal Tire selectively develops and patents some of its own tools based on workers’ feedback and Velocity’s indicators. The new tools enhance safety outcomes and increase productivity and further add value for customers through patents the company owns.

Tire technicians work in dangerous environments when executing a repair inside a truck tire.

Tire technicians work in dangerous environments when executing a repair inside a truck tire. — Photo Courtesy Kal Tire Mining Group

“Everything in mining is bigger and heavier,” Nilsson said. “The power tools used to change tires on a CAT 797 weigh 30 to 40 kilograms. These are awkward to handle and heavy to hold. Each wheel requires torquing 60 to 70 bolts. When fatigue sets in, fingers, hands and backs quickly become a safety risk.”

Since Nilsson was a kid, he has had the desire to learn, to experience and to understand how things work. His life and business experience spans multiple countries, continents and cultures that required engaging his inner curiosity to adapt, persist and manage whatever situation presented itself and to find a way to succeed.

“For me, curiosity means expanding my knowledge, being open to change and new ideas, building new relationships, seeking new alliances, stepping into unfamiliar areas to gain a better understanding of our stakeholders, colleagues and even a deeper understanding of myself,” said Nilsson.

The proof is in the tools

The Velocity program identified fatigue and accidents related to lifting tools to service equipment as key safety factors to address. As a result, Kal Tire is developing four products to improve safety for team members and to drive productivity.

  1. Gravity Assist System. Kal Tire desires better gravity assist equipment to make handling tools and accessories nearly weightless for technicians. Two of these Gravity Assist System (GAS) units are currently in the field for assessment. Nilsson’s team is working with operations and the current tests will influence the next generation of the GAS to be more broadly available in the field.
  2. Ram Mounts. Ram Mounts were developed to improve performance and to speed up the bead-break process for tire changes using the truck’s rear frame as an anchor point. Each Ram Mount is customized to specific trucks and are currently developed for CAT 795 and 797, Komatsu 830 and Hitachi 930. Others are planned for the future. All of these tools are patented.
  3. Lock Ring Lifter and Spreader. Each wheel contains a spring-loaded lock ring which fits a groove in the wheel. Think of it as a monster snap ring to hold the tire in place. When releasing the compression and catching the ring, there is risk of injury and falling. The Lock Ring Lifter and the Lock Ring Spreader have been developed to improve safety and minimize injuries during removing and installing lock rings. Field tests are currently underway in Chilean mines.
  4. Power Cart. Bead-breakers and Ram Mounts require hydraulic pumps. The Power Cart is a wheeled machine with a single and powerful hydraulic pump, oil reservoir and dual hose reels and is powered pneumatically or electrically. The wheeled cart can be operated close to the truck where the work is being done. The cart is  designed to function in cold climates on icy, dirty, muddy or snowy surfaces, and it supports the operation of one Ram Mount or two bead breakers simultaneously.

Innovation is a survival skill

“To be successful in this increasingly competitive and fast-changing business environment, small and mid-sized companies will need to outperform others at business strategy, product and service development, talent attraction and retention, flexible and efficient operations, and effective use of technology,” Nilsson said. “Every organization has its own priorities, goals and issues to balance. Innovative approaches to tomorrow’s challenges are a differentiator between those companies that lead and those who chase. Innovation is quickly becoming a survival skill. Working towards tomorrow today is imperative.”

Nilsson is leading R&D at Kal Tire to become a market differentiator. He continually asks what value Kal Tire can provide to customers by driving technical service. The development of the Innovation Centre and the corporate decision to patent tooling ideas are a result of that philosophy. The suggestion box is alive and well.

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