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Wirtgen: On the front foot for safety

Safety is a major priority for HAMM AG, Wirtgen and other companies that fall under the John Deere Group. Images: Wirtgen.

Wirtgen has partnered with Strata Worldwide to install compatible collision avoidance technology, helping to improve the safety of HAMM AG rollers. Here’s how they did it.

While improvements in technology, personnel protective equipment and processes have helped to move the needle when it comes to worksite safety, the industry as a whole continues to see incidents arise. 

According to Better Health Victoria, 2023 saw 196 Australian lose their lives in work-related incidents. Just under a quarter of these deaths were related to the construction sector (22 per cent).

Machinery safety plays a key role in reducing this figure. That’s why roller manufacturer and distributor HAMM AG, part of the Wirtgen Group, has looked outside of the box to optimise the safety of operators and passers-by alike.

Craig Yeats, Product Support Manager – HAMM, says safety has always been an important consideration for Wirtgen, but recently there’s been a greater emphasis placed on optimising the safety capabilities of the company’s machinery.

Stata Worldwide’s collision avoidance technology can be attached to a number of locations and machinery types.
Stata Worldwide’s collision avoidance technology can be attached to a number of locations and machinery types.

Wirtgen Group machinery, including its HAMM AG range of rollers, are well known for their technological advances. To back up its commitment to safety, as well as to continue expanding the variety of software and hardware on each model, Wirtgen began looking at proximity detection systems.

“With every incident that happens on the worksite, safety gets highlighted more and more,” Yeats says. “We’re now owned by John Deere and safety is extremely high on their priority list. It’s absolutely paramount and that aligns really well with the way that we work and run things as well.”

“All the different manufacturers and contractors think about safety in broad terms. For the implementation of new technology, different OEMs are doing different things. We know that some are using passive methods to improve safety.”

Wirtgen’s foray into proximity detection systems centred around achieving ISO certification (International Organisation for Standardisation) for its eventual device and machinery setup. 

“Customers regularly asked about proximity detection that would include a degree of machine control. To incorporate more than just a warning system, HAMM AG decided to go down the ISO path,” Yeats says. “There’s an ISO standard for proximity detection systems that are integrated into construction equipment. As far as I’m aware, HAMM is the only roller OEM in the road construction space going down that path.”

The journey towards developing or implementing a detection warning system was initially sparked through a client request.

“Strata was approached by one of our customers to fit a proximity detection system on one of our rollers, that would control the machine and pull it up if a person or object was detected. That rang alarm bells for us, as we were cautious of handing the machine control over to an external third party,” Yeats says.

This led Wirtgen to having a conversation with Strata Worldwide, which is responsible for the development of proximity detection systems and collision avoidance systems. These systems aim to prevent machine-to-machine collisions, as well as machine-to-person incidents. 

Phil Jones, Global Product Manager SafeSITE AI – Strata Worldwide, says safety is a foundation for the development of the product, which now serves many industries, including general construction and mining.

“Firstly, we aim to pull someone who might be at risk, out of a dangerous situation. We can provide that through our hardware, like alarms, bright spots and other visual and audio warnings,” Jones says.

“The other aspect is behavioural change, aiming to get lasting results. If there’s an incident, we can take information from the danger zone, pull that apart and provide the customer with real time alerts. We can provide that data to management teams in a way that they can understand how to make sure these incidents don’t happen again.”

Yeats says, that in some ways, proximity detection systems are exactly what the industry has needed.

“Customers had been searching for machine control solutions to try and stop contact between machinery and personnel for years,” he says.


 

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First trials

The first installation of Strata Worldwide’s systems did come with its challenges. It also marked the beginning of what has turned out to be an ever-growing relationship between Strata and Wirtgen.

“The very first implementation of a proximity detection system on a Hamm roller was in Adelaide in 2017, where we worked through some minor issues and had plenty of learnings. At first it was complicated to combine the operating system of the machine with the interface of the proximity detection system,” Yeats says. 

“We couldn’t implement the system into the drive control because we simply didn’t have the interface, software, or anything developed at that stage. But the conversation never stopped between both of us.”

From initial trials, Wirtgen/HAMM AG worked with Strata to develop a system that could be applied across the majority of roller models. This process represented a learning experience for both companies.

“Essentially, the technology that Strata developed uses AI to identify objects or people on the worksite. Strata was able to work with a partner to develop the interface to take the analogue language from the system, or digital language, and convert it to the language of the machine, which was the ISO standard,” Yeats says.

“I believe the first implementation was in 2020, during COVID. The first systems were put onto a machine for testing in our yard. There’s been a lot of testing in controlled situations since.

“Almost from day one, it worked really well. There were little tweaks here and there, but long story short, it’s taken several years of trial and error but now we have a system out there that’s doing exactly what the customer requires.”

Hamm AG is now one of the first to manufacture compaction equipment with ISO compliance in this specific area.

Satisfying the ISO standard has also opened the door for HAMM AG’s customers to use a combination of different technologies, with many now compatible. 

Adopting the ISO standard for the integration of these systems allows the operator or fleet manager to select a proximity detection system of their choosing (that’s also ISO compatible) for use on HAMM AG rollers. Yeats explains.

“It just means that there’s common ground,” he says. “There’s no reinventing the wheel, every time a different supplier wants to put their system into one of our machines, you’ve got a standard interface. At that point, it doesn’t matter who the supplier is.”

Strata’s technology is also highly adaptable depending on the type and make of machinery. 

Jones says a key difference between Strata’s products and others is the satisfaction of level nine EMESRT (Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table) requirements. These requirements outline the standard required and dictate the application and installation for the use of proximity detection systems.

Strata’s installations on Wirtgen/HAMM AG equipment satisfies level seven and nine requirements. The former includes audible and visual alarms to enhance operator awareness. The latter revolves around the automatic intervention of the system, therefore allowing it to override the equipment’s movement to prevent nearby collisions with either machinery or people.

Customer requirements are the greatest determinator of whether a level seven or nine system should be installed, with factors such as the age and type of machine dictating this direction.

In order to ensure the correct system is selected based on the information at hand, Strata undertakes a thorough process to evaluate the most complementary option, as Jones explains.

“With Wirtgen we undertook what we call a discovery phase. That’s where we actually work out how we can interface with the machine. It’s not as simple as taking our interface to the machine and plugging it into the data port,” he says.

“We design the interface, we risk assess it, then we set about implementing it. We put the interface in, we do the firmware modifications and then confer with the customer.”

In the end, Jones, Yeats, Wirtgen/HAMM AG and Strata are all united in one key aspect. Safety, above all else.

“The main thing I want to see is proven deployments. Scenarios where we can see that our technologies have helped to save a life,” Jones says. “We want to make sure that people can go home at the end of the day in one piece. A lot of people in the industry have been affected by or know someone who has died in these accidents.

“That’s why companies like Wirtgen want to see their product out there with the safest solution that they can apply. There’s been learnings along the way, but it’s been great.”

Yeats says the continual push for safer and more efficient machinery will never stop, and while there’s a lot more work to do, technologies such as these are pointing manufactures in the right direction.

“We all want to do as much as possible to eliminate that risk, whether that be via machine controls, or people having different choices about how they want to go about it. One of the best things about the Strata system is that it focusses firstly on people, not necessarily plant, cones or pieces of the road itself,” he says.

“Strata have been absolutely sensational. There’s been a few moving parts and some key learnings, but we’re both very excited to have this rolled out. We’re really pushing this and working well together to help each other out. But the work’s not done yet.

“That means no shortcuts. Where safety is concerned, you just can’t play that game.”

Wirtgen/HAMM AG and Strata are constantly working to update and enhance both the software and hardware components of these systems.

“It’ll continue to evolve. But as of right now, its raring and ready to go,” Yeats says. “It’s extremely promising and we can’t wait for more people to learn about these systems.” 

This article was originally published in the May edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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