Features, News

Windows of opportunity for operational improvement

 

From autonomous drilling and conveyor belt sensors to truck fleet management and aerial volume measurement platforms, quarries and aggregate production plants are creating virtual stockpiles of data. 

However, while these data producing systems are helping drive productivity for boots on the ground, they are typically not connected in a way that can help support operational objectives. Nor are they able to resolve challenges including rising production demands, tighter specifications, employee recruiting and retention to safety and regulatory compliance.

The only way to address these concerns is through improved process management. At its most basic, quarrying is a three-step manufacturing operation – extraction, material processing and loading. And much like any manufacturing activity, LEAN and Six Sigma techniques enable the identification and removal of waste and minimise impact variability. As many operations have learned, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.

However, despite the ongoing investment in systems such as belt scale sensors and fleet management, managers do not have an easy way to compile data about specific operational activities to derive actionable insights. 

CONNECTIVITY CONUNDRUM

Tracking material production, equipment productivity and personnel performance is considerably easier in today’s environment with so many sensors – but gaining valuable intel from all that data is trickier, and something that the entire construction industry struggles with.

Studies have found that a large percentage of the data captured by engineering and construction firms goes unused, largely due to lack of connectivity, a challenge that quarry managers and aggregate producers will increasingly face.

Much like a project manager relies on an overarching solution to bring together progress data from a jobsite, quarry and aggregate producers should begin to think about quarry workflow-relevant reporting tools and dashboards. These reporting tools draw data from sensors and systems from scales on loaders, excavators, haul trucks and conveyor belts into a centralised location, where it is organised into valuable intel. By measuring data from load and haul, processing, load-out processes and stockpiles, a producer can quickly see what is produced and isolate any opportunities for improvement. 

A reporting tool such as Trimble Insight gathers and sorts data and then incorporates key pieces of information (depending on the user) into real-time dashboards to support decision-making and production planning. By measuring load-out and processing totals, a producer can see what is produced and isolate opportunities for improvement. 

The same tool can help crews manage production by pulling belt scale data  – including product type, production rates and locations – into a single source to show target versus actual productivity and identify downtime delays. Similarly, a report on blast yield tonnage to verify that blasting patterns and hauling cycles are delivering expected yield can be compiled with data from belt scales and machine monitoring systems. 

OPERATIONAL REALITIES

The ability to monitor operations is bridging the gap between intuition and hard data. A reporting tool confirms and reinforces an operator’s expertise, providing information in a manner that is accurate, timely and easy to visualise. 

Since the Trimble Insight tool is connected to scales across the operation, it can provide valuable insights from extraction to load-out. It’s a single source of truth. With such a system, a producer can quickly see how improving a certain aspect of operations – such as adding new equipment – improves production or the bottom line.

A quarry production monitoring system enables information in real-time to highlight an opportunity that could minimise lost production time or reduced performance. It’s an opportunity to look through a different set of lenses – in essence, a direct window into operations at any given moment, along with the historical data to drive actionable decisions. And it is information that is available anytime, anywhere from a connected device.

Many sites already have the hardware infrastructure in place – it just needs to be connected to an intelligent reporting system and there are specialists that can advise and assist with connectivity like Trimble authorised dealers nationwide. 

Do more than collect data – drive decisions through a connected workflow.

For more information about Trimble Insight, or a free demo, visit trimbleinsight.com

Chris van der Loo is a business area director of Trimble Weighing & Aggregates. Email: chris_vanderloo@trimble.com