Learn how automated heavy equipment maintenance can keep your mining operation safe and profitable
One of biggest challenges for the mining industry is to build an optimized process that will increase production efficiency. For optimum efficiency, all links in the mining chain need to work flawlessly.
Safety is one of the primary concerns in the mining industry. Without sound equipment, it becomes difficult and dangerous to start any operation. In fact, fatalities and near-death accidents are not unheard of in a typical mining operation.
According to a report by CDC, 30% of all injuries and fatalities that occur in underground coal mining are due to accidents caused by poorly maintained machinery. Thus, maintenance is indeed one of the most important aspects of a safe mining operation and is top priority for serious miners.
Most of the equipment maintenance that happens today is reactive - machines are only repaired or checked if they break down or seem to be on the verge of breaking down.
An optimized maintenance system needs to be maintained to allow planned and predictive maintenance to avoid downtime, delays, and incidents that ultimately lead to significant financial losses. Proper maintenance of machines is the first step to attaining that goal.
Total Productive Maintenance
Total productive maintenance is one of the widely – recognized maintenance strategies. First developed for the Japanese car industry, this approach aims to improve operations to the point of zero breakdowns and defects. According to this strategy, a machine’s maintenance can be divided into three categories of maintenance activities – reactive, preventive, and predictive.
Conventional maintenance management only covers maintenance of an equipment after it breaks down. These maintenance incidents are not scheduled and can happen at about any given time. Such maintenance activities are the most difficult to carry out. In the US alone, industrial companies spend about $300 billion to correct the failures of machines, systems, and people. This issue can be resolved with a more proactive system for management of equipment.
Predictive Maintenance is the umbrella term accrued to all activities performed to prevent the
degradation or breakdown of equipment before it takes place. These activities are scheduled
according to the statistical life of the equipment.
The bathtub curve is used to determine the probability of failure of a machine over its history of operation. When the performance data of an equipment is mapped accurately with the help of technology (removing maximum probability of human error), preventive maintenance can be scheduled before the equipment breaks down.
Inspections, lubrication, and cleaning are part of preventive maintenance. Being predetermined, these maintenance activities will not disrupt schedule and delay production.
While preventive maintenance takes cognizance of average life statistics, predictive maintenance monitors real-time conditions of an equipment. This helps in predicting the average time of failure better.
The tools used for predictive maintenance include vibration monitoring, ultrasound scanning, thermal imaging, chemical analysis, audio gauges, and various other technologies and tests created to regularly collect data on equipment. The staff should be trained to identify and survey all the machines at a site and use the information to build a reliable predictive program that would help make informed decisions.
The Human Touch
The success of the total productive maintenance strategy to depends on people as much as the technology aspects. Without the cooperation of the managers, supervisors, inspectors, and the crew involved in the maintenance activities, its success cannot be guaranteed (even when you have the rest of the system in place).
These technological and statistical tools can be used to perform better by improving their skills, communication, and knowledge. When they are responsible for managing the equipment at the site of work, they will be able to witness the direct consequences of their attitude towards safety. This means, employee empowerment is vital for optimization.
The management of maintain equipment is extremely crucial for industries, for it increases productivity and promotes organizational reliability. Proactive measures are more efficient and economical than taking care of an equipment when it breaks down. Reactive measures not only hamper the bottom line, but also have a negative impact on the morale of employees.
Automated & Hassle-Free Equipment Maintenance
With automation becoming a major investment for miners, equipment automation and equipment maintenance is a huge chunk of the entire upgrade plan.
When it comes to maintenance, a software system that can collect machine data and predict performance can allow managers to foresee a maintenance plan or part replacement. This makes equipment maintenance not only easy, but also a very effective operation leading to a highly productive mine with minimal delays.
This process, when implemented using an automated software can also help take care of all the aspects of equipment maintenance - from scheduling to creating task checklists for maintenance engineers and more.
In conclusion, equipment maintenance, when performed via a software can not only do the job more precisely, but also help your mining team focus on the task at hand instead of getting caught up in the myriad maintenance processes thereby, improving performance, profit and saving costs.