Trends in Mining Mobile Equipment Condition Monitoring

Trends in Mining Mobile Equipment Condition Monitoring

Trends in Mining Mobile Equipment Condition Monitoring

The pandemic has pushed businesses all over the world to become leaner – and mining is no exception to that. Where the pre-COVID norm was for almost all monitoring to be site-based, more and more mining companies are now swiftly adapting and looking to use their technology and data offsite to drive meaningful change onsite.

With emerging trends in the mobile equipment condition monitoring space, it seems like this new way of working is here to stay. 

In this blog, we take a look at what we like about some of these latest trends, and what pitfalls you may want to avoid.

The Good:

1. Organisational Changes

With COVID-19, sites all over the world were compelled to review their on-site presence and move many roles off-site. Consequently, in the asset health space, organizations are now setting up hubs in major cities and central locations, far away from the actual site. This has generated some interesting and rather positive results:

  • Clearer roles: Individuals working off-site are not distracted with front-line maintenance or ‘firefighting’.
  • Larger pool of candidates: It is now much easier to recruit and retain highly skilled people who may not have previously applied for a site based/FIFO role
  • Better workflows: The inevitable need to make greater use of technology and data has enabled better workflow/tracking and value reporting.  Work is often standardized across multiple operations.

Condition monitoring has now in a sense become condition management, where performance and faults are fully closed out and the asset health is brought back to peak performance.

2. Benchmarking

With multiple assets now connected, it is much easier to compare performance across the asset, potentially across multiple sites. 

“Is the degradation of performance increasing?”

“Is it in line with what is expected within this fleet?” 

These questions can be answered fairly easily with the creation of the digital ‘twin’ fleet. Not only can you carry out historical and current analysis, but you can also simulate specific conditions, to predict the impact of certain changes in the future.

Additionally, benchmarking assets have made it possible to narrow down on underlying causes very quickly, for e.g. is the Brake Stroke limited to one machine/many? one operator/many? 

3. Holistic View of the Asset Health

Sites have begun combining multiple data sources to build a better picture of incidents surrounding a failure.

Recently, a site we worked with had a problem reported as a brake overheat issue from the Operations team. Thanks to their integrated asset health alarms, dataloggers, operator information, and GPS data, the asset health analysts were quickly (within the hour) able to determine that the underlying issue was actually from the torque converter, induced by trucks getting stuck at the same location.

Such a holistic view of asset health may not have been previously accessible. It is however easy to go overboard here, so remember to perform careful selection based on business value.

4. Predictive Modelling

With rich datasets and digital ‘twins’, it is now possible to predict when components and machines will require changing with a greater degree of accuracy. We are seeing a move away from just basic targeted component hours to smarter predicted change-outs based on a variety of factors.

This has allowed operations to push and pull change across components to minimize downtime and de-risk as much as possible.

5. Real time monitoring

It is now common for sites to have wireless networks in place, particularly at surface mines. As a result, asset health teams can interrogate assets on-the-fly, while they are out in the field. Diagnosis and troubleshooting can be carried out in operation, thereby minimizing downtime

This could, with custom alarms, allow health analysts to be notified of when to look at the real-time data, saving them from information overload caused by staring at multiple channels of data across multiple machines.

The Not-so-good:

1. Bolt-on Devices

A number of bolt-on devices offered within the industrial market promise to provide rich data to operations across a mixed fleet of brands, for an attractive price. The result often, however, is mines struggling with overwhelming amounts of unstructured data. This typically leads to additional development work and loss of time, which is not factored into the original cost, to get the data in a format that is like the original OEM sources.

While we are not against using additional devices, they should definitely be chosen only after careful consideration of the effort it would take to reach the end goal.

2. Business use of the data

While it is relatively easy to start pulling in huge amounts of rich data available for monitoring asset health, there is not always much consideration given to how it will be used.

We typically see two areas involved with this, IT, and mine maintenance.

The former is responsible for getting the data in and in front of the mine maintenance team; The latter, to analyze and action items from the data. When IT asks maintenance what they want, they are typically told ‘everything’, which can be hard to deliver.

Having meaningful business requirement discussions with the maintenance team allows a practical phased approach to be defined. 

The Bottom Line

The pandemic has changed our sector forever, and the mining industry is swiftly adapting to become leaner and more innovative.

In order to make this shift successful, it is critical to have an expert pragmatic approach to business needs and to steer clear of unnecessarily spending money or time on long-winded programs. 

Author: Tom Jordan

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