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Maintenance – views from the industry

Mining & Minerals Product Review

By: Matthew Wood – Writer

Like all Marvels in engineering, equipment in mining needs maintenance if it is to run efficiently and sustainably.
 
Although maintenance in mining is a broad subject, it is important to identify the range of different services available, and emphasise the innovations, particularly if they are environmentally friendly and cut costs. 
 
MMPR investigates some of the numerous maintenance plans available.
 
Face value
John Payne from Harmonious Electrical illustrated the basics of maintenance in saying that maintenance in every element of mining – be it dump trucks in open cast applications, winders in those of underground, transportation of ore or the plants that work with ore – has its own unique role.
 
He said though that maintenance requires highly skilled artisans and that the safety and legal requirements is the number one priority, followed by plants equipment availability.
 
Maintenance is also segmented in terms of time, there is a specific maintenance plan both weekly, monthly, and annual inspections, and they must all adhere to stringent standards.
 
Equipment performance is often the production constraint that determines the performance of mineral extraction and processing operations.
 
The scientific analysis of used oil from mechanical and electrical systems along with the analysis of fuels, transformer oils, coolants, greases, and filters is quickly being recognised as a reliable method.
 
Life extension to lubricated components
Having now scratched the surface in warming up to the basics of maintenance, MMPR spoke to a Filter Focus wear control specialist, who provides a model of understanding in maintenance that, when actioned, can save companies (in the mining industry alone) a tremendous amount of money.
 
“As a company what we essentially do is, we turn maintenance on its head. We don’t see maintenance as a cost centre, but rather as a profit centre, where large savings can be achieved,” said the specialist.
 
“In the industry there is usually normal, standard OE filtration, which is vastly insufficient for the conditions that we have in South Africa. As a result people have come to get used to certain life cycles of equipment – like gearboxes that will last three years until they break, and the reason that they fail is often due to contamination in the oil, and due to the handling of lubricants on a haphazard manner. Lubrication professionals suggest that up to 85% of all mechanical failures are directly due to fluid contamination.
 
“In America and Europe, industry is a lot more mature, they understand the need for fluid cleanliness a lot more so than we do here, so their problems with fluid cleanliness are a fraction of the challenges that we face in Africa.
It is better to use the more expensive, better quality oil becaue in the long run you will save significantly more on maintenance costs.
They understand the need for taking out those small contaminants, whereas here in Africa our oil and diesel is so filthy, and people don’t appreciate or understand that putting that oil or fuel into their equipment is absolutely going to destroy it, but they have come to accept that that is normal and it is therefore acceptable.
 
I like to use an example of the Middle Ages – if you died at the age of 40 back then, it was acceptable; we now know today that if you die at 40, there is a problem somewhere – lifestyle, health etc. – but it is no longer regarded as acceptable.”
 
A case study
“At Kumba Iron Ore they for many years would replace a socket liner every three to three and a half months. They would stop the crusher, replace the socket liner, put a new one on and carry on producing. Every seven months or so they would stop the crusher and remove inner eccentric brushes, and replace them because if they didn’t they would experience a failure; the crusher would go down and lose production. It was considered normal operation.
 
We then started to implement our filtration technologies on their crushers. Today the oil that is in operation has been in use for 10 years – it hasn’t been drained. The socket liner life for example has increased from three months to three years, which is a tenfold improvement in lubricated component life.
 
Since we implemented our filtration, the oil is so clean that it’s cleaner than the unused oil they’re bringing directly from the refinery. As a result of that oil being as clean as it is, less wear is taking place during the lubrication process. Now that the equipment is lasting longer there is additional production capacity, saving billions of Rands, and that is just additional productivity – we’re not taking into account costs of part replacements and the environmental aspects (draining, dumping etc).
 
Beforehand they were spending tremendous amounts of money on maintenance that they shouldn’t be doing. There is the benefit of keeping oil in operation for dramatically longer periods of time, so as a result of oil being clean, components don’t wear and fail.”
 
Some wise advice
  • Contamination causes wear which grows exponentially.
  • Wear particles of metal create erosion.
  • Oil in Africa is more contaminated because of a dusty environment (wide open spaces, game parks and mining areas), whereas Europe is more built up.
  • Cheap oil leads to increased maintenance problems (a term known as “penny wise – pound foolish”). It is better to use the more expensive, better quality oil because in the long run you will save significantly more on maintenance costs.
  • Furthermore, an innovative high capacity micro-fine filter system can dramatically reduce an operation’s carbon footprint.
Microscopic analysis
Wearcheck, a division of the Set Point Group is an ISO-certified oil and fuel analysis company, serving those various industries such as earth moving, mining, industrial, transportation, shipping, and aircraft.
 
Oil from various industries including big mining machinery are taken and scientifically analysed to check for additives in the oil, contaminants, dust and metal pieces broken off from the gearboxes or engines. Detailed reports are then sent to clients, highlighting potential problems with gearboxes or engines, and therefore prevent breakdowns on the machinery.
 
The company also undertakes condition monitoring services such as vibration analysis and infrared thermography, which assist industry in reducing costly downtime caused by machine breakdowns by providing information for predictive maintenance. Additional services include the analysis of fuels, transformer oils, coolants, and filters.
 
There are all sorts of ways to improve an operation, where maintenance plays a key role. If you are involved in a business that reflects the discussion, send in your products so we can show the mining industry what is available (contacts available under publisher details). mmpr

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