The immense pressure to achieve production targets occasionally means that maintenance practices are difficult to implement in the mining industry and are often time based. Therefore, mines are looking for solutions to improve maintenance management, says Finnish industrial machinery company Metso Africa market area sales support VP Scott Pringle.
“Our clients are looking for innovative ways to implement maintenance practices while they focus on their business – the mining and selling of the commodities they have extracted,” he emphasises.
Traditionally, maintenance in Africa has been time based, requiring parts to be replaced at predetermined intervals, which entails excessive inventory and safety stocks. However, mines are considering more condition-based maintenance that is smarter and more reliable. Using high-quality genuine original-equipment manufacturer parts that comply with tolerance specifications in combination with digitalisation and modern methodologies of maintenance planning is key.
By adopting condition-based maintenance, Pringle says mines should enjoy cost reductions and increased availability, reliability and productivity. Improved predictability of parts needed, based on condition, is another benefit and can potentially reduce a mine’s inventory. This can also assist when taking into consideration lead times during maintenance planning, which is particularly beneficial to mines operating in remote locations.
These benefits will have a positive impact on a mining company’s bottom line, adds Pringle.
To better assist its clients with their maintenance requirements, Metso launched Metso Metrics at the beginning of this year. An advancement of its life cycle services contracts, the technology helps to ensure that comminution equipment is performing at efficiency levels that are in line with a mining company’s key performance indicators (KPIs).
This offering supports products in Metso’s range across all commodities.
In South Africa, the solutions which comprise Metso Metrics have been applied for the past three years at an iron-ore mine, “but we are talking to many companies about the offering”, says Pringle, noting that, locally, the company is focused on gold, platinum and iron-ore, as well as coal and base metals.
Metso Metrics provides four levels of insight into a mine’s equipment and operations that support condition-based maintenance – analytics on machines and processes, condition monitoring to increase visibility, predictive maintenance through artificial intelligence (AI) and process engineering to boost overall efficiency.
In terms of analytics, timely data enables daily, weekly and monthly KPIs to be set. Various aspects of a machine can be analysed from vibration to optimum efficiency to help mines make the right decision at the right time, says Metso.
Condition monitoring enables mining companies to be aware of the health of their equipment at all times. Metso’s experts have determined thresholds for every piece of data and how parts should optimally interact with each other.
Further, machine learning algorithms and AI are used to detect and predict machine failures, allowing for predictive maintenance. This aids in the improvement of processes, and ensures that machine uptime and availability are enhanced.
Process engineering can also increase the productivity of equipment when it is in use.
Metso Metrics collects data through existing and custom-designed sensors installed on equipment. This data can comprise regulatory control information, such as flows, levels, pressures and temperatures, as well as readings from health and performance gauges.
This data can be accessed by the mine or Metso through an interface developed in partnership with US industrial automation and information technology provider Rockwell Automation and powered by cloud computing service Microsoft Azure. Accessible through any Internet-connected device, the interface enables mining companies and Metso to view machine data at any time to assess efficiency, load characteristics, oil quality, wear life, leak detection and use.
Metso says when using Metso Metrics, mining companies can expect to achieve increased asset uptime and availability, greater energy efficiency and sustainability, less variability in end-product quality and lower overall maintenance costs.