It’s rare to find Gary Smith without a stopwatch. Lately, time has been on his side since he started clocking cycles on a new Hitachi EX1900BE-6.
A self-described “numbers guy,” Smith is the operations supervisor at North American Coal Corporation’s Sabine Mine in Hallsville, Texas.
“I time our trucks, loaders and spotting trucks,” he said. “I want the most out of every piece of equipment every day. The only way I can do that is to know exactly what that machine is capable of doing and what it is currently doing.”
Sabine became interested in the EX1900BE-6 in order to increase its annual production of approximately 4 million tons of coal to American Electric Power’s Pirkey Power Plant. The mine has about 66,000 acres of land under permit and reclaims about 400 acres of land annually.
Show, don’t tell
It was important for Sabine to have firsthand experience with the EX1900BE-6 before committing to a purchase. ROMCO Equipment Co., Sabine’s Hitachi dealer, made sure the mine got its wish.
“We were relying heavily on the machine’s ability to move quickly and load trucks faster than a competitor,” said Robert Fitzgerald, production manager at Sabine. “ROMCO coordinated a visit to some mines south of us so we could take a look and get on the machines. Any time you purchase equipment, it’s an important decision and investment. We wanted to make sure we were right.”
Pleased with the Hitachi excavator’s performance, the mine took delivery of the EX1900BE-6 in April 2014. The machine is now a key component of the mine’s truck/shovel operation, loading 150-ton trucks to remove overburden for two draglines, a Marion 8200 and a Bucyrus-Erie 1570.
Faster cycle times
This is the first time the mine has used a Hitachi excavator for loading trucks, and Smith, armed with his stopwatch, is seeing results. As a former operator with more than 30 years of industry experience, he knows what he’s talking about.
“The 1900 has really impressed me. It’s sped up our cycle times, depending on what machine it’s compared to, anywhere from three to five seconds per bucket. That is significant, and at the end of the day, you’re getting a lot more out of it.”
Fitzgerald is also happy with the machine’s performance, as he has witnessed the Hitachi outwork the competition.
“You can put the Hitachi side-by-side with the competitor machine we were using, and you can physically see the difference in how the machines load trucks,” he said.
Adapting to a new machine
Although Sabine also operates a ZX470LC-5 for key ditching and water management work, the EX1900BE-6 is its first mining excavator. John Miller, maintenance manager at Sabine, said the machine needed a few adjustments following delivery, and ROMCO and Hitachi made sure it got the attention it needed quickly.
“We had an operator concern over machine functionality, and ROMCO had a Hitachi engineer come on site to address it,” Miller said. “The engineer gathered all the data and had the control software changed and reprogrammed. We were very impressed with the response and the results.”
Smith was impressed with the support as well.
“The Hitachi engineer got on the machine and experienced what the operator was telling him,” he added. “I’ve seen engineers from some of the competitors go out to the field and stand, point and write. This was the first time I’ve seen an engineer get on a loader, and I liked that. It showed he cared and wanted to understand the operator’s concerns.”
Fitzgerald said the EX1900BE-6 is user-friendly and his operators have adapted to the new brand.
“When you bring in a new machine, there are always things to work through,” he said. “Our operators were open-minded to using Hitachi, but there was a different feel with the operation of the machine. The controls are very responsive, and they had to adapt to that.”
Happy and productive operators
Sabine currently keeps the EX1900BE-6 running 12-hour shifts, 24/7. Smith said the operators not only appreciate the machine’s durability but also its comfort.
“We have a small number of operators who run the machine,” he said. “The 1900 is their home for 12 hours every day. They like the performance, the breakout power and the comfortable cab. They show pride in maintaining it and really take ownership of it.”
When it comes to operator training, Smith actually takes his eyes off the stopwatch.
“We do a lot of training here,” he said. “Training is one thing we don’t time, and we don’t rush. We want operators to feel completely comfortable with the machine and understand it.”
It’s safe to say the EX1900BE-6 has been a good fit for Sabine, meeting management needs and especially operators’ expectations.
“A happy operator is a productive operator,” Fitzgerald said. “And the 1900 keeps our operators happy.”
North American Coal Corporation’s Sabine Mine is serviced by ROMCO Equipment Co., Longview, Texas.