• December 17th, 2019
  • 3 min

Reducing Operational Delays with Predictive Tooth Wear Monitoring

Failure to accurately predict shovel tooth change-out intervals is a common cause of operational delays. Shovel teeth are sacrificial components that gradually wear out as the shovel engages the mine face. Because teeth must be replaced regularly, it is important to co-schedule tooth change-outs with other maintenance tasks so that operational delays can be minimized. Moreover, continued operation with worn shovel teeth reduces shovel efficiency, can damage the bucket, and increases the likelihood that a tooth or adapter will break.

Unplanned tooth change-outs are far more expensive than scheduled ones. The costs of tooth replacement are both direct and indirect. Direct costs include the teeth and labor; these are generally fixed and relatively small. Indirect costs refer to lost production caused by shovel downtime and depend on the given operation’s production rate and net profit. When tooth change-outs are scheduled, other maintenance tasks can be performed simultaneously to reduce the indirect costs of maintenance. Therefore, the incremental cost of an unplanned tooth change-out is significantly greater than a scheduled one.

According to an earlier study, on average, the direct and indirect costs due to an unplanned tooth set change-out are USD $3000 and USD $38,000 respectively; together, the extra costs and lost opportunity amount to USD $41,000 per incident. Although unplanned change-outs are sometimes unavoidable, these incidents can be significantly reduced with a tooth wear monitoring solution. Since shovel downtime is the most expensive part of tooth change-outs, a small investment in replacement interval optimization can save mines a lot of money.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to predict the wear rate. The two most critical factors that impact the wear rate are the environment in which the shovel works and the material that it excavates. In an abrasive environment like the oil sands, a 50-60cm long tooth will wear out in three days. In a non-abrasive environment like a copper mine, however, the same tooth may last for two weeks.

Some mines take manual measurements of the shovel teeth, but this traditional method is time- and labour-intensive, requiring mine personnel to stop the shovel and physically measure the length of each tooth with a measuring tape. In addition to causing operational delays, these manual measurements are not repeatable because they introduce elements of human error and subjectivity.

The traditional wear monitoring method is time- and labour-intensive, requiring mine personnel to stop the shovel and physically measure the length of each tooth with a measuring tape

To help mines optimize tooth change-out intervals, we developed a predictive wear monitoring solution that does not interruption production. ShovelMetrics™ uses artificial intelligence and a rugged camera mounted atop the shovel boom to provide real-time tooth status updates via an in-cab monitor.

All ShovelMetrics tooth wear data can also be accessed through our centralized data analysis platform, MetricsManager™ Pro. With authorized credentials, mine management can view the tooth length, wear rate, wear pattern, and the estimated time until change-out. When used together, ShovelMetrics and MetricsManager Pro eliminate the need for manual measurements and can help personnel optimize tooth change-out intervals.

With more than 15 years of experience solving the toughest mining challenges, Motion Metrics understands the impact that predictive maintenance solutions like our tooth wear monitoring solution have on your bottom line. Please contact our Sales team to learn more.

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