Posted: 23.03.2023 11:40:00

Power of intellect

Vehicles running on alternative fuels and an excavator with a mass of 200 tonnes: 2023-2024 should become a milestone for BELAZ in terms of the production of innovative equipment

Import substitution and digitalisation are areas that are relevant in all directions of industrial development in the current realities. From light to heavy, including metalworking, energy and, of course, mechanical engineering. Today, in accordance with the general course of the country, a number of enterprises are focused on innovation. BELAZ is one of the flagships of the direction. Aleksei Grachev, the Deputy General Director for Strategic Development and Corporate Governance of OJSC BELAZ — Management Company of BELAZ-HOLDING, spoke about the work on import substitution, the focus on innovation and the plans of the giant for the future.

Aleksei Grachev, “We offer consumers about 80 models of mining dump trucks with a carrying capacity from 30 to 450 tonnes, as well as more than 15 models of special equipment”

Focus on import substitution

— The management of BELAZ has repeatedly noted that the main tasks of the enterprise are import substitution and digitalisation. What do you mean by these concepts?
— BELAZ is developing dynamically today. We offer consumers about 80 models of mining dump trucks with a carrying capacity from 30 to 450 tonnes, as well as more than 15 models of special equipment. We are actively investing and developing in terms of increasing the production of unmanned vehicles used in mining and in many other areas, we are developing our own IT direction.
However, the company has recently come under tremendous pressure from external constraints. The company found itself in extreme conditions, when at one moment more than 1,500 components and units from foreign manufacturers were no longer available to us, including engines, electric transmissions, hydraulic pumps and many other components that determine the operation of a dump truck. But the plant did not stop working for a single day. Moreover, we have not only continued to manufacture our full product line, but also expanded it significantly so that our customers can meet all their production needs in mining equipment during this difficult time.

— The engine is the heart of any car. How do you solve the issue of its import substitution?
— The engine for a mining dump truck has become one of our strategic tasks, which we are successfully solving. Today we offer mining dump trucks with engines from different manufacturers, with different technical solutions and types of fuel. So that each company using BELAZ equipment could choose the most optimal solution for itself.
The engines of the Yaroslavl Motor Plant have been used in the segment with a carrying capacity of 30–55 tonnes for many years. We also introduce Chinese made engines. As an alternative, we offer dump trucks powered by liquefied natural gas. Together with Russian partners, we manufactured gas dump trucks with a carrying capacity of 30 and 45 tonnes, which were successfully tested in a real quarry. The machines have proven their reliability and efficiency: emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere have decreased by up to ten times, fuel costs have almost doubled compared to diesel counterparts.
As for 90-tonne trucks, we are working on solutions using Chinese diesel and gas engines, and we also offer options for dump trucks powered by liquefied natural gas with Russian-made engines. So, today a 90-tonne gas turbine dump truck with a KADVI engine is undergoing factory tests. The creation of vehicles running on alternative fuels allows us not only to offer environmentally friendly and cost-effective vehicles, but also to create solutions that do not depend on sanctions pressure. Such equipment is in high demand among consumers: the portfolio of orders for 2023 is already fully formed.

Helpful ‘assistants’

— Let’s talk about the intellectual direction of BELAZ development. What products do you develop in this area?
— One of our main IT products is IMS, an intelligent monitoring and predictive analytics system that allows one to monitor the technical condition of dump trucks, evaluate their performance and detect violations during operation. IMS significantly improves the efficiency of mining operations by reducing operating costs. The IMS programme is installed on BELAZ mining dump trucks immediately at the factory. It is able to read and analyse information from more than 50 sensors installed on a mining truck as standard. The system works via mobile communications and allows you to receive and analyse data on the operation and technical condition of the dump truck from anywhere in the world in real time.

— How many machines are already connected to IMS? What is the prospect of intelligent monitoring?
— More than 100 dump trucks are registered in IMS, which work in mining companies in Belarus, Russia, Armenia, India, Chile, Mongolia and other countries. But we do not stand still: the intelligent monitoring system has a huge potential for development. BELAZ specialists are constantly working on its improvement together with our customers. In addition, we are considering the creation of a situational centre for customers in the future. Our analysts will monitor the condition of dump trucks under warranty in real time and give recommendations to customers on their work there.

Ambitious perspectives

— What other IT products does your company use?
— An equally significant innovative product created by our employees is a virtual workshop. This is a VR space for professional training of specialists who maintain our mining trucks. The virtual space of the workshop is as close to reality as possible: one can study a mining truck in detail, as well as learn how to use the necessary tools and garage equipment to repair it. Already now, on the basis of our flagship, a 130-tonne dump truck, repair of the motor-wheel gearbox and hydraulic system is available in the virtual workshop.

Thanks to the virtual workshop, specialists of service centres can thoroughly study the operation of parts and assemblies of a mining dump truck without the use of expensive equipment, and subsequently carry out work with high quality and safety already in real operating conditions.
In the future, we plan to create a virtual universe with the ability to disassemble any of our mining trucks down to the nut. We are convinced that the implementation of IT solutions will allow us to further increase sales, develop new markets and increase profits.
— The past year has been quite successful for the company. What are the plans for the future?

VR-technologies with which you can get acquainted with the developments of BELAZ

— Indeed, BELAZ worked effectively in the difficult year of 2022. The tasks set for the enterprise to maintain export volumes were fulfilled. 2023-2024 should become a landmark for the production of innovative technology. One of the most anticipated new products, of course, is an excavator with a mass of 200 tonnes and a bucket volume of 12 cubic metres, which we will demonstrate in the third quarter of this year. The excavator will be another step towards the formation of the import independence of mining equipment in the face of external restrictions.
Today the world is changing very quickly. It is not enough to keep up with the times — today it is important to go one step ahead and understand what will happen in the future, what will be more effective. We must see this and implement it in our decisions.

Photos by Aleksey Matyush, Ivan Yarivanovich