Mines, quarries slow to embrace automated payload data

When Loadrite conducted a survey of some of Australia?s most senior mine managers, geologists, planners and engineers, the most surprising result was the number of mines that continue to collect payload data manually, either with handwritten logs or information typed into spreadsheets.

?As the management style for mines continues to evolve from one of maximising production regardless of cost to one more closely resembling a factory-based ?just in time? system, it?s incredible that so many mines are still relying on data that may be incorrect,? said Elliot Chisholm, Loadrite?s global product manager.

?The value of this information is absolutely huge and the good news is that it?s very easy to implement an automated system that completely removes the need for handwritten logs or manual spreadsheets.?

Being able to automatically measure the amount of material moved, then analyse the data through a variety of reports, has far reaching benefits, according to Chisholm.

?At the basic level, a Loadrite system installed in an excavator or wheel loader can act as a gauge for the operator, showing exactly how much material has been moved so far, how much material is in the bucket and how much is in the truck in front of you,? he said. ?That?s powerful information that can turn even an inexperienced operator into an incredibly efficient and productive worker. It means trucks are never over- or under-filled, which is important for safety and for cost-efficiency.

?At the next level, you can send the information from each individual loader to a central software system and start to build a picture of exactly how much material is moving on site, so you can see whether you?re achieving your planned throughput or not. You can slice and dice that data in any number of ways to ensure your mine is working as productively and efficiently as possible.?

One of the ways to do that is to measure the amount of material moved by a certain contractor, allowing them to be measured against the agreed provisions for throughput levels. It is even possible to drill down to see how much material a particular truck has moved.

?The system is extremely flexible,? Chisholm said. ?At the time the system is installed, our distributor works with the mine?s management to customise the content and the format of the reports to best suit their individual operations.?

{{image2-a:r-w:450}} Reports can be delivered to a central computer via a USB data module, radio modem, Wi-Fi or cellular technology. Once it arrives, it can be exported into various formats, enabling the data to be viewed and dissected across various software platforms.

?Another interesting result of the survey we just conducted was the fact that the vast majority of mines do their reconciliations monthly, which makes sense if you consider that it probably takes at least a week to generate a monthly report from a handwritten log,? Chisholm said.

?But if you?re losing productivity each time a truck is loaded, wouldn?t you rather have that information at the end of the week ? or the end of the day ? rather than at the end of the month? There?s a lot of money to be lost through these unseen inefficiencies. Automated reporting can be run daily or even hourly and it can help prevent those losses and find ways to actually increase productivity.

?We find that most mine managers start out wanting reports on everything. Then they decide what?s valuable to them, and just get reports on those things. Eventually, they move to a reporting by exception model, where they simply receive an alert if something is wrong. That approach gives them peace of mind that target productivity levels are consistently being reached and, if they?re not, the manager knows about it immediately and can start working to fix the problem.?

Chisholm attributes the relatively slow uptake of automated measurement and reporting systems to a lack of awareness of what?s available and concerns about the longevity of technology solutions in the physically tough mining environment.

?There is a new wave of thinking regarding mine management and it involves getting as much information as possible in as close to real time as possible,? he said. ?Managers want to know what?s really happening so they can plan workflow more effectively and control costs while increasing production.

?If you?re not getting reports, then you don?t know if you?re getting the right amount of throughput at your mine. If you?re not getting accurate reports, then you may as well not be getting any reports at all.?

Loadrite has a range of reliable, durable, cost-effective and easy to use weighing systems for wheel loaders, conveyor belts and excavators. The systems range from entry level through to advanced functionality options, so whether you require basic weighing information for a small loader or greater accuracy and data capture capabilities for production-sized equipment, there is a solution available.

?We?re all looking for better ways to improve efficiency,? Chisholm said. ?Accurate payload monitoring and reporting is the first step in achieving much better efficiency across the entire mine.?

Source: Actronic Technologies/Hardman Communications

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