TimberWest has a number of very large mobile machines working at our sort yards and logistics facilities. These specialized machines perform a number of tasks such as unloading trucks, transferring logs within the facility and moving logs shipside for loading. When you see these industrial machines in motion, the sites look like a well-orchestrated ballets. Every machine operator knows his or her part in the dance, and every member of the ground crew understands the importance of maintaining the prescribed machine /human separation.
Given the nature of this work, safety systems are critical. Anywhere possible, we engineer the risk out, which is complemented by very clear standards and procedures that rely on compliance with appropriate supervision.
At TimberWest, we are always looking for ways to make the job site safer.
When TimberWest learned of new proximity sensor technology, manufactured by ScanLink and distributed through Finning, that could help avoid unplanned human / machine interactions, we were eager to try it out. The new technology adds a secondary layer of precaution to the already standardized back-up alarm outfitted on every industrial machine from mail delivery trucks to wheel loaders.
We selected our logistics facility at Crofton, known as the South Island Logistics Facility, to pilot the technology. The sensor technology is mounted on the mobile equipment. It becomes triggered by an RFID chip miniaturized down to a sticker which is easily applied to the hard hat of the ground crew. The RFID technology is similar to the technology that allows you to pay by tapping your credit card, but it works across longer distances.
The proximity sensor includes software that permits the user to adjust the range on the sensors magnetic field generator (MFG) which will only trigger when an individual is in the designated proximity range. When the sensor is triggered by the RFID technology, a distinct and unique alarm will sound both inside and outside of the operator’s cab. This unique sounding alarm has the intended effect of warning both the machine operator and the ground-crew to immediately vacate the area and move to safe ground.
Take the example of wheel loaders, one of the most common mobile industrial machines operating at our facility. They are constantly moving through the job site, unloading logs from trucks and maneuvering from one end of the facility to the next. It was a natural decision for TimberWest to pilot the new safety technology with one of the CAT 980K wheel loaders, and learn from the operators and ground crew about how they felt the system added to their overall safety experience.
When the machine arrived, Doug Scott, an operator with our contractor Spuzzum, was the first to trial it. He liked that the loader loudly sounds the unique beeping alarm both inside and outside of the cab, “The thing is, I am sitting in a cab about 8 feet above the ground. When you back-up a machine this size the rear window doesn’t allow you a full view of what is on the ground below. While we have clear rules that prevent ground crew being around the machine, the sensor makes a world of difference in helping make sure there are no mistakes.”
Doug became a champion for the technology and began working closely with his team led by Jesse Stromquist head of Spuzzum Contracting. “We really got to customize the CAT 980K all thanks to Finning. We decided to add a camera to the sensor, and a screen inside the cab giving the machine operator a real-world view of what was happening behind him,” says Jesse.
“I love it. And I really like that Finning hears us when we tell them how we want to tailor the technology to meet our needs. We got the camera system in place, and then tested it out and asked that we widen the camera view. Finning worked with us to get the appropriate App set-up which gives us control of the view we want to achieve on the screen,” says Doug.
“The RFID stickers are really great,” continued Jesse. “We would like more of them on site, because as the crew suggested, it makes sense to add these stickers to objects that may be out of the operator’s field of vision and cause damage to the machine. The more tools we have in our belt, the better off we are at the end of the day. Now, the RFID stickers not only help us protect our workers, they can also help us avoid damage to items and equipment in the yard.”
Feedback from the crew on the new system has been extremely positive. “Everyone on site really likes knowing that an extra level of safety has been added to one of the most active and important machines in the yard,” says John Shearing, Contract Manager, South Island Logistics Facility for TimberWest. “Our goal at TimberWest is to provide all of our workers with a safe and healthy workplace. With the help of industry partners and innovative technology, we have taken a proactive step in that direction.”
TimberWest is excited for the future; safety innovation and technology go hand-in-hand, and this pilot project has demonstrated how beneficial new technology can be on the work site. “This technology is a home run,” says Jeff Zweig, President & CEO of TimberWest. “With this type of innovation, and others that are emerging, we can expect a step-change improvement in safety performance. There is nothing more gratifying than that.”
TimberWest is committed to its proactive approach on safety, and will continue to investigate and invest in new technologies that make the workplace a safer place.
 Manufactured by ScanLink and distributed through Finning, the world’s largest Caterpillar distributor headquartered in Vancouver.
This photograph depicts the rear of the Finning Cat 980K wheel loader. The yellow rectangular box above the grill is the sensor technology.