Routine maintenance, along with several other crucial factors, are key to improving uptime and increasing profitability for mines.Given the business climate recently, it is understandable why many companies have had to cut back. However, cutting corners on crucial maintenance won’t pay off in the long-run – vehicle and equipment failures and malfunctions can slow and even completely stall operations by far longer for mines than routine maintenance operations would require.
Maintenance – working smart, not hardMining operations and machines, including drills, trucks and processing equipment, vary in nature and complexity, and each part has its own wear points, any of which could fail if unmaintained and cause significant periods of downtime. While hesitation around frequent maintenance is understandable from a cost and productivity standpoint, technological advances in preventative maintenance have made these processes a lot more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective. Preventative and corrective maintenance are the two traditional maintenance approaches that the global mining industry has long relied on. However, predictive maintenance strategies have shown up as a far more efficient solution. Devan Reddy, Field Product Manager – Power Management and Control Components at Eaton, said that with digital transformation creating new possibilities for the mining industry, predictive maintenance has become a crucial part of the maintenance conversation too. “And the benefits of predictive maintenance for mines are two-fold – not only does it help prevent catastrophic failure that can cause damage to personnel and equipment, but it also allows maintenance staff to plan correctly and put in place alternate processes to try and keep the plant operating.” Examples of predictive maintenance and predictive maintenance sensors include vibration analysis, oil analysis, thermal imaging, and equipment observation. These innovations are increasingly being used in mines to ensure increased uptime by optimising how maintenance gets done.
“Ultimately, maintenance is a manual intervention, but the process of understanding when to perform maintenance can be automated. This is where Industrial internet of things (IIOT) can come in to play,” says Reddy. “IIOT fundamentally is all about getting information via sensors or equipment with intelligence built in. This information can be used to automatically raise alarms when pre-determined conditions, for example operating temperatures, are exceeded.