| Written by Frederike Ruedisser

An interview with Michael Kompatscher, CEO Hagerbach Test Gallery.


Keeping Miners Safe

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IDENTEC SOLUTIONS and VersuchsStollen Hagerbach AG (VSH) – strong partners for many years. Just in time for the celebrations of its 50th anniversary, VSH is going live with the new, digital Crew Companion solution from IDENTEC SOLUTIONS.

Further reading: Lone worker's safety

Michael Kompatscher, CEO of VersuchsStollen Hagerbach AG was on hand to discuss the new developments in their industry.

Dr. Michael Kompatscher has been Managing Director of VersuchsStollen Hagerbach AG since 2017. In this function, he is also a member of the management of the Amberg Group. Michael Kompatscher holds a doctorate in physics from the ETH Zurich and has 15 years of industrial experience in the fields of testing technology, concrete technology, construction chemistry and construction engineering, as well as product management, international business development, innovation and marketing. As a father of four children, he is committed to the daily balancing act of priorities.

Mr. Kompatscher, you have been a member of the VSH Executive Board since 2017 and before that you worked in various industrial companies – from your point of view, what has happened in the area of digitisation in recent years and which topics are particularly close to your mind from VSH's point of view?

The possibilities of digitisation open up a great potential for development, as new solutions can be tested very cost-effectively on the basis of models – ultimately, the best variant is then allowed to prove itself in reality, where the final amendment counts. Fact-based comparison is also very important for further developments – sensor technology and continuous monitoring have given a big boost to development here.

Digital twins and the targeted, value-adding use of available data are particularly relevant for us. To this end, we create the necessary test environment - real and digital. Data and energy management are integrated into our system as autonomously as possible.

Our vision for the future is that VSH, with its underground gallery network, is THE centre of excellence in all matters relating to the sustainable development and use of underground spaces, especially in the vicinity of urban regions.

With the decision to replace the existing WATCHER Mine solution in the tunnel with the digital Crew Companion solution, VSH is taking another step towards digitisation - where do you see the greatest advantages?

The existing solution, WATCHER Mine, is getting on in years, which we became more and more aware of during miner safety training courses (learn more about RFID in mining). The expectations of our customers have become much higher in this respect. Therefore, we started looking for an alternative and, of course, also knocked on the door of our long-standing partner. Crew Companion is flexibly adaptable, inexpensive to operate and easy and clear to use, e.g. with web-based access for a quick overview of information for security and rescue forces, as well as a self-developed pandemic feature. (further reading: Underground safety by zone coverage)

Speaking of the pandemic: The current pandemic has certainly not left the VSH unscathed, what influence do you think it has had on operations at the VSH?

We were lucky that our building materials testing laboratories were allowed to work unhindered, as the construction sites in Switzerland could remain open. The travel restrictions of the international partners and the temporary closure of the catering & event operations hit us hard. All the more we are now looking forward to the restarting projects and the Hagerbach NXT50 Festival on 18 June 2021.

The NXT50 Festival marks the 50th anniversary of the VSH. From your point of view, what have been the most important milestones in this half century?

It all started with the further development of drilling and blasting technology, followed by building materials technology, especially shotcrete solutions for large projects such as the Vereina or the Gotthard Tunnel. Later came the topics of fire protection and general safety in confined spaces, and at the same time the use for training and educational purposes. The last decade is more concerned with prototyping and partner networks for international technology transfer.

Further reading: Mine Risk Management

What can customers and partners expect from the event on 18 June?

We are looking forward to a multifaceted program – a fireworks display of the future - where participants can immerse themselves in the tangible future on site or virtually. With our partners, we link the worlds real - digital - virtual and show new solutions in terms of digital transformation, sustainable construction or closing material cycles. A trip into space will anchor us in the subterranean space and keynote speaker Reinhold Messner will explore the potential around the BERG.

More about the festival: https://hagerbach.ch/news-events/hagerbach-nxt-50/

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