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Motion Metrics: Missing Shovel Teeth Detection – Product Review

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Favorites | 0 comments

Motion Metrics: Missing Shovel Teeth Detection – Product Review

I started this blog to provide a platform for discussion on operational excellence with a focus on the utilization of technology. As the blog has evolved based on the readership response such as my post here on career options as a mining engineer, I’ve decided to try something new today – a detailed product review on a mine applications technology: ShovelMetricsTM, a product designed & manufactured by Motion Metrics International Corp. This will be longer than my usual blogposts so I hope you enjoy it (alternatively, you can scroll to the bottom for the TL;DR conclusion)

With the goal of enhancing mine productivity and safety for the past 14 years, Motion Metrics has a suite of five (5) products but here in this review, we’ll just be focusing on ShovelMetricsTM and its image-based tooth monitoring technology.

What is it?

ShovelMetrics is a monitoring system for mining shovels. It is well-known for its missing tooth detection (Previously known as ToothMetrics) and tooth wear monitoring capability. Shovel teeth can break off during operation and once lost, they go into either the ore or waste steam, causing downstream issues . If you receive an alert when a tooth breaks off and ends up in your haul truck that is driving to the crusher, you can stop it before the tooth likely ends up damaging and/or plugging up the crusher. If the metal does pass the crusher, it could cause even more damage on the conveyor belts such as tearing the belt. In addition,  ShovelMetrics has a suite of other features for shovels including proximity detection, fragmentation analysis and payload monitoring.

The installation of the ShovelMetricsTM tooth monitoring system includes a CPU, power supply, bucket camera/bracket & LED light, and an in-cab monitor with armored cables running throughout the shovel. With a live screen of teeth status (see photo), the camera is able to translate photos into usable data of all of the bucket’s teeth and its current status: good, warning or alarm. In addition to alerting the mine when there is a missing tooth, the product will also track and report trends in tooth wear. This data can be used to create a tooth change-out schedule to avoid longer fill times due to reduced digging efficiency and to broken teeth leading to possible crusher downtime and an unplanned tooth change-out.

For proximity detection, radar proximity sensors and surveillance cameras can be added to the system. The system can also perform fragmentation analysis of the material in the shovel bucket using the same camera that is used to monitor the teeth. Lastly, for hydraulic shovels and excavators, the ShovelMetrics system can also provide bucket-by-bucket payload monitoring. While these three additional features have easy ROI’s and are great, there are a lot of other competing products that offer similar results and challenges (such as Split-ShovelCam for fragmentation analysis and Caterpillar’s TPMS for payload monitoring).

Motion Metrics would likely argue that their products have advantages over other systems such as the 2.5% accuracy that their payload system provides in a controlled test environment. However, I personally don’t believe actual performance and its variance at a mine site’s operations level is within a 2.5% margin of error. Another example is their proximity detection solution, which faces the same challenges as most proximity warning systems where the effectiveness decreases as nuisance alarms increase. (I did my Bachelor’s graduate paper on Collision Avoidance Systems and most of the challenges back in 2005 are still the same today unfortunately).

To me and to those operators that I’ve talked to, the biggest value proposition of Motion Metrics is their proprietary and successful algorithm on detecting worn or lost shovel teeth. However, if you were going to install ShovelMetricsTM anyway, it would be easy to single source all the other value added products directly from Motion Metrics.

Business Case

So you might ask: “Where is the Return on Investment here?” so we need to answer “How much does it cost when a crusher goes down?”

Let’s use a generic open pit gold mine example.

Total number of crushers: 3

Crusher design capacity: 40ktpd each, 120ktpd total

Design Utilization: 80%

Max Capacity: 50ktpd each, 150ktpd total

Ore Grade: 0.05oz/ton

Au Price (as of May 11, 2014): USD$1290/troy oz

If one crusher goes down for 4 hours due to a shovel tooth plug, then you lose 6,667 tons into that crusher. Theoretically, you could divert a half of the loss tonnages to the two remaining crushers and run them at full capacity for 4 hours. But you are still stuck with a loss of 3,333 tons for the day. Using the assumptions above, it results in a delay of $214,978 (3,333tons x 0.05oz/ton x $1290/oz) in revenue. And as we know, mining economics is all about a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.

As it is confidential information, I cannot release the cost of ShovelMetricsTM but as one miner said to me, “Avoiding one crusher shutdown pays for it” and as I saw in another mining company’s newsletter, “Assuming a 10 hour production delay, the cost of the entire ToothMetrics system is offset if a single tooth is prevented from entering the crusher.”

Do note that the real cost of crusher downtime is reduced if your mine to mill process isn’t optimized (i.e. crusher utilization issues resulting in increased truck queue time).

There are a number of other factors that I did not take into account for this simple calculation, such as hedged gold contracts, mine to mill process is not optimized so you weren’t running the crusher at design capacity anyway, other crusher utilization issues, cost of power, NPV, IRR and a company’s internal hurdle, blending implications. The list goes on! If you find mining economics interesting, the Colorado School of Mines offers a short course. Details here.

Business case and productivity aside, there is a huge safety component to not sending metal to a crusher. As cheesy as the music may be, this YouTube video posted here shows a horrific safety incident when a worker is working on a piece of jammed steel in the crusher.

The Future: Wearable Tech

You’ve all heard of the “wearable tech” craze (Fit Bit, Pebble, GoPro Hero3+; even Amazon has a dedicated Wearable Technology storefront that was launched in April 2014!). And believe it or not, it’s coming to mining! These are some of my thoughts on wearable tech:

  1. It’ll be challenging to run privately and may cause security issues as most backhauls data over low power Bluetooth (BLE), an insecure protocol so equivalent to broadcasting in the open. Anyone can discover which services you’re exposing.
  2. It’ll be tough for applications that are always on, as most is powered by coin cell battery. You’ll either need to recharge frequently or if you let the batteries completely die, they are tough to replace.
  3. They are not currently designed for ruggedized environment.
  4. It needs to backhaul to a cell phone or a computer so you’ll still need to have one or the other nearby for it to be useful. The wearable tech can store data but you’ll still need to download it at some point (limited network infrastructure at either an underground or open pit mine).
  5. You cannot host an application natively on most as there is only an API option for app development for google glass until recently (SDK development pending). In that case, applications are limited and everything is server backed and there could be latency issues (in mining, many applications require low latency). Therefore, it is designed for content consumption and not for interaction.
  6. The obvious safety issues – situational awareness, distraction, peripheral vision block.

Motion Metrics teamed up with Vandrico and showcased what they believe is the future: wearable technology for mining, which sends alerts to the mine operators. They call this technology MetricsGear. See the photo of us trying out a pair of Google Glass synced up to the alerts of BeltMetrics on display during the CIM convention in Vancouver (May 2014). They also have their system connected to a smart watch that vibrates when there’s an alert and displays relevant logs. Challenges aside, I love the innovation and “outside the box” approach here!


I have identified five challenges/opportunities in deploying & using the ShovelMetrics system. They are as follows:

1. Downstream process to act on information provided by technology.

This is a challenge not only for shovel teeth detection products but also for all mine applications technology out there. I say this over and over again (old blogpost here) – all this data provides a report, which then is supposed to generate a downstream action item for mine operations. Then and only then will you get payback (ROI) for your new shiny toy. ShovelMetricsTM will only be able to tell you when you need to change out your tooth or when a tooth is missing; mine operations & mine maintenance will need to work together on scheduling out the work.

Currently, ShovelMetrics does not log every bucket, which was one of the gripes that a user had with having a comprehensive data set for downstream processing. According to Motion Metrics, “The frequency of missing tooth logs is largely dependent on the quality of the camera calibration and environmental factors. With a properly calibrated system, the system can typically log an image every one or two loading passes.”

2. Single unified hardware CPU hub & display

As much as OEMs and OTMs are fighting it, the industry is moving towards a unified hardware hub & display (see work done by GMSG’s working group here). From a technology advisor for a major mining company: “I think ToothMetrics has value for hard rock mines – but doesn’t need a dedicated screen. The concept is sound, but just posting a warning through FMS [fleet management system] would be as effective.”

As Motion Metrics is a participant and contributor of the GMSG Situational Awareness working group, it should be natural for them to start opening up commercial agreements to work on a 3rd party hardware CPU or display. However, a prospective customer of Motion Metrics told me that discussions around a single hub & display were “non-committal” in late 2013. My hope is that Motion Metrics sees both the value and commercial demand of utilizing 3rd party hardware and moves toward productization.

3. Integration with fleet management system – overall industry issue

Currently, their payload monitoring component integrates with Wenco & Modular Mining dispatch systems. However, it does not integrate with others such as Micromine, Leica and Cat systems. Nor does ShovelMetrics integrate into FMS as a total solution. This is an overall industry in mining where every single vendor wants to have as much of the pie as possible. Integrations and collaboration are only happening at a very high level such as at the GMSG working group or happens when there is a huge push of customer driven pressure.

I get it. I’ve read the Apple philosophy that they want to control the entire end-to-end customer experience so they won’t license their O/S out to 3rd party hardware. But these aren’t operating systems! These are applications. Most of us have heard the analogy with an iPhone before. We have multiple applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Google Maps on the same hardware CPU, display and all utilizing the same GPS unit. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could move together towards a ruggedized version for mining?

4. When the system is down

As much as I love technology, there is something to be said about knowing how to do things the old school way (such as a surveyor staking out high grade after a blast instead of relying on the HPGPS on board to tell you). When your technology goes out (broken hub on the equipment, network infrastructure and communications is down), a mine generally does not stop operating! So if you are putting in all of these technologies, don’t forget to build or update your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and also train everyone on what to do when technology disappoints.

One company tries to mitigate this problem by using Motion Metrics as a “first line of defense” and they are evaluating a secondary solution with an embedded RFID tag inside the hollow teeth as an extra layer of redundancy.

5. Oil Sands Application

During CIM in Vancouver, I also had a quick discussion with Chris Langmead (Manager, Mine Systems & Reporting from Suncor Energy, Oilsands). He believes that ShovelMetrics was previously tested in the oil sands operating environment; however, due to the dark nature of the tar sands, it “fooled” the ShovelMetrics camera into thinking that the tooth was gone. E-mail request sent to CNRL, a current ShovelMetrics user in the oil sands, for current product performance was not returned. Feedback from Motion Metrics, “The oil sands operating environment does pose new challenges for our system. However, we are actively working with our customers to improve the performance of the system. One of the key reasons why we developed the new ShovelMetrics CPU platform was to improve the system performance under all environments and conditions.”

TL;DR I want to thank all the mining companies that contributed to the article. So in conclusion, I truly believe in the direction of Motion Metrics and I do like their flat level reporting so there is less time spent on bureaucracy and more on innovation. If you’ve ever had shovel teeth breakage and downstream impact, this is a no brainer ROI. In 14 years, they have achieved over 230 installations globally at 50+ mines. But I also think that they have a huge opportunity to break out of the conventional revenue driven strategy, and into a more integrative approach within the mining industry.

For more information on Motion Metrics, contact Enoch Chow at



Compensation was provided by Motion Metrics International Corp. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Motion Metrics.



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Contributions of Asian Migrant Workers in the 19th Century to Development of the British Columbian Mining Industry

Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Portfolio | 0 comments

During my first summer internship at UBC, I worked for Professor John Meech and wrote a research paper on the impact of Asian migrant workers to the BC mining industry. After a lot of research in the archives, in Chinatown, and at the library – I learnt a lot and it really helped me appreciate the current state of the mining industry. My favorite section is on how Mining helped BC become a province (chapter 9). Enjoy!

Author: V. Hui

Supported and published by:

The Centre for Environmental Research in Minerals, Metals, and Materials, The University of British Columbia, Department of Mining Engineering, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Download here: LINK

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SME 2014: Technology Update

Posted by on Mar 15, 2014 in Favorites, Technology | 0 comments

SME 2014: Technology Update

Dear Readers,

I am back! Yes it’s been more than a year and I have the same ‘ole excuse of being busy. I just got back from SME and felt inspired to do a quick technology update for everyone. Even though I haven’t been diligent about new posts, my readership (source: Google Analytics) has remained consistent and has even grown! So thank you to all for your support.

For those of you who have not been to SME, it is the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (US-based) and we meet every year in February. We have great tech sessions and the exhibition is a fun way to find out what new companies are up and coming. The next show in Feb 2015 will be in Denver and I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Here are some companies that I want to mention with just a bit of details to get you interested and go check them out. (Thus start the disclaimers: (1) No, none of them are paying me for it so these opinions are purely my own and do not reflect 3D-P or anyone else. (2) If you work for a company below and you want to correct an error or ask me to remove anything, my contact info can be found on this page here. and (3) I have personally never used or tested any of the systems below.)

1. Autonomous Solutions Inc (ASI) – traditionally, OEMs such as Cat, Komatsu and Hitachi have been the ones designing, testing and commercializing “Autonomous Haulage.” As such, it is not fleet agnostic nor is it fleet management system agnostic. ASI came out of the Agriculture and DOD world and recently a few years ago, they came out with products for both remote control and either a semi or fully autonomous solution. On the autonomous bit – instead of selling you an entire truck, they have a retrofit package (the cost is comparable to a new 60L engine) that can be compatible with any dispatch system (so I’m told). Currently they have their system running on two (2) trucks in South Africa with more on order and are only integrated with Leica Jigsaw.

2. Motion Metrics – what a finely engineered company plus they’re situated at my alma matter (UBC) so that’s a plus plus. Motion Metrics has a flat level of reporting so there’s more work done and less layers of management. Check out their new product PortaMetrics – real time rock frag and slope sensing using a hand held device.

3. Global Mining Standards & Guidelines (GMSG)– This is a group that I’ve previously discussed on here to get involved. (full disclosure: I sit on the executive council of this non-profit group, who is currently housed under the Canadian Institute of Mining)

One of the working groups put up a unified display prototype at the booth where they are running 4 different mine management applications on 1 display to increase situational awareness and reduce the operator distraction. Here’s a picture of the booth with our booth babe Peter Wan from Teck.

They are currently running an underground communication infrastructure survey. If you work underground and you can help us, please go here.

4. Deswik – Holy Moly these new guys on the block [company was formed in 2008] employe 60+ mine engineers?! To put this in perspective, I graduated with 8 other people in my year. Not only does Deswik provide mining engineering and geology consultancy, they also have a full suite of software products including mine planning, scheduling, haulage design and much more. It takes an integrated approach and also integrates with your legacy systems.

5. Peck Tech – If you are in mining, you are at MOST a 2 degree of separate from someone that works at Peck Tech. They are the leader in applying and integrating technologies to meet business objectives including increased productivity and safety. Word on the street is that they’re coming out with a new underground product. I don’t have the details to give away here but if anyone has seen Prometheus, think of the lasers without the squawking noises.

Lastly, at both SME and through LinkedIn some of you have asked what I do. In a nutshell, I am in sales for 3D-P who is a leader in the design, deployment and support of wireless networks in open pit mines. We also manufacture a radio-agnostic unified hardware platform that is essentially your central middleware hub on mobile equipment (such as trucks, shovels, etc.) We just launched our new website where you can download a bunch of white papers so come visit us here.

That’s all I have for now. Feel free to get in touch or comment below. Did anyone else see something they want to share from SME?

P.S. I realize I still need to write the 3rd of the 3 part series on tire life and maintenance… I will endeavor to get to this soon!

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Continuous Improvement: Heavy Mobile Equipment Training Simulators

Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 in Equipment, Favorites | 0 comments

Continuous Improvement: Heavy Mobile Equipment Training Simulators

If you ask around these days, almost every mid-level or bigger mining company has their own internal group for driving improvement projects (i.e. Operational Excellence, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, LEAN, Business Improvement, Business Process Framework, etc.). These groups are constantly evaluating new technologies or new processes in order to drive the trifecta: mine cheaper, mine more, and mine safer. Since a large emphasis of this blog is also to identify where these opportunities are, it is always motivating to see not only mining companies but also OEM/OTMs form their own continuous improvement group, as a value proposition to assist clients with using their product(s) effectively & efficiently.

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Happy Holidays & 2013 Mining Conference Schedule

Posted by on Dec 26, 2012 in Favorites | 4 comments

Happy Holidays & 2013 Mining Conference Schedule

Hello Everyone!

First & Foremost – Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and best wishes to those who don’t! For Christmas this year, I got myself a Lego Mining Truck set (note all the free gold in the ore that gets released simply with a blast!), hence the thumbnail picture :) Once I open and start playing with it, I will endeavor to make a stop motion film and post it on here!

I want to take this opportunity and thank everyone for your support, kind messages, participating in the blog, and continuing to strengthen our mining community. I have met some great people in writing this blog :) 2012 gave us Mine Expo with lots of new equipment & technologies being unveiled and as of writing this blog, gold closed at $1658.30 (Does anyone remember feasibility studies using $/oz at $600 back in 2006?). Personally, 2012 was a great year for me and I got an opportunity to go to some countries for the very first time – Madagascar, Israel+Palestine, UAE and Turks & Caicos.

For this blog post, I thought I would outline some mining conferences coming up in 2013 (in Canada/USA) that you may find interesting:

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