The application of digital tools is key to continuously improving efficiencies in underground mines, Niel McCoy, Business Line Manager for Automation and Digitalisation at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, says.
McCoy says the choice of digital tools needs to be based on each operation’s key performance indicators (KPIs). This is because the solutions that are implemented will be focused on monitoring and managing those KPIs. He then recommends a phased approach to introducing digital tools to an operation.
“The starting point is always machine telemetry and basic production or productivity reporting,” he says. “From there, the solutions can be expanded.”
Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions has extensive experience in designing and implementing digital tools, including equipment health monitoring and process management. Its AutoMine® automation offering operates on 59 mining sites globally, while its OptiMine® suite of digital solutions is active on 66 connected sites. The ‘My Sandvik’ customer portal, a web-based digital hub, serves 214 sites and its Newtrax technology in wireless IoT connectivity is operating on 115 sites.
“Monitoring equipment health through My Sandvik Digital Services Solutions allows users to draw down telemetry data from their equipment in real time,” he says. “The data is automatically compiled into the required report format for quick analysis and response.”
The next aspect to be addressed is the actual management of the process being monitored, he says. This is where Sandvik’s Task Management and Scheduler – part of its Optimine suite of digital solutions – can be applied.
“This allows a tablet to be fitted to an item of equipment so that an underground operator can accept tasks and provide real-time progress reports on those tasks,” he says. “The more advanced the equipment, the more data can be extracted and communicated automatically without operator intervention.”
The solutions allow for data to be recorded on equipment’s key operations – such as the weight of loads in a loader bucket. Telemetry on the equipment gives valuable insight into the equipment’s availability and performance so management can respond.
“When starting digital journeys, the focus must be on improving current operations,” McCoy says. “This means getting work started on time, for instance, before moving onto optimisation efforts. Most digital implementations will battle if the starting point is trying to increase productivity before getting the basics right.”