It’s rare to find Gary Smith without a stopwatch. Lately, time has been on his side since he started clocking cycles on a new Hitachi EX1900BE-6. A self-described “numbers guy,” Smith is the operations supervisor at North American Coal’s Sabine mine in Hallsville, Texas.
“I time our trucks, loaders and spotting trucks,” he said. “I want the most out of every piece of equipment every day. The only way I can do that is to know exactly what that machine is capable of doing and what it is currently doing.”
Sabine became interested in the EX1900BE-6 to increase its annual production of 4 million tons of coal to American Electric Power’s Pirkey power plant.
It was important for Sabine to have firsthand experience with the EX1900BE-6 before committing to a purchase. ROMCO Equipment Co., Sabine’s Hitachi dealer, made sure the mine got its wish.
“We were relying heavily on the machine’s ability to move quickly and load trucks faster than a competitor,” said Robert Fitzgerald, production manager at Sabine. “ROMCO coordinated a visit to some mines south of us so we could take a look and get on the machines. Any time you purchase equipment, it’s an important decision and investment. We wanted to make sure we were right.”
Pleased with the Hitachi excavator’s performance, the mine took delivery of the EX1900BE-6 in April 2014. The machine is now a key component of the mine’s truck/shovel operation, loading 150-ton trucks to remove overburden for two draglines.
This is the first time the mine has used a Hitachi excavator for loading trucks, and Smith, armed with his stopwatch, is seeing results. As a former operator with more than 30 years of industry experience, he knows what he’s talking about.
“The 1900 has really impressed me. It’s sped up our cycle times, depending on what machine it’s compared to, anywhere from three to five seconds per bucket. That is significant.”
Fitzgerald is also happy with the machine’s performance, as he has witnessed the Hitachi outwork the competition. “You can put the Hitachi side-by-side with the competitor machine we were using, and you can physically see the difference in how the machines load trucks,” he said.
The EX1900BE-6 is the mine’s first mining excavator. John Miller, maintenance manager at Sabine, said the machine needed a few adjustments following delivery, and ROMCO and Hitachi made sure it got the attention it needed quickly.
“We had an operator concern over machine functionality, and ROMCO had a Hitachi engineer come on site to address it,” Miller said. “The engineer gathered all the data and had the control software changed and reprogrammed. We were very impressed with the response and the results.”
Smith was impressed with the support as well. “The Hitachi engineer got on the machine and experienced what the operator was telling him,” he added. “I’ve seen engineers from some of the competitors go out to the field and stand, point and write. This was the first time I’ve seen an engineer get on a loader, and I liked that. It showed he cared and wanted to understand the operator’s concerns.”
Fitzgerald said the EX1900BE-6 is user-friendly. “When you bring in a new machine, there are always things to work through,” he said. “Our operators were open-minded to using Hitachi, but there was a different feel with the operation of the machine. The controls are very responsive, and they had to adapt to that.”
Sabine currently keeps the EX1900BE-6 running 12-hour shifts, 24/7. Smith said the operators not only appreciate the machine’s durability but also its comfort.
It’s safe to say the EX1900BE-6 has been a good fit for Sabine, meeting management needs and especially operators’ expectations.
This article first appeared in Hitachi’s BREAKOUT magazine, 1st issue, 2015.