Our innovative processes afford us the ability to consistently conceive valuable ideas in multiple fields, such as environmental design and economic efficiency. Out of these areas, the one which we consider to be of the most importance is that of “Safety”.
From providing safe products to the overall safety of our automatic operational systems, we persistently utilize the full scope of our innovation capabilities to find ways in which safety is used to maximize the value of our products to our customers.
The provision of profoundly safe products is the most important responsibility of any manufacturer. With that in mind, we strive to exceed what is expected of us by going above and beyond the call of duty. On top of meeting all international standards and regulations, we supplement our products with additional safety features that remain unsurpassed by our competitors.
This commitment, compounded with our innovative drive for safety improvement, also allows our customers to achieve the consummate climate of safety within their operations.
In 2013 and 2014, Komatsu introduced the ICT Bulldozer and ICT Hydraulic Excavator respectively, an innovation that made possible the automatic control of blades and buckets. These systems by-pass the need for manual experience, allowing even fresh or less-experienced workers to perfectly reproduce the same high-level precision construction work of a skilled worker. This has eliminated the past need for ancillary workers and guiding processes, thus enabling our customers to make huge savings on labor costs and improving general safety.
The pinnacle of our safety innovations has birthed a fully automated operational system, known as the Autonomous Haulage System (AHS). This ingenious system has been fully-established in certain major mines in Australia and Chile, which involves the unmanned operation of giant dump trucks that carry over 300 tons of soil and minerals. The mine is an often harsh environment which requires constant vigilance and safety protocols, having multiple construction machines and vehicles that operate around the clock on a 24 hour basis. The AHS system utilizes cutting-edge technologies like satellite communication and various radars and sensors to create a useful system that meets this need in its entirety, responding to the diverse nature of our customer's safety requirements.
Despite these significant achievements, we are fully aware that there is always room for amelioration. We will continue to innovate and improve, furthering the evolution of such safety systems in order to realize the optimal safety environment that our customers require in their respective sites of operation.
Komatsu has launched hydraulic excavators*1 equipped with the in-house developed KomVision Human Detection & Collision Mitigation System as a standard feature for the first time in the industry in the Japanese market in 2020.
Komatsu has developed this system by upgrading the “KomVision” bird’s eye view camera system equipped with conventional models as standard in the Japanese market. The system recognizes humans around the excavator and prevents the motion of the excavator when the system detects people when the excavator starts to travel or swing. The system also stops the excavator when it detects humans while the excavator is traveling at slow speeds. With these functions, the system helps curb the possibility of collisions between the excavator and people.
This system comes standard on the PC200-11 model, which Komatsu began selling in December 2019. Concerning the conventional models already equipped with KomVision as a standard feature, customers can update the software and retrofit their existing machines*2. With this new system, Komatsu will continue to expand support for workplace safety as its goal. Komatsu will also this system standard in the future on other models*3, as it works to gather market needs and provide customer support in order to further advance its safety support system.
[Human detection structure of KomVision]
1.All-around machine monitoring with4 cameras and a monitor
Four monocular cameras capture all-around views of the machine, which are shown on the monitor. The operator can select right, right front, left or rear views.
2. Alerting with buzzer and stopping the machine when people are detected
When human are detected inside the detection or stop-controlled area, the system not only displays markers (yellow or red circles) on the monitor, but also alerts the operator with a buzzer.
*1: Equipped as standard on the PC200/200LC-11, PC210/210LC-11
*2: Limited to the models equipped with KomVision for hydraulic excavators. Changing both cameras and software may be needed in some cases.
*3: Komatsu plans to make the system standard on 12 to 40-ton hydraulic excavators (equipped with KomVision) in Japan. Not applicable to some application-specific models (with a two-piece boom, super-long front boom, slide arm, etc.).
Value creation by means of innovation is one of three pillars of growth strategy in the mid-term management plan. As one of our focus efforts in this area, we engaged in automation, autonomous operation, electrification, and remote controlling of construction, mining and utility equipment (small machinery), while also working to realize digital transformation of construction through both physical
aspects (increased automation and sophistication of construction machinery) and non-physical aspects (optimization of customers’ construction operations), thereby realizing safe, highly productive, smart and clean workplaces of the future with customers. The Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) for unmanned dump truck operation has already launched in the market, and we have been strengthening it further. As of March 31, 2021, a cumulative total of 352 units are in operation. In addition to automation of mining front lines, we will also advance our building of optimization platforms, aiming to promote increased safety and optimization of operations for our customers in the mining sector. Furthermore, in November 2020, we conducted Japan’s first successful joint proof of concept test with NTT DOCOMO INC. for remote operation of a large-scale ICT bulldozer, the D375Ai-8, for mining using a commercial 5th generation mobile telecommunication protocol (commercial 5G).
In April 2020, we started to install “SMARTCONSTRUCTION Retrofit Kits” providing aftermarket ICT functions such as 3D machine guidance and payload measurement to conventional construction equipment already operating at construction sites in Japan. The kits can be installed on any hydraulic excavator (6-ton class and above), regardless of the model or manufacturer. From November 2020 onward, the scope of application has been extended to include mini excavators (under 6-ton class) and the kits have been introduced into the domestic market in Japan by installing them on the Komatsu Group’s
fleet of rental equipment with a view to promoting wider spread use going forward. The Komatsu Group will accelerate the digital transformation of construction sites.
Komatsu regards forestry as an important indurstry that contributes towards the achievement of the SDGs. In forestry, it is important to contribute to realizing woodland management cycle of planting, cultivating and felling forests, and it is required to operate in a way that places due consideration on forest environments. Also, forestry poses challenges in terms of ensuring worker safety while heightening efficiency, given the industry’s high rate of occupational accidents. Komatsu is promoting the visualization of the supply chain through the use of IoT and the provision of products in order to contribute to innovation in cyclical forestry.
In the realm of afforestation, we developed the automated tree planter, which is based on our D61 bulldozer, and rolled it out in the Brazilian market in December 2019. Capable of planting 900 trees per hour, the automated tree planter cuts labor hours by approximately 70% and makes it possible to mechanize the task of planting trees, otherwise done manually often in hot weather. The automated tree planter will also most likely contribute to sustainable development of Brazilian forestry, particularly given that it will streamline future plans for timber felling by making it possible to keep a record of where trees have been planted.
Moreover, in the area of timber felling and transport operations where most forestry-related occupational accidents tend to occur, we are making progress in developing and selling forestry equipment that enables harvesters to fell and transport timber located on hillsides without people having to descend to the forest floor. When it comes to equipment for felling and transporting timber within woodlands, we have developed an eight-wheel harvester which exerts lower ground pressure, thereby averting the possibility damaging tree roots.
We have furthermore been working on a smart-forestry concept that makes it possible to visually monitor forestry supply chains. In Japan, we have been using drones to conduct tree planting and growth management surveys including forestry resource quantity estimates. This has enabled us to reduce the labor hours needed for surveys for felling from around five people per hectare per day to one person per hectare per day. Moreover, by using ICT-equipped harvesters for processing and sorting logs, we have been able to reduce the labor hours needed from about 13 people per hectare per day to about 0.5 people per hectare per day. We are also focusing our efforts on developing applications that are capable of drawing on accumulated log processing and timber transport data of the LANDLOG open platform. We will furthermore contribute to streamlining operations in the future by sharing information with forestry business operators on lumber markets as well as lumber consumers.
Going forward, we hope to help promote cyclical forestry around the world by facilitating further safety and productivity improvements in forestry.