Case Study: Remote-controlled low profile loader for safe operations in mining infrastructure

This case study originates from our Japanese Distributor, Gigasolar, responsible for distributing and servicing MDB products in Japan. In this investigation, we review how a customer is using the Pocketbucket remote-controlled specialty machine in the mining sector, for a specific cleaning application, in an iron ore steelworks plant.

One of Gigasolar’s end customers was challenged with a difficult problem. In the mining operation, there are a series of conveyor belts to move the iron ore from the ground to the processing facility. While the belts are moving, often material will fall off and pile up underneath these conveyor belt structures that have very low clearances. Loose materials that pile up underneath the structure pose a fire hazard and a risk in damaging moving equipment.


The legacy method of cleaning underneath the conveyor belts was to shut down the conveyor belts and have several people with shovels, crawl underneath these structures and manually move the material to a pile outside the structure. From there, the material was loaded with an excavator onto a truck. This has several drawbacks:

  • There is a loss in productivity of the mining operation when the conveyor belts are stopped.
  • The structures are quite low and awkward for the workers to position themselves properly to work effectively.
  • The materials that are being scooped into shovels are quite dense, which slows the worker down, thus requiring more time.
  • The safety and health of the workers is at risk in these work conditions.

An illustration of worker underneath steelworks structure moving debris to another pile to be loaded onto a truck

Figure 1: Legacy Cleaning – Manual Removal of Material and Loading onto Trucks


The question the customer posed to Gigasolar was “How can we clean underneath these conveyor belts to ensure safety of our workers, while preserving operational productivity?”


The answer to the question came through the Pocketbucket, a remote-controlled specialty machine built by MDB. Several requirements from the customer were requested:

  • The operator had to be able to remote-control the machine from a distance.
  • The machine had to be able to operate under a low clearance of the conveyor belt structure.
  • The machine had to operate in an environment that consisted of high-temperature, high humidity, dust, and fine airborne particulate.


The customer tried several machines to mechanize this process, however, many machines were unable to survive this harsh environment. In October 2020, MDB, Gigasolar and the customer entered a proof-of-concept agreement and introduced the first remote-controlled Pocketbucket specialty machine to the mining area. The early results were encouraging as the Pocketbucket overcame the harsh environment and was able to succeed in increasing the efficiency of the cleaning operation.

The design features of a powerful engine and the unique design of the telescoping arm/bucket combination allowed extracting a pile of material, lifting, and loading it directly onto a truck. This eliminated one of the stages in the legacy cleaning method, of first moving the material to a staging pile and then loading the material with a machine onto a truck.

An illustrtion of remote-controlled Pocketbucket cleaning underneath steelworks structure with operator at a safe distance with an ope

Figure 2: Pocketbucket with Low Clearance and Telescoping Arm

The beauty of the Proof-of-Concept stage was the customer was able to request modifications to improve the operations of the Pocketbucket. Working collaboratively amongst the MDB engineers, Gigasolar management, and the customer, a new version of the machine was produced. This new version of the Pocketbucket had numerous refinements in the design that incorporated all the new requirements discovered during the first operational tests.

Pocketbucket cleaning underneath Steelworks conveyor belt

Most importantly the data collected, and the results of the Proof of Concept were:

  • Manual cleaning: 3 tonnes of material per day per person
  • Pocketbucket cleaning: 10 tonnes of material per day per machine and operator

By using the Pocketbucket specialty machine, the new method yielded more than 3 times the efficiency of the legacy method of material handling.

Pocketbucket cleaning underneath Steelworks conveyor belt

The performance of the Pocketbucket solved a crucial challenge that Gigasolar’s customer was experiencing. The workers feel much safer performing this cleaning operation with the Pocketbucket remote-controlled machine, while the efficiency savings have been substantial for the company.

Pocketbucket cleaning underneath Steelworks conveyor belt

The customer has already agreed to a wider deployment of additional machines in their plants and the MDB and Gigasolar team stand ready to meet any additional requirements of the customer.

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