Plant & Equipment

Countering the pressure in equipment maintenance

Equipment maintenance, or lack of, is a massive cost driver. Maintenance is expensive but failure to follow service programs can result in extraordinarily high penalties associated with loss of productivity.

Big plant fleets require disciplined preventative maintenance to minimise downtime. Carrying out those service programs demands high equipment washdown capabilities. Smart operators know keeping equipment clean is a vital first step in maintenance.

Large-scale quarries operate fleets of equipment including dump trucks, crawler tractors, loaders and face shovels. Portable high pressure steam cleaners that carry their own water supply and can be used both in- field and at the workshop depot have proved indispensable.

Australian Pump Industries has developed a trailer-mounted, diesel-powered steam cleaner ideal for this application. The 5000 pounds per square inch (psi) steam cleaner has its own on-board water supply that enables plant to be cleaned efficiently for both breakdown and routine maintenance.

The big machine is powered by a Kubota water-cooled diesel engine with the “whack” coming from a “Big Berty” heavy-duty industrial pump using 21 litres per minute at 350 bar (5000 psi). The trailer system is equipped with stainless steel hose reels, to provide the operators and technicians with the ability to move around big equipment without moving the blaster. Up to 50 metres of high pressure hose provides operator convenience, facilitates faster cleaning and improves safety.

The steam function allows the operator to adjust temperature from ambient through to 130oC. Operating in cold water mode, the unique Aussie Hydrotek uses the full 5000 psi to blast caked mud off tracked gear or the undercarriage. Service technicians can maximise efficiency, as maintenance checks or even simple tasks such as lubrication are easier.

Encrusted layers of oil and dust can be easily removed with the steam function. Maintenance teams can melt away the grease to identify and then repair leaks in transmissions, hydraulics or engines. Fast identification of early stage issues facilitates repairs and can result in huge costs savings and avoid catastrophic breakdowns. It is increasingly common for mine and quarry sites throughout Australia and the south Pacific region to have 4000 psi and 5000 psi steam cleaners.

Safe operator

Australian Pump Industries pioneered super heavy-duty, powerful hot water machines for mining applications.

Quarries have reported excellent results in improved serviceability and dramatically increased efficiency. The mobile steam cleaner is particularly useful for in-field breakdowns. Having the plant properly cleaned facilitates any service, even the routine replacement of filters and other essential maintenance functions. With the increase in pressures used for cleaning, operator safety becomes a big issue. Maintenance teams operating in poor conditions can take shortcuts that can be detrimental to the operation. For example, injuries from water jets can prove fatal, with chemicals and bacteria forced deep into body tissue. Resulting infections are difficult to treat and can lead to limb amputation and even death.

Australian Pump Industries has produced a safety manual for operators and backed it up with operator safety training programs under the company’s Safe Operator banner.

The program also includes a range of personal protection equipment (PPE), which is lightweight, comfortable and affordable. The collection includes protective clothing, gloves and boots that are proofed against hose bursts or direct jets up to 7300 psi (500 bar).

The new protective clothing moves away from the traditionally expensive, cumbersome Kevlar suits and uses a revolutionary new material called Dyneema. Because Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel on a weight for weight basis, it is possible to make fabric that is lightweight while offering levels of protection not previously available.

The huge benefit is the cost of this new range is much less than the traditional ultra-high pressure PPE. The Safe Operator package includes 500 bar proof boots.

Using state of the art equipment and safety gear gives modern quarries an in-built advantage. Australian Pump’s Safe Operator program and further information about efficient cleaning of plant maintenance is available from Australian Pump Industries. 

Hamish Lorenz is the managing director of Australian Pump Industries.

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