An operator maneuvers a dozer using a teleremote system.

Caterpillar recently announced the successful use of advanced automation technology to enhance dozer productivity and safety while driving down cost per ton. Beginning in late 2011, Cat and Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine partnered in the development and operation of Cat MineStar Command for dozing at the site near Wright, Wyoming. Command for dozing includes a semiautonomous solution that enables one operator to operate multiple dozers from an office environment.

Black Thunder is currently running four Cat D11T dozers enabled with Command for dozing. The mine first used Command for dozing in reclamation and now uses the system in production overburden removal in advance of dragline operations. Since implementation at the site, the system has logged more than 25,000 hours of teleremote and autonomous operation and moved more than 23 million loose cubic yards of material.

A key benefit for Black Thunder’s dozer operators is enhanced safety. The operator is located in an office remote from the machine, reducing the risk of injury from mounting and dismounting equipment and from ergonomic challenges presented during ripping applications.

Application of advanced technologies requires not only innovative systems, but integration with people and process. To take advantage of the automation benefits, the mine altered a portion of their production sequence so dozers could continue working in the cast overburden, taking advantage of the consistent and optimized operation. These benefits are magnified by dozers operating 24/7 at the mine. Black Thunder is also using Command for dozing to reduce unit costs through increasing dozer utilization, increased process consistency (consistent process management), and increased execution of best practices.

Command for dozing is part of Caterpillar’s vision for a fully autonomous mine. Today, Cat also offers Command for hauling, which enables autonomous operation of large mining trucks. When fully commercialized, the automated dozer solution will join these leading mining machine automation systems.