The integration of condition monitoring into the maintenance process

Fluctuating metal prices, declining head grade, and increased operational costs are forcing many open pit mining companies to look to their balance sheets for significant cost reductions in order to remain competitive. Maintenance continues to represent a significant proportion of the total operating costs in the mining industry. Compared with the other major cost components of the mining process, very little effort has gone into maintenance optimization. The potential payoff from maintenance optimization on the cash cost of the commodity is enormous. A large percentage of these costs are incurred in unscheduled maintenance events, which typically cause serious disruptions to the production process. These maintenance-induced production losses can be a significant contributor to the overall operating costs. To further complicate the situation, mines are using larger and more complicated pieces of machinery with diverse fleets from multiple manufacturers.
A structured proactive maintenance approach using the latest advances in technology can achieve dramatic cost reductions and productivity improvements. Condition monitoring systems are becoming increasingly commonplace and have the potential to identify problems prior to failure. Detection of equipment degradation prior to failure will enable repairs to be scheduled thereby reducing costs and interruptions to production. Remote condition monitoring has lagged behind predictive maintenance technologies, such as vibration and oil analysis, due to the difficulty in retrieving the data. Connecting these onboard monitoring systems to a high bandwidth communication system can transform them from diagnostic tools into viable predictive maintenance technologies.
Remote condition monitoring technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, with a host of new tools becoming available to assist mine operators in improving their maintenance operations. These tools have capabilities such as remote real-time vital signs and performance monitoring, alarm/event handling, trend analysis, and maintenance workflow management. When these monitoring tools are used in conjunction with a mine management system, the vital signs data can be integrated and associated with maintenance history, predictive maintenance data, operational information, and geographical information. To provide usable access to the vast quantities of data, a single software tool is required.
Foreseeing this growing need, Modular Mining Systems (MMS) initiated development of an interactive maintenance management system. The underlying principles for this new system were based on accepted maintenance theories and beliefs. These proven maintenance principles and theories were then coupled with experiences and feedback from mines around the world to form the basis for design. This new product is called MineCare®.
Released in 2003, MineCare® is now in use at several mines. MineCare® is composed of six modules, which are capable of functioning independently or as an integrated maintenance package. The condition and performance-monitoring tool provides maintenance personnel with remote real-time access to onboard vital signs data. Data can be integrated from various sources enabling the technician to perform advanced diagnostics while minimizing interruptions to the production cycle.
The trend analysis tool has several useful features, such as automation of equipment monitoring, seamless integration of interfaces, and user configurable rules for data collection. Trend parameters can be captured as single point (snapshot in time) or aggregate data (statistical parameters, maximum, minimum, mean, etc.). Triggers can be set, such as operating conditions, time, events, or physical location of equipment, which will define sampling conditions. When each trend parameter set is received, MineCare® analysis algorithms are used to evaluate degradation and detect anomalous conditions. Configurable trend limits and set points are used to trigger alarm generation. Graphical utilities can be used to support further analysis, or data can be easily exported to third party analysis packages.
Many OEM monitoring systems have the ability to detect abnormal conditions during equipment operation before failure occurs. The event-handling module enables maintenance personnel to react to these events in real-time, validating the situation, and taking the appropriate proactive action. This data can then be integrated into the maintenance personnel management process where it can be handled through to resolution.
Remote condition monitoring is an essential tool for the management of a proactive maintenance process. When integrated with a mine management system, condition monitoring data becomes readily available for real-time day-to-day use. An integrated approach to the management of vital maintenance data will help shift the mobile equipment maintenance paradigm from reactive to proactive. The immediate benefits of this technology will be realized not only by the maintenance department, but also throughout the entire mine. By giving the mine more control over the maintenance process, maintenance costs will be reduced and there will be an increase in equipment availability and production.
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