To continue being successful in today’s competitive world, companies must seek out and implement the latest technologies and software available. With a growing need to run safer, more efficient operations, the mining industry in particular has a lot to gain by leveraging Digital Transformation technologies. Thanks to real-time connectivity delivering actionable data about people, processes and things, the mine of today has transformed.
Savvy mine operators and leaders have seized the opportunity to make better decisions that improve overall operational productivity as well as safety. While there are multiple Digital Transformation solutions that can effectively evolve business operations, this article focuses on one key area for the mining industry: predictive maintenance and analytics.
The Proactive Approach
To implement a more proactive maintenance strategy, leaders can invest in Predictive Maintenance and Analytics technology. This technology monitors and collects data from critical components via wireless sensors, then analyzes it allowing companies to make informed maintenance decisions.
In any mining site, equipment failure can impact the entire operation and result in costly unplanned downtime. By using embedded sensors and remote connectivity, key performance indicators such as vibration, temperature and pressure can be monitored, allowing issues to be addressed proactively. This allows operators to resolve issues and schedule maintenance prior to a catastrophic failure or dangerous event. Regular collection and analysis of this data from vital equipment can also identify recurring trends, anomalies or events that would otherwise go undetected. These trends allow leaders to identify areas for operational improvement, increased productivity and efficiency, while reducing operational costs.
In addition, remote data collection alleviates the need for manual measurement and inspection of equipment, which often creates unsafe working conditions for mining operators. By mitigating inaccurate manual data collection, equipment failure and damage to peripheral equipment can be avoided – and at times the mechanical life of the equipment can even be extended.
Mining Technology Transformed
In both surface and underground mining sites, there are many pieces of equipment that can benefit from predictive maintenance and analytics technology. A few opportunities include:
Dragline Excavators and Electric Rope Shovels
Draglines and rope shovels are major parts of surface mining operations. In the event of equipment failure, overall cost to repair and hourly downtime costs can be significant. Monitoring vibration, electrical data and temperature profiles of major components on-site can identify faults before they happen allowing necessary maintenance to be planned and performed with minimum disruption.
Transporting materials is incredibly important in any mining operation, but conveyor belts can be prone to stretching and slipping. Monitoring the load of each conveyor motor and controlling speed with variable speed drives not only helps to avoid unplanned downtime, but can extend the mechanical lifespan of the system.
For underground mining operations, the flow of air and the regulation of temperature is paramount to the safety of mine operators and equipment. Ventilation systems supply quality air, expel harmful gases, remove dust and regulate temperature. While these systems pump air down the shafts, sensors on the motors monitor for high vibration conditions and allow the system to react appropriately. In addition to keeping operators and equipment safe, ventilation systems can also help cut costs by reducing energy consumption and prolonging lifespans of other systems.
Longwall Mining Equipment
Hydraulic jacks, shearers, armored face conveyors, plow systems and other equipment used in longwall mining applications are all critical. If even one piece of equipment fails, the entire operation could grind to a halt, resulting in millions of lost potential. Monitoring the status of each piece of equipment can help avoid failures and disastrous shutdowns.
Collecting information on a variety of factors like the load weight, fuel consumption, tire temperature and pressure, and total hours of operation allows for wear analysis and predictive maintenance. This visibility allows leaders to schedule maintenance during periods of lower production, to understand how the vehicles are being used and to make adjustments to best utilize the equipment.
A Future-Ready Solution
The potential of digitally transforming the mining industry is vast. To optimize the site, mine leaders should gather input from both technology and operations stakeholders. Conducting an internal audit of current systems and/or working with an external consultant can identify opportunities where greater data visibility positively impacts safety, efficiency, production and the overall bottom line.