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Mining Matters: How digital helps mines cut costs, not corners

As companies recover from a global pandemic, many are adopting digital technologies to help cut costs and increase operational efficiency. Getting the most out of equipment is more crucial than ever. The latest update of Asset Health 1.3 gives mines even more insight into the health of their equipment to help cut the costs of maintenance and increase productivity.

NJ: Thanks for tuning into Mining Matters. Hi, I’m Neville Judd from HxGN Radio. The global pandemic has forced more mines to adopt technology to cut costs and increase efficiency. One example is Hexagon’s Asset Health platform, which monitors equipment-health trends in real time to help cut the costs of maintenance and increase productivity. Here to discuss the latest update to Asset Health are Mining Division CTO Rob Daw, and MineOperate product manager George Mavros. Gentlemen, thank you for joining me today.

RD: Good to be here, Nev.

GM: Thank you for having us, Nev.

NJ: Glad to have you on board. So, Rob, I’d like to start with you. How have you seen the pandemic fuel adoption of technology in the industry, and what technologies are seeing the highest demand?

RD: Yeah, I think it’s been a really interesting last little period with the pandemic and seeing how different companies are handling that pandemic and what sort of technologies they want to adopt in that industry. I think we’re seeing a lot of focus on remote-working enablement, so being able to have the information at their fingertips wherever they are in the world so that people can actually work from home or work from more-remote locations. And that’s true from everything from fleet management to mine planning through to even the safety side of things as well. So, I think we’re really seeing a big adoption of that type of technology. But I think we also saw that pre the pandemic as well. There’s starting to be a big acceleration in the industry of technology adoption. When we look at the actual technologies that they are implementing in their business, we see things like IoT, we see things like BI and analytics. And then, obviously, more recently, artificial intelligence and machine learning is starting to take a really big play in that business. So, what we see from the Hexagon point of view, though, is that their clients are now moving more and more to looking for an ecosystem of technology versus, I guess, the point solution that we’ve traditionally seen out there. So how do we have that sensor information captured out in the field, and how do we actually, then, start to make sense of that information? And I think, to be honest with you, Asset Health that we’re discussing today is a really prime example of that type of setup.

NJ: So, let’s talk about Asset Health. George, tell us a little bit about Asset Health and how it improves equipment availability and what impact on cost reduction and profit increase can users expect from it.

GM: Yeah. So, you know, at a mine, everything functions in a chain, right? Everything is linked. So, starting with planning, they will provide short-term or long-term planning. They will give targets to operations to execute this plan. And then operations, of course, is going to look to maintenance to have the equipment available to them so that they can operate it and accomplish the goals that the mine has. Usually, you know, in maintenance—they do their best. And they give approximate of 75 to 80 percent equipment operability per fleet. So, when they create this plan, or these goals, they take that into consideration. Now, unfortunately, it is a mine environment, so not everything goes as planned. You will have events that will down equipment. And that is not just an additional cost on repairs, but you will also need to take into consideration the effect this takes on production, right? So, again, this is where Asset Health, it’s very, very beneficial. So, it’s real-time information on sensors and alarms. So, the maintenance and the operators get all this information so they can prevent a catastrophic failure before it happens. So, this way, we keep the equipment running longer and stay in production, so that way we are able to accomplish the goals and the target set, but also we avoid additional costs on repairs and maintenance.

NJ: I understand Asset Health has just had a version update or is about to have a version update. George, tell us about the new functionality that’s in Asset Health 1.3.

GM: Yeah. We’re quite excited about this version of Asset Health 1.3 So, I’m going to list a few of the main features. We are introducing quite a bit of innovative features in this release. So, one of them being we’re fully integrated now with our fleet-management solution, OP Pro. We are able to notify the operator and the controller that is utilising OP Pro manager, the office, for an alarm. So, they get this notification. We are introducing another 20 new interfaces that we are having integration with. And I’m just going to name a few here—PLM 2 and PLM 3, RCS, Amtech, Bridgestone Tires, Sandvik and quite a few more. And then we focused on their office application for improvements. And again, just to name a few instances. Now the user can define the severity of the alarms. You can see the active alarms based on severity and activation date. In alarms management, the controllers, when they acknowledge an alarm, they can add information to it. We have the ability to add a custom message for an alarm. So, this way you can notify the operator in that way or the controller what action they need to take for a specific alarm. Live sensors have additional information, and that’s dependent on the actual sensors. And then finally, we have introduced a summariser, and that’s going to enable us for better reportability on the data we gather in Asset Health.

NJ: Thank you, George. Rob, how do you see Asset Health changing the way mines utilise their equipment?

RD: I think we look at equipment, and it’s probably one of the most high-capital costs within the mining environment. So, anything we can do to extend the lifetime of that piece of equipment is going to have a big impact to our bottom line and operations. And then if we start to look at how we actually utilise the equipment and the downtime that we have with the scheduled maintenance that we put into the mines as well, there’s obviously a big impact on being able to utilise that piece of equipment. So, by putting in things like Asset Health, it’s really giving us the insights and more predictability into that meantime between failure. So how can we extend that duration between when we do need to service these vehicles? Do we need to bring them in every 1,000 hour or 5,000-hour for that service, or can we push them a little bit further? And the only way we can do that is by analysing and understanding the information that we have available to us. It’s one of those adages that you don’t know what you don’t know. And so, I think Asset Health really does assist us in being able to extend the periods between services and also eke out additional time. So, with our, let’s say, our tires or our filters, can we get a longer period before we have to replace those? Can we run it to near-on failure? I don’t want to say we’re going to run it to failure, but can we really extend the lifetime on those, which has a huge cost impact to the bottom line of operations So, I think we’ll see mines pushing that further and further and leveraging the assets they’ve already got in a much, much more robust way.

NJ: George, earlier you alluded to the integration with OP Pro, the fleet-management solution. Does Asset Health integrate with any other Hexagon products or portfolios?

GM: Yeah. It’s very interesting, Nev. And as we’re discussing the Asset Health possibilities and the functionality that it brings, with other divisions, I mean, it was really exciting to see the possibilities we have identified. And yes, I will start with the integration of OP Pro. Asset Health is running on the same hardware platform, and we have full integration, as I have already mentioned. Now, safety, it was pretty interesting to see what information they would like to have, especially when an event takes place. And safety solutions identify an event, they would like to know the state of the equipment. So, they are very interested to know the values of specific sensors, any alarms that could be active at the time of the event. And it goes along with what Rob already mentioned about take that into consideration for predictive and being predictive. So, again, a lot of interest from the safety division with Asset Health. And when we talk about autonomous, I mean, that goes without saying that obviously there’s no operator on board to intervene for when there’s an alarm or when there’s a value of assessment that is concerning. So, it’s values that we need to be aware of at any given time, real time, so that if we need to intervene, if the system needs to intervene, then we have that information available so that we can make the appropriate adjustments and prevent any harmful damage to the equipment or anything else that could go wrong.

RD: I think the really interesting piece with Asset Health is that it’s another cog in that whole situational awareness. So, I think George alluded there to the safety aspect and to the fleet-management aspect. But when we start to look at, say, incident replays and these sorts of areas, how do we know what actually happened out there? So, you know, fleet management, we’re going to get our payload information. From our collision avoidance, we’re going to see what vehicles were involved and where the near miss was and were the alarms happening. But when we start to do what the root-cause analysis is, I think Asset Health really does start to highlight what was happening with the actual vehicle itself in that particular incident. So, we take into account, you know, did the brakes overheat? Did they fail? Was it because of the overloading? Like, really starting to paint that full picture for us to really understand what these types of incidents or how they might have occurred. And then moreover above that, we start to look at that information or data with our mine-planning suite, can we be proactive in actually being able to engineer out some of these areas? So, by looking at, say, heat maps on the brake temperature, is that ramp too steep, and are we putting too many loads over that, where we’re loaded going down the hill? I think these are the sorts of insights that it’s actually opening up for us to be able to now do more proactive designs and really getting a full picture on where the whole operation can improve.

NJ: So, final question, and George, I’ll put it to you. What future developments can we expect to see coming to Asset Health?

GM: You know, we want to bring more functionality to Asset Health. But we’re looking more of equipment/maintenance model. So, we’re not just staying on and focusing only on Asset Health. We want to provide a holistic solution that could apply to any maintenance department at any mine. So, in that regard, Asset Health will be a part of this full solution. And, you know, we’re looking into tire and then parts inventory or maintenance scheduling. So, again, we want to increase and build around Asset Health. Of course, when it comes to Asset Health itself, definitely predictive analytics, like Rob mentioned, we collect a tremendous amount of data. So, we want to utilise this data not only on real time and not only to look at historical information, but also for the future—how we can predict and prevent any of these catastrophic failures, we can see any trends or patterns that are building up, and we want to bring visibility to the mine with all this data gathered.

NJ: Gentlemen, thank you so much for the insight today. Thank you for joining us.

RD: Thanks, Nev.

GM: Thank you, Nev.

NJ: A big thank you to our guests, Rob and George. For more information about today’s topic, visit hexagonmining.com. To listen to additional episodes of Mining Matters or to learn more, visit hxgnspotlight.com. Thanks for tuning in.