Mines and process plant operators need to fully understand the total cost of ownership of all elements within an operation, and should be especially aware of the knock-on effect that a poorly designed transfer chute can have, says Germiston-based material transfer solutions provider Weba Chute Systems MD Mark Baller.
A poorly designed chute can cause blockages on the conveyor system, which can lead to unscheduled downtime, damage to belts and other equipment, as well as poor loading onto the receiving equipment.
“This can cost the plant millions of rands in lost revenue, owing to loss of production and additional maintenance costs, as well as increased dust and environmental emissions,” Baller explains.
He believes that mines would do well to assess the operating cost of their current chutes to understand the benefit of installing a customised, fully engineered product from Weba Chute Systems.
The company takes into account a holistic design that focuses on the entry and exit points on the transfer system and, by custom- designing each transfer point, also incorporates the control of the flow, volume and velocity of the material being transferred in a particular application.
Cost savings are achieved through increased productivity and adherence to environmental regulations, in addition to decreased replacement and maintenance costs.
Baller adds that it is crucial that mines and plant operators track the cost of transfer points or chute systems as separate items to fully understand their operating and maintenance costs.
“When the existing costs of operating chute systems is unknown, you cannot measure anything against this,” notes Baller.
This also makes it difficult to justify the capital expenditure for an engineered transfer point solution, ultimately leading to cheaper fabricated chutes being acquired.
“It is only much later down the line that these ill-informed decisions become apparent, with inherent problems causing major unscheduled downtime. The focus should rather be on the payback period of a capital item and not only on the actual cost of the purchase,” he says.
Weba Chute Systems provides transfer point solutions that have shown a return on investment within anything from 9 to 19 months. However, Baller refers to a best-case example where a client realised a payback on the engineered chute within three months. “The plant’s previous chute was causing damage to the belt to such an extent that they were replacing the belts every three months, with the belts costing more than the chute. The chute was replaced with an engineered transfer chute and the belt life increased from three months to two years.”
After this payback period, the chutes continue to operate reliably, saving operational and maintenance costs, which makes for a sustainable solution on a plant.
Weba Chute systems are manufactured in an ISO 9001:2015 accredited facility, in Wadeville, Germiston, which ensures quality manufacture.
The company has a significant advantage, with more than 25 years of experience in system design, which is undertaken using sophisticated three-dimensional computer software combined with data received from the client.
“It is through the company’s ability to view transfer points in a completely different way that industry is able to control the flow of material, with all the benefits that this brings,” concludes Baller.