An article in the January/February issue of World Coal recommended that mines adopt technologies like ShovelMetrics™that have a strong return on investment without imposing significant knowledge barriers on mine personnel.
The mining industry faces a range of adverse global trends today – economic growth is sluggish, skilled labour shortages present an ongoing problem, and strip ratios are increasing as miners deplete stores of easily-accessible ore. Digital technology presents mines an exceptional opportunity to reduce the cost of production and compete under these challenging conditions – research indicates that digital technology has the potential to produce a benefit of $190 billion in the next decade.
Unfortunately, the benefits of process improvement technologies cannot be realized if they are too expensive or time-consuming to implement. Although all new technologies require some degree of organizational learning to be embraced, those that place high demands on adopters to acquire new skills pose a serious barrier to adoption. To reap the benefits of process improvement technologies, mines need to choose solutions that are easy to learn and use.
One example of a technology that is easy to implement and provides a strong return on investment is ShovelMetrics™ Payload Monitoring. Leveraging recent developments in robotics, estimation theory, and sensor technology to directly measure the payload of each bucket as a hydraulic shovel or excavator operates, ShovelMetrics™ has been proven accurate within 2% of the weight scale verified payload. The benefits are obvious. Overloading trucks can reduce component life and void manufacturer warranties, and can result in premature tire wear, slower haul times, and suspension failures. Underloading a truck results in extra haulage cycles and lost productivity.
Improving operator behavior is one of the easiest factors to improve in the material handling process and has a sizeable effect on unit cost. Since ShovelMetrics™ provides operators with real-time feedback via an in-cab monitor, the solution enables operators to act on data immediately for instant efficiency gains; over the long term, payload data can help mines operators finetune best practices over time.
Missing tooth detection systems are another technology that mines can easily implement for a strong return on investment. For example, ShovelMetrics™ pays for itself by preventing a single missing tooth incident. In a case study of a Canadian gold mine, the missing tooth detection solution prevented four hours of crusher downtime and $430K USD in productivity losses; in a case study of a Swedish copper mine, the system prevented 36 hours of downtime and $350K USD in productivity losses.
Since missing tooth detection systems like ShovelMetrics™ provide real-time feedback to operators via an in-cab display and audible alarms, they are easy to learn and use. In a recent case study, ShovelMetrics™ Missing Tooth Detection was installed on a shovel at a Mexican polymetallic mine. Since its installation, the system has detected three missing teeth. Response time to for the mine to change the tooth for the third incident on June 25th was immediate. The mine had learned to use the solution in fewer than three interactions.
Given the current economic climate, mines have little choice but to leverage technology for process improvement if they want to remain profitable. When selecting solutions, mines should seriously consider the knowledge barriers to adopting new technology and choose options that place low demands on mine personnel while delivering a strong return on investment. To learn more about missing tooth detection or payload monitoring, visit our Resources Page. Or, check out the ShovelMetrics™ product page.