Improving Productivity, Cost and Safety with Fluid Power Systems

CIM Montreal 2015
Timothy Ley (Alerton International LLC)
Brutally honest mining executives will tell you that “safety is job #1 but……..managing costs is also extremely important”. Industry thought leaders say that the real need in mining is productivity improvement; not just cost cutting. Are there things that can be done to improve safety and productivity while also saving money? For fluid power systems the answer is decidedly yes.

Fluid power systems are ubiquitous but easy to overlook within mining. They are present on just about every piece of mining equipment in use. But don’t let the nonthreatening look of hydraulic hoses fool you. These systems run at extremely high pressures, contain great amounts of stored energy and their failure can cost you immensely in breakdown repairs, lost productivity and even worker injuries.

This presentation offers learnings on fluid power system safety and integrity from leading companies both in mining and manufacturing. It shows how a simple proactive approach can yield real dollar savings, reduce equipment breakdowns, increase operational productivity and improve safety.
99% of people who service, repair and troubleshoot fluid power systems are exposed to the dynamics that can lead to high pressure injection injuries according to the Fluid Power Safety Institute. Injection injuries are caused by high pressure fluid being injected below the skin. The potential for this injury is under-recognized in most jurisdictions because it doesn’t happen very often. However, when it does the consequences are devastating requiring massive tissue removal and occasionally amputation. Australia found injection injuries occur 3 times as often as electric shock! The most common cause of injection injuries is feeling along pressurized hydraulic hoses for leaks!

In 2010 the Australian mining industry took the global lead improving fluid power safety after studying a decade of injection injuries and deaths. A key step was the development of MDG-41, “Fluid Power System Safety for Mining” by the New South Wales government. This guideline is now used across Australia and is being adopted by South Africa, Europe and even China. But not yet in Canada.

Did you also know that, according to a Mobil Lubricants study, North American industry uses 4 times as much hydraulic fluid as can be held in their equipment reservoirs? At least a portion of this discrepancy is caused by leakage. Hose manufacturer Gates estimates 370 million liters are lost yearly in the US through leakage – worth over $800 Million! A method for calculating a mine’s leak loss potential is offered.

Industry thought leaders suggest miners need to learn from their manufacturing brethren. The auto industry, for example, is well known for its high productivity and penny pinching ways. Are you aware that automobile manufacturers use early leak detection techniques to save them money? For example, air conditioned North American cars have a fluorescent dye within their refrigerant circuits to allow early leak detection. Why? Because auto makers found that fixing leaks early avoids costly repairs later and saves money. Miners can also avoid costly field level equipment repairs with hydraulic fluid systems by detecting leaks early. In this way repairs can be done less expensively during scheduled maintenance.

Miners using Alerton International’s FluidSafe™ see vast improvements in their hydraulic fluid related safety PLUS save 7% of their hydraulic fluid costs – yielding a ROI of over 400%. On top of that they are seeing increased equipment uptime, reduced maintenance costs, more productive workers and avoid environmental problems. What are you waiting for? Let’s learn from industry leaders.
Keywords: Cost Saving, Productivity, Fluid Power, Safety, Hydraulic Fluid, Learning from Other Industries, Leak Detection
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