Why every tonne is valuable

Michael van Koeverden is a director of Quarry Mining Systems, which advises companies on ways to achieve higher levels of operational efficiency with their existing resources. He says taking a long term approach and treating every part of your deposit as valuable can ensure operations not only increase profits but keep the profits coming for longer.

?Focusing on immediate profit can lead to decisions that mean parts of the deposit might become inaccessible in the future,? van Koeverden explained. ?It can also mean that no one takes the time to ensure the product remains aligned with the changing needs of the market, so operators can end up with tonnes of product they can?t sell.?

Van Koeverden thinks all quarry operations can increase efficiency and maintain sustainable profits if they have reliable data to help them identify areas for improvement. They should also obtain professional advice to analyse and act on that data.

?You need to think about the whole operation and treat every tonne of resource as though it?s valuable. It?s important not to waste it, to find every opportunity for efficiency and to prioritise creating a quality, marketable product over chasing a quick win.?

He said there were some key ways to improve profitability, including using the right equipment for the job, using all equipment to its optimum capacity and reducing the number of ?touches? or interactions with machinery throughout the process.

?Minimising your costs through process improvements means more profit,? van Koeverden explained. ?Many operators ?inherit? a crusher or other piece of plant that is not really suited to making the product their market wants. Whether you use a jaw, cone, impactor or any other equipment in your operation, this should be a decision based on what you?re aiming for, not based on what you happen to have ended up with.

?Making changes to a production plant is obviously a big expense but ultimately your business will do better if you?re making a better quality product that you can find a market for and sell for a better price. Consider also that investment in the quarry operation can produce better aggregate products that can be made more efficiently and which can save money in overall production costs. In addition, better quality products may attract a higher sale price and differentiate you from your competitors in the marketplace. For example, better quality aggregate may allow the production of better quality concrete and asphalt construction materials.?

{{image2-a:r-w:200}}At the same time as working to produce the best quality product, van Koeverden says operators should also be looking at lean operating procedures. ?Make the most of your equipment investment by ensuring every bucket and truck is full and the conveyor is not running empty,? he recommended. ?Running your equipment uses fuel or electricity and takes up operator time, whether your loads are full or not.

These are unavoidable operating expenses, so fully utilising your equipment well is the key to getting the best ROI.
?You also need to work out how to get the product out with the lowest number of interactions with machinery, including truck, screening and crusher processes, because every ?touch? costs money.

?To streamline your processes and ensure you?re using your equipment well, you need to really understand your operation. Tracking and measurement can help you identify issues with your process and guide your capital investment decisions.?

Van Koeverden recommends the installation of quality scales on conveyors, loaders and excavators because they provide reliable data to work with. This, in turn, leads to decisions that can improve profits and boost sustainability, both financially and environmentally.

?There are always some inefficiencies that proper measurement can help identify,? he said. ?Even if the benefit is relatively small, it can equate to a significant amount of profit when you apply it across a large output. Investment in measurement tools like Loadrite scales is always worthwhile. You need foresight to work out what your operative needs are and spend capital wisely.?

Loadrite product manager Soeren Schramm says many operators recognise the value of good data but not all of them are getting it.
?Some aggregate producers use PLC/SCADA systems but they can be very expensive and most are not fully automated,? Schramm said. ?Many smaller sites have no monitoring system at all because they?ve traditionally been too costly to install.?

Schramm said Loadrite?s systems could be installed at a fraction of the cost of other systems and could capture information such as conveyor flow rate in tonnes per hour, total tonnage for a period and machine or plant utilisation. Using Loadrite?s Insight reporting tools, companies can use the data from their scales to produce useful reports that allow them to easily identify bottlenecks and pinch points in their processes, track inventory and assess the wear rate of parts.

?They can also track ?black belt? time, when the plant is running but not producing, and keep tabs on downtime,? Soeren explained. ?Having access to this information means companies can properly assess their procedures and confirm the impact of the changes they introduce.?
Van Koeverden said measurement ultimately delivered more money and a happier customer. ?Operators need to minimise costs through process improvements, make sensible investments that will be offset by profit growth and continually measure and benchmark
their operation.?

Van Koeverden?s tips for quarry efficiency and profitability are as follows:

  • Use the right equipment, wear parts and consumables for the job and record what you have done. You may be glad you did later on.
  • Track and measure to identify areas for improvement and ensure every piece of machinery is working to its optimum.
  • Ensure everything the quarry produces can be sold. If you have a pile of product with no customer, don?t write it off. Seek professional advice to help you find a buyer. Focus future efforts on producing what the market wants.
  • Reduce the number of ?touches? in the process. Every time you touch quarry material it costs you money.
  • Start your conveyor 30 minutes into a shift or as needed to match production rates, so it?s not running empty while the loaders get ready, and consider running it during off-peak electricity periods. ?

Source: Actronic Technologies

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