In 2016, Hitachi committed to investing AU$1.25bn in its Australian Social Innovation businesses by 2020, focusing on the digital transformation of mining, agriculture, railway systems, healthcare and security.
“Embracing smart technology including digitisation and IoT in the mining industry is imperative for Australia to maintain its leadership position,” says Mazakazu Aoki, Executive Vice President and Executive Officer of Hitachi Ltd, at its recent Social Innovation Forum in Queensland.
At the Hilton Brisbane Hotel–held event, which explored digital transformation in primary industry and the latest technological developments revolutionising these industries, Aoki reiterated Hitachi's commitment to the region, revealing the company has already invested approximately $875mn of the $1.25bn over the past 18 months, with the bulk of it going into mining and agriculture.
Hitachi predicts that by 2030, Australia’s mining industry will be operated almost entirely by autonomous machines. It also believes that by then, most mines will have fully integrated IoT systems to connect all mining operations to central analytics hubs where strategic decisions can be made and implemented, often thousands of kilometres away from the actual mining site.
Atsushi Konishi, Managing Director of Hitachi Australia, says the business is perfectly poised to bring information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) together to increase productivity and reduce costs by up to 25%.
“There are so many aspects in the entire supply chain where various technologies can be applied, like robotics, automation, and the application of drones,” he says. “Hitachi has expertise in data analytics and due to our presence in the IT area, we are able to integrate this into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).”
The IIOT is a network of devices and machines combining industrial assets with intelligent software to deliver powerful capabilities for smart manufacturing, meaning end-to-end predictive quality, operational visibility and optimal production efficiency.
This plays a huge part in the entire innovation space because every time a customer seeks improvement, one of the first things they explore is the data, analysing and understanding what the key parts are.
“Hitachi has got the ability to do that,” adds Anand Singh, Director of Operations, who has been with the company since 2004 and is responsible in redefining Hitachi Australia’s role as a regional headquarters and its strategic initiatives in this region.
“Our experience in the whole operational space of more than 100 years helps us to understand the customer's needs, especially in the processing area.
“And these technologies, along with our ability to bring the IT and OT together, have been integral to Hitachi's overall presence globally.”
One of the key technologies that will drive the autonomous mining revolution is Hitachi’s Autonomous Haulage System (AHS). AHS leverages software and technologies developed for Hitachi’s automotive and railroad solutions – as well as fleet management and dispatch systems to increase productivity – and thus lowers the total cost of ownership.
“Because of that, in two years we’re in a position to retrofit the trucks that we are delivering today,” adds Singh. “So, from the point of measurement and analysis, all the way to applying technologies to improve the processes, we can offer the entire suite of products and services.”
In the past three years, Hitachi has made several acquisitions, including the purchase of Sullair, Bradken and HE Parts. In agriculture, Hitachi’s Process Intelligence (HPI) is at the forefront of revolutionising farm management and optimising the complete food value chain, from farm to plate.
It recently awarded Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) the first annual Hitachi Transformation Award for its work in using data to help drive innovation in the red meat industry.
“MLA’s key objective is to provide new technologies and solutions to its members to help them in the processes and the productivity of the farmers,” adds Konishi, “so, we help them in identifying new ways of doing things different and merging different processes.
“In agriculture, whether it’s the application of sensors, automation or drones – applying these different forms of technology to automate the processes means the farmer can manage the farm in a much more effective manner.
“This reduces cost and improves activity which, in turn, improves productivity from the farm.”
In mining, the pressure to be able to convert what is being mined into an end product has become far more significant over the last six or seven years and, especially with large companies, the cost per tonne conversion is important.
“If we look at the costs associated with that,” adds Singh, “it starts from the pit all the way to the port, and there are various technologies that can be applied along the way.
“From identification of the resource, to excavation, to processing, to logistics and then to the port to ship it off. You can break this to the whole processing of the minerals to ensure efficiency in the way it is brought to fruition.”
The next 10 years will see automation and digitalisation flourish across several sectors and Hitachi, which employs 3,650 people in the region and is on track to triple its 2015 revenue total in Australia to $3.75bn by 2020, sees itself as playing a significantly important role in each.
“We obviously want to be seen as the IoT partner of the future and as the major player of every sector, not just mining and agriculture, but across all of them, including transportation, healthcare, and public safety.
“We like to see ourselves as an innovations partner in all these areas because we have the capability to bring both the technologies and the associated specialised services to these sectors.”
Konishi adds that the concept of social innovation is based on sustainability, and Hitachi truly believes in the concepts of its ‘corporate shared value’.
“It's only when our stakeholders are in a position to sustain themselves in the long run, that we can be sustainable,” he explains. “It is extremely critical to our existence. So, everything that we recommend, and our language and the way we communicate our brand is centred on the concepts of sustainability.
“I think it's up to technology players like us to demonstrate the real benefits of applying some of these advanced technologies in improving the processes so that, at the end, everybody benefits from this.”