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Top three maintenance woes – and how to avoid them

 

Maintenance is often thought to be performed every few thousand hours – well after the extractive operator purchases the equipment. As Steve Barnett contends, maintenance should be foremost on the operator’s mind when it considers the purchase of new plant and equipment.

Maintenance downtime and labour costs are the main pain points for many quarries. Increases in operational expenses and the pressure to produce more product faster have driven quarry operators to seek out new methods of reducing downtime.

“When I speak to new customers for the first time, they often ask how they can improve their maintenance process,” said Steve Barnett, the national sales manager of sand and aggregates at Weir Minerals Australia. “I always tell them that the most effective improvements come well before maintenance is required, at the time of the purchase decisions.”

The three major maintenance challenges for quarries are as follows:

• Access to your supplier.

• Superseded (or obsolete) equipment.

• Non-optimised plant.

ACCESS TO YOUR SUPPLIER

One of the most costly mistakes when purchasing machinery is ignoring where the supplier is located. “It is very tempting when purchasing equipment to just look at the capital cost and bypass things like equipment origin and the supplier’s presence in the area,” Barnett said. “A low capital cost looks good on paper, but how easy is it to get in contact with the supplier after commissioning?”

Much of the on-site maintenance can be done in-house within a quarry, but there is still a large proportion that requires external assistance. Wear parts, service support, product overhauls, process improvements and expert advice can easily be accessible nearby – or effectively out of reach, depending on the choice of the original supplier. A plant can be running well below optimum production or not running at all for an extended period while waiting for a replacement wear part to ship from a distant warehouse. “Customers are seeing the same issue with second hand equipment,” Barnett added. “There is no service support, no spare parts and no warranty.” 

Finding a supplier with local service centres and spare parts stock is the best way to ensure that you are never far away from service support and expert advice. “Being close to our customers is very important to us,” Barnett said. “With 17 Weir Minerals service centres in Australia, including Beresfield, Parkes, Adelaide and Melbourne, we can quickly get to our quarry customers for a full understanding of what they need and deliver it promptly”.

A plant can be running well below optimum capacity for an extended period while waiting for a replacement wear part to ship from a distant warehouse.

SUPERSEDED EQUIPMENT

Meeting customers’ needs for improved safety and efficiency of operations is the primary driver for technology innovation by OEMs such as Weir Minerals. While the latest improvements in the new generation of equipment may not always be immediately reflected in increased output, they contribute to the significant reduction of downtime and maintenance work hours.

“If a crusher is performing well and meeting the specified uptime hours, it might not seem in need of improvement,” Barnett said. “But when it comes to its regular maintenance, the downtime needed for basic work often takes up more hours than it would for the latest model with new technology. It can result in hours of racking up labour costs.

“For example, Weir Minerals’ engineers have developed hydraulic push-button technology for some of our key crushers,” Barnett said. “The Trio TV vertical impact crushers can be fitted with hydraulic lid lifters for maintenance access, and our Trio jaw crushers are fitted with hydraulic wedge adjustments as standard.” 

Additions like these can significantly contribute to decreased downtime and labour costs and improve site safety.

“The Gemex belt tensioning system is another simple element that can be fitted to most equipment,” Barnett said. “The system makes it possible to change belts on critical machinery in just minutes.”

Innovation is not limited to machinery and equipment; supplier material technology and innovation in wear parts can make a big difference to the bottom line of quarry operators. Linatex rubber products, manufactured using a proprietary patented process, have long been famous in the quarry industry for outstanding wear performance in the toughest wet and dry abrasive environments. “Recently, the Weir Minerals wear solutions team has developed a modular wear system using Linard rubber and other wear-resistant materials,” Barnett said. “The system allows you to change out single panels from chute linings in areas that have greater wear without the need to re-line the whole chute, saving time for maintenance teams and saving money for sites.” 

A close partnership between the OEM and the producer can be the primary driver for technology innovation.

NON-OPTIMISED PLANT

Quarries are more than just crushers and feeders. Fluid transfer, wear linings and other equipment are all vital to the success of a plant. It is important that these elements work together consistently for efficient production. A supplier with a large product portfolio is able to tailor end to end solutions for individual customers to optimise processes, as well as offer a variety of arrangements to meet site needs.

“Weir Minerals is the manufacturer of world-class brands like Warman pumps, Cavex hydrocyclones and Linatex rubber products,” Barnett explained. “The team has in-depth knowledge about how these products fit together and how to optimise them as a complete solution, to ensure each part of the plant is working to its highest potential.”

Choosing a supplier with a large product portfolio also gives opportunities for upgrades or alterations throughout the life of a quarry as the site’s needs change. A supplier that understands how things fit together will be able to offer improvements as they are developed and as your quarry evolves. 

Proper maintenance and support is vital to the long-term success of your plant. By incorporating the points above into your decision-making process when buying equipment, you can make your plant safer and your operations more streamlined. Consistent, high production is reliant on machinery that is working to its full potential, and well looked after equipment will result in less downtime, fewer replacements, higher production volume and a higher quality end product.

Source: Weir Minerals