Tag Archives: Safety

 

Mining and metals companies are implementing a range of strategies to enhance asset management and equipment reliability.

In today’s market, many senior executives leading natural resource companies hesitate in making additional capital investment and instead focus on what can be done to squeeze higher performance out of current assets. Consequently, companies are increasingly looking for ways to improve performance and returns with existing infrastructure.

The key approach to this challenge lies in upgrading and improving asset management capabilities. Many organizations have failed to deploy optimal asset management practices. This is surprising given that asset spend frequently represents 30% to 50% of the overall operating expenses. Shifting to a best-in-class asset management program will consistently deliver improved plant or equipment performance, lower operating costs, extend asset life, and generate a higher return on capital. Most recently, companies have sought to implement a range of strategies such as:

  1. Implementing Asset Management Systems: Utilizing robust asset management systems to track equipment performance, maintenance history, and lifecycle costs, allowing for better decision-making regarding repairs, replacements, and upgrades. Digital technologies like IoT sensors, AI-driven analytics, and automation further optimize asset management.
  2. Enhancing Maintenance Practices: Implementing proactive maintenance strategies like conditioned-based monitoring and reliability-centered maintenance to address issues before they cause failures. Utilizing data-driven insights, mining companies can optimize “time on tools” by identifying patterns and trends in equipment usage, maintenance needs, and performance. This allows for more precise scheduling of maintenance tasks, reducing downtime and maximizing the time equipment is operational.
  3. Investing in Training: Providing comprehensive training programs for front-line management, maintenance and operations personnel to ensure equipment is used and serviced properly, reducing the likelihood of breakdowns due to human error and that access to equipment is available. Training personnel to utilize data-driven insights enables management to make informed decisions impacting “time on tools” and leading to improved equipment utilization and overall operational performance.
  4. Improving Supply Chain Management: Ensuring timely access to quality spare parts and materials to minimize downtime caused by equipment breakdowns and repairs. Some are adopting blockchain for transparent supply chain management and better tracking of assets throughout their lifecycle.

The level of performance improvement companies can realize by implementing key strategies such as enhancing proactive maintenance practices, investing in training to improve skills and capabilities, improving supply chain management, and leveraging digital technologies and data-driven insights varies depending upon factors like current operational efficiency, the scale of implementation, and industry conditions. However, many can expect significant improvements in:

  1. Safety: Proper training programs and proactive maintenance strategies contribute to a safe work environment by reducing risk of accidents and equipment failures.
  2. Productivity: Proactive maintenance and digital technologies can reduce downtime, increase equipment availability, and optimize process execution, leading to higher productivity levels.
  3. Cost Reduction: Efficient equipment usage and maintenance practices can lower operational costs by minimizing unplanned downtime, reducing repair and replacement expenses, and optimizing resource utilization.
  4. Quality: Improving the essential management skills and work place practices result improve the quality of maintenance execution.

Overall, these strategies can result in substantial performance improvements, enhancing competitiveness and profitability for mining and metals companies.

USC Consulting Group partners with your organization and coaches your people to significantly impact performance outcomes and accelerate Asset Management and Reliability Excellence.

USC’s experience helping clients to shift asset performance by transforming and optimizing asset management capabilities and processes has repeatedly demonstrated the need to focus on the key levers and enablers to asset management and reliability excellence. Our asset management framework is designed to be pragmatic rather than conceptual, thereby leading to accurate, practical decisions about a client’s assets and aspirational outcomes.

The primary goal of USC’s asset management framework is to help our clients to implement and execute of a robust set of integrated processes and tools to manage and maintain their operational assets at the targeted service levels while optimizing life-cycle costs and asset life. This is accomplished by recognizing the needs to:

Our asset management and reliability framework helps clients identify an organization’s asset management maturity level and the areas and gaps that need to be addressed, by evaluating their strategic, tactical and operational levers and the enablers that comprise each.

Asset Management Triangle

Strategic (Lifecycle Management): A tailored maintenance program for each piece of equipment translates overall strategic objectives into executable plans for equipment upkeep. Our framework helps to structure and prioritize critical assets while defining a baseline operational ‘plan of action’ by determining strategies for maintaining equipment based on analysis of equipment capabilities, required performance levels, failure frequencies, and cost objectives. Optimal maintenance strategies are frequently a blend of preventative, predictive, operator-maintained, and run-to-fail options.

Tactical (Business Processes): Business processes bridge the gaps between the initial, ideal plan and the reality of ‘day-to-day’ operations, so the maintenance and reliability organization can make adjustments. Historically, many maintenance organizations have been poor utilizers of labor resources that result in low “time on tools” and excessive delays in repairing down or poor performing equipment.

Operational (Enablers): Enablers help to identify needed support to manage assets throughout their lifecycle in alignment with organizational aspirations. Leading asset management teams have also made changes in their organization structures and management practices to foster more action-oriented leadership that focuses on operational excellence, which usually requires a culture shift that must be relentlessly supported by the leadership team over the long-term. A heavy emphasis on management behaviors and company culture can help organizations make this difficult transition.

USC Helps You Tackle Key Challenges

Do you want to understand how prepared your company is to drive needed asset performance and reliability improvements and what the key focus areas that will contribute to lower operating costs?

Want to find out more about how USC can help you uncover the hidden value lurking in asset portfolio?

For more information, let’s talk it through with a no obligation video conference call or a meeting with one of our executive team. Email info@usccg.com to arrange a call.

How to Improve Asset Management and Equipment Performance to Enhance Reliability CTA

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In September of 2022, autonomous aerial robot systems pioneer Exyn Technologies engaged USC Consulting Group to perform an independent evaluation of the AL4 Autonomy being utilized in the ExynAero underground drone.

The detailed study focused around one main objective; to gain practical exposure to the use of this technology by the survey team, while surveying active headings.

The ExynAero uses a LIDAR unit mounted to the drone in order to perform cavity mapping surveys inside of open stopes.

Over the course of a two-day visit USCCG was able to observe surveyors mapping live stopes utilizing the new drone technology on the ExynAero in comparison to the traditional boom and scanner CMS method. The observations yielded immensely positive results including:

As a follow-up to the evaluation of mining’s top innovations, USC Consulting Group worked with both Northern Star Resources Limited’s Pogo Mine and Exyn Technologies to prepare a white paper detailing these findings. This free white paper is available for download below:

ExynAero vs Traditonal CMS Mining's Top Innovations Study White Paper CTA

Mining Benefits

There were many benefits that were observed during the study, which included improved safety, survey quality, and time savings.

“It (ExynAero) is infinitely safer to use… we’re nowhere near the brow now, doing jobs around the corner in some cases. The safety aspect is definitely one of the driving factors to why we purchased the gear.” – Chief Mine Surveyor, Pogo Mine

Working at or around the brow is widely regarded as one of the most hazardous places in any mine. The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) still lists it as one of the top five major causes of lost time injuries in underground mining, accounting for almost 10% of reported injuries.

Read the full report of benefits in our white paper: ExynAero vs Traditional CMS: A Study of Mining’s Top Innovations

If you want to learn more about this study or you’re interested in speaking with one of our Mining experts, please contact us.

*Photo credit: Richard Bishop

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An ancillary component to all mining operations, perhaps more so than any industry, is mining safety. Everything mine workers and their foremen do throughout their day-to-day itinerary should include extra attention to adhering to mining safety standards and improving on them wherever possible.

Though the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mining Safety and Health Administration reported workplace fatalities have plummeted over the last 40 years from around 250 annually in the late 1970s to under 50 in 2014, securing employees against risk protects them as much as the business itself. After all, time spent recovering from an injury chips away at a mining company’s productivity. In the end, it’s in everyone’s best interests to increase minig safety and prevent harm for both medical and financial reasons.

Taking extra precautions need not complicate the task at hand – safety and efficiency aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, foremen and managers seeking to optimize processes and improve the quality of their risk prevention can do so by simply focusing on improving efficiency in target areas.

Fragmentation
As the first step to the mining process, fragmentation can have an incredible impact on mine development and even auxiliary operations. Proper fragmentation can align ore extraction with daily objectives, which subsequently allows workers and engineers to utilize mining and transport equipment at peak efficiency. It’s important every load sent to the surface doesn’t fall short of its predicted capacity, otherwise mine operators unnecessarily expend fuel, pay staff to work longer hours, and wear down machinery, all for a less-than-anticipated return. As such, implementing an intelligent, data-driven approach to fragmentation that consistently provides adequate resources helps everything after and beyond flow smoothly.

Mining Safety
A clean, controlled explosion can help miners perform their duties with greater efficiency.

With all that in mind, we are talking about explosions, however controlled they may be. Luckily, some of the greatest mining safety tools also promote efficiency. According to a study by the Department of Mining Engineering at the Federal University of Technology in Akure, Nigeria, to protect workers from inefficiency, as well as safety hazards like fly rocks, miners should pay closer attention to rockmass and blast parameters. Just as a well-executed fragmentation sets up workers for ideal extraction conditions, a comprehensive assessment of rock density and placement of explosives enhance the effectiveness of the fragmentation. Additionally, competent adjustments to blast hole diameters and borehole depth reduces overburden and minimizes extraneous equipment use, which again, cuts down on energy, wear-and-tear, and time spent on-site that detracts from extraction.

When an occupation includes handling high explosives as part of the job description, it can feel as though a piece of everyday operations will be left to chance. However, mining professionals know that’s far from the truth. Businesses can takes steps toward calibrating their fragmentation, fine tuning it until it maximizes production and mining safety.

“Without ample attention paid to communication services, miners and engineers can lose productivity and decrease mining safety.”

Signal strength
Communication in the mining industry remains a multifaceted issue with a variety of considerations. Mining is one of the rare instances of workers performing 12 to 14 hour shifts over many consecutive days. In this business model, foremen and managers get the most out of their teams, which keeps production moving and on quota. That said, without ample attention paid to communication services, miners and engineers can lose productivity and the resources they need to stay safe.

Network communication provider Globecomm broke down mining communication into two basic hemispheres: reachback and mine site communication. Reachback communication connects the quarry with the outside world via telecommunications and Internet, typically used as a means for connecting “boots on the ground” with headquarters. However, as the Internet continues to grow in popularity as a source of entertainment, a reliable Wi-Fi or wired connection for workers to use during downtime keeps spirits high after intense physical labor. Moreover, during the workday, reliable web services and telecommunications also allow miners to perform research, supplying them with the information they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently.

To that same end, high-quality communication between workers can not only keep continuous processes in full swing, but at a blast site that uses explosives and industrial equipment to rend solid rock, it can also save lives in an industry. Workers should always have a reliable channel of communication to prevent accidental injuries. Additionally, as mining technology continues to advance, companies will also begin integrating more data-powered machinery, which will also require a strong network connection on which to transmit information.

Foremen, miners and engineers understand mining safety is not an option in their line of work, but a necessity, one that doesn’t have to be leveraged against filling orders on time and at allocation. By employing mining safety measures as a means to highlight areas of operation in need of an efficiency boost, these workers can have the best of both worlds.