FORECASTING THE FUTURE

GM says PMO continues to expand production to meet future global mining demand

Jim Mathis, General Manager of Manufacturing, Komatsu Peoria Manufacturing Operation (PMO)

QUESTION: There have been a few sparks in construction, but overall activity remains low. How’s mining?

ANSWER: Mining has been strong for quite a while now. We are producing more than four or five times the number of trucks we did just 10 years ago. It’s probably more than many of us here at Peoria Manufacturing Operations (PMO) thought was even possible back in 2002. Mining continues to be very strong globally, so there’s a great demand for the five Komatsu mining trucks we manufacture.

QUESTION: How are you meeting demand?

ANSWER: Taking into account several factors, such as historical trends, current mining and what we see down the road, we update our forecast frequently. More recently, our firm-order backlog is very strong and we are able to see the future more clearly. We’re basing our production on what we believe the long-term trends will be. Again, we expect mining to remain strong, so we’re being proactive.

Most of our operations are running around the clock to ensure we meet our production goals and the demand for our mining trucks, which is globally very high. Because demand is so high, we added a second assembly line and further refined our processes to make them even more efficient. That’s allowed us to double the number of trucks produced a day, and we’re working to further increase that.

QUESTION: Why are Komatsu mining trucks in such demand?

Komatsu trucks have always been at the top of the class in terms of per-ton costs because they’re not only efficient, but reliable and have a long life cycle. A big reason why is because the trucks are electric-drive as opposed to mechanical. It’s been proven that our trucks work longer with less downtime. That makes a huge difference to a mine that’s running 24 hours a day. Our customers tell us that.

Of course, many other features have been a direct result of our working with customers and listening to their needs to incorporate those into our trucks. Based on their recommendations, we’ve integrated convenience features, such as ramp-style staircases to the driver’s cab rather than a ladder hanging on the side.

QUESTION: Komatsu has built its reputation for mining trucks based on the foundation of reliability. What does the factory do to ensure each truck reinforces this reputation?

It’s important to recognize that product quality begins with unrivaled design, followed by rigorous testing and confirmation. Only then can manufacturing truly excel at producing high-quality products and deliver reliability to our customers. We make countless quality checks and confirmations every day on every truck throughout the production process. This also includes the critical role our suppliers play in supporting us. It’s not something special or unique. It’s what we do every day with every process.

QUESTION: What does the future hold beyond Tier 4?

ANSWER: In some sense, Komatsu is already there and has been for quite some time. We’ve been developing, producing and testing autonomous haul trucks — trucks that run without a driver — for several years. They are already being used in active mines. That’s a huge technological advantage for the customer because it keeps costs down, and for us because it puts us at the forefront of the mining equipment industry.

We’ve always been strong in technology, especially in tracking machine usage, function, production and maintenance with our KOMTRAX PLUS system. It allows both us and the customer to see how a truck is being used so we can build future machines based off that information and customer recommendations. We never stop trying to improve.