Celebrating 45 years of developing world-renowned hoisting technologies

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If only we could all look back on our career achievements and know we have truly made a difference. Since he joined ABB in 1987, Bengt Hedlund has helped make mining safer, as well as improving the efficiency of critical infrastructure, especially hoisting systems 

It’s apt that a Swedish engineer has led the development of so much of ABB’s hoisting technologies as ABB’s first electric motor for a mine hoist was commissioned in Sweden back in 1891. Today, the mining sector is adopting technologies to help it – and the world – get to net zero and ABB’s experience across electrification, automation and digital solutions is supporting its customers. 

Since his first job in 1977 with Swedish mining company Boliden before joining ABB, Bengt Hedlund has spent more than 45 years developing world-renowned technologies focus on hoisting aftermarket and service that have made underground mining safer and more reliable.  

Bengt talks about hoists with enthusiasm, curiosity and care. These systems are absolutely central to the safe and efficient operation of underground mines. “It was always so interesting to me to because hoists include so many technologies – it’s the drive system, computer controllers, hydraulics, mechanics and a lot of other things,” he says. “If you know a hoist system, you can do a lot of things in your career!”  

The evolution of service

While still with Boliden, Bengt and the hoisting team installed the first ABB computer-controlled mine hoist, in 1984 at the Boliden G1A shaft in Sweden, where the automatic cage hoist had 15 landing levels. This can be seen as the beginning of the computer age of hoisting technology.  

To us sitting in 2023, it seems obvious that computer controls would make hoisting systems safer and more efficient. But being at the forefront of any new technology – particularly when lives are literally on the line – requires a special kind of dedication and disposition. 

“Introducing computer controls to the hoist was a big step,” says Bengt. “There were problems and challenges just to convince people it was safe, and to satisfy all the regulations. Of course, it showed that it was even more safe than relays-based controls, and today everything is computerized.” 

Bengt says around the same time, the drive systems on hoists were also being transformed by digital technology. “There were a lot of new implementations in hoists through the 1980s and ’90s,” he says. “Drive systems had also been analogue before and were at that time digital drive systems to control the motor of the hoist were coming in.” 

“Safety is the focus,” says Bengt. “For the most part, hoists are bringing up ore, but they also move people. We can have hundreds of people inside the cage, so it goes without saying that safety is very, very important.” 

ABB has more than 130 years of inventing and improving mine hoisting technologies and has commissioned across more than 1000 hoisting solutions around the world and is the only company to provide the complete systems.  

Through Bengt’s career, numerous ABB-invented solutions to enhance safety have been implemented, including ABB Ability™ Safety Plus, a suite of world-leading mine-hoist safety products. “As well as bringing in new safety products, it’s also very important to train our own people to a very high level with a lot of knowledge,” says Bengt. “It’s nice to see young people develop themselves. During the last few years, we have updated our training center in Sweden with the latest safety technology where we can also offer trainings to our customers.” 

Safety is always first, but efficiency is of course important to every miner, particularly in the challenging underground environment. As well as being a brilliant technologist, Bengt is known for listening to customers. He has traveled the world to do so, and so and became Global Service Manager for ABB Hoisting Service, leading the successful implementation of Hoisting Service global strategy.  

He also oversaw the coming together of hoisting teams from other countries to form the global team. Previously, ABB hoisting teams in each country operated quite independently. “Over the past 10 years we have worked to cooperate much more and work together and share resources”, says Bengt. 

The result is a global network ABB Collaborative Operations Centers, dedicated to the mining industry have brought a new way of working with customers, with ABB experts monitoring and analyzing operational data remotely and connecting with customers in real time to identify, prevent and resolve issues. “We know our systems and we can support our customers remotely via the whole world instead of just one team in Sweden,” he says. “Now we follow the sun to offer 24/7 support.” 
Since he joined ABB in 1987, Bengt Hedlund has helped make mining safer, as well as improving the efficiency of critical infrastructure, especially hoisting systems 
Inspiring the new generation. While Bengt is stepping away from ABB he also acts as a mentor for the younger generations. Here pictured with Julia Wästljung, Local Service Manager, Hoisting in Sweden and Per Lärk, Local Business Line Manager, Hoisting in Sweden.

Driving innovation through collaboration

Working so closely with customers has also helped Bengt to come up with solutions that solve real-world problems – globally – and developed the business. As a human, Bengt enjoyed learning about other cultures. As an engineer, he wanted to discover the pain points in their operations.  

He has seen a real evolution in collaboration, too. “We have got much better at listening to our customers,” he says. “We are much more open to collaborate and have done a lot of R&D projects together with customers here in Sweden also, I mean, new technology, we do it together with our customers.” 

Bengt has had that open mindset his whole career. “When I was commissioning hoisting systems, I traveled around a lot and got to know our customers really well”, he says. “I’m an electrical guy, and I learnt a lot of mechanics from our customers, because we deliver the whole hoist and customers have a lot of experience on the mechanical side which has been very good feedback. We want to develop the mechanical service side more – we introduced the ABB Hoist Performance Fingerprint.” That consulting service provides ABB expert engineers for onsite inspection, working with customers to ensure hoist systems are in prime operating condition, learning from each other. 

“It has helped us to develop new digital solutions, including ABB Ability™ Smart Hoisting,” he says. “It’s a digital tool that analyzes real-time data and lets us support mine hoists remotely 24/7 by sharing actionable insights with the customer.” The impact of this predictive maintenance approach includes enhanced performance, reduced service costs, improved uptime and the all-important flagging of impending safety hazards. 

Stepping away with a positive outlook

“Bengt’s contribution to the development of services for mine hoists cannot be underestimated. He is a true legend and his dedication, thirst for innovation and customer focus is a source of inspiration for all of us”, says Björn Jonsson, Global Business Line Manager, Hosting at ABB. “We are fully committed to continue to grow our business and are constantly looking for young talents to strengthen our team.”

Among many exciting opportunities within ABB’s hoisting business, the company recently launched its Hoisting Young Engineer Exchange Program – a program where young engineers get to try their wings business by going on global assignments to learn about the business and find their field of passion. 

As he steps (mostly!) away from his ABB family to enjoy more time with his real family, Bengt has a parting message for his colleagues of many decades. “I’m proud to have worked with them all around the world and I see a big future for our hoisting business.”  
Björn Jonsson, Global Business Line Manager, Hoisting at ABB

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