Online exclusive: Epiroc R&D experts on alternative power, testing, and more

By Andy Brown03 October 2022

The Epiroc Surface division develops, manufactures and markets a wide range of rock drilling equipment for use in surface mining, exploration, construction, quarries, as well as water well and energy applications worldwide. The division has production in Sweden, the US, China, India and Japan.

The products are known in the market for productivity, energy efficiency, safety and ergonomics.

Spokespersons from the Epiroc Surface division spoke exclusively to KHL on a range of topics related to research and development. The spokespersons are:

Andreas Fredlund, Global Project Portfolio Manager - R&D

Robert Saers (PhD), Vice President R&D Equipment

Rickard Hammer, Global Products R&D Manager

Ulf Gyllander, Global Product Manager 

Martin Johansson, Global Product Portfolio Manager

Anders Persson (PhD), Global Technology and Methods Manager

What technologies/projects are the R&D team working on at the moment? Is alternative power one of the main projects for the team?

Ulf Gyllander: One of our sustainability goals is to offer a full range of emission free products by 2030. In reaching this sustainability target, we are exploring several alternative powers. One example is the electric rig. Our innovations are needed if the global community is going to succeed with its ambition to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while also providing for a growing population. The electrification trend is strong and our offering is continuously broadening.

Martin Johansson: Epiroc made further progress in the sustainability area. All our sustainability goals are validated by the Science Based Targets initiative, and a good example is the goal to halve absolute CO2 emissions in own operations and from the use of sold products by 2030. We are determined to offer our full range of emission-free versions for the surface equipment by 2030.

Robert Saers: We are actively working on building competence through our R&D projects to meet our sustainability target, and working with both existing and new partners in achieving the goals. We are continuously looking for more potential collaborations in industry and academia.

Can you run us through the testing processes and procedures? Exactly what has to happen before a product is signed off?

Rickard Hammer: Testing procedures i.e. product verification and validation by field test, is of course, a fundamental part of Epiroc global development process which is continuously enhanced in line with best practices and ISO 9001. Testing new products to verify and validate that a new solution fulfils the requirements and expectations from all relevant stakeholders is a truly complex matter. In Epiroc we actively engage internal matter experts as well as customers and business partners.

The development work involves a lot of different steps and it is of great value that we secure the new solution as soon as possible i.e. when we come to a possible field test validation in the end – different activities already have been performed. Product verifications are performed to verify the safety of the product and conformity with the set product specification including legal and environmental requirements. The verifications can be made for instance by inspections, calculations, tests, simulations, or reviews.

Final validation is most often done through a field test together with customers, and aims at establishing the reliability, serviceability, productivity, and operating costs etc. of the product under actual field conditions. The duration of the test period depends on the scope in the project.

Robert Saers and Anders Persson: Failure reports and reliability field data from the field is continuously analysed for continuous improvement of already released products. This is done based on systematic, statistic and science based analysis of available and historic field data. As customers are providing data, they are also securing that future generations of the product are further improved. This data is invaluable input when starting new R&D Projects.

Has the kind of people you are recruiting changed over the last five or ten years? Has the level of technlogical knowledge needed to go up to reflect construction’s increasing digitisation?

Robert Saers: Compared to the last five-ten years we are recruiting more people within Electrical Systems engineering, Hydraulics Systems engineering and Software Engineering. Growing areas for recruitment and collaboration are Mechanical engineering with advanced software support tools, Electric Power Train Power, Electronics Reliability and engineering Data analytics.

In line with our new vision, Dare to think new, we are looking for colleagues who dare to challenge status quo and are not afraid of failure. Combined with our core values of innovation, commitment and collaboration, this attitude will help us drive the productivity and sustainability transformation in the industry.

When recruiting we are actively working to increase diversity as a value add to our organisation. Our diversity approach is holistic and comprises all diversity dimensions. Our recruitment basis is today more international. Most of the relevant candidates today have a MSc level, but we see an increasing interest from candidates with a PhD level to join our team. This is expected to grow further, as applications and technology become more and more advanced.

Could you talk about any things the R&D team gave looked at in the past that would have been really interesting but in the end weren’t feasible?

Andreas Fredlund: In our development project portfolio we have a wide range of different technology maturity levels, from basic development to new product development and product care. In the early stages we are more brave in trying new technologies and allowing fast failures. Development project plans and road maps are core IP, and cannot be shared externally, including lessons learned.

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