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Let’s Get Practical: Prescriptive Maintenance in the Mining, Oil & Gas Sectors

By Johan Alberts

Prescriptive maintenance and the future of asset management systems using IoT.

The cost and impact of asset downtime is a continuing problem for those within the mining, oil and gas sectors. When parts break and components fail, it all too often sends productivity to a grinding halt. However, the advent of technological advancements is bringing about a new age in asset management and maintenance with IoT technology at the centre of it.

In the pre-IoT era, maintenance issues were typically dealt with using preventative or descriptive methodologies. Preventative maintenance relied on operators to schedule regular maintenance ‘check-up’ periods. While descriptive maintenance turned the focus towards past data aggregation and mining to understand the potential for future system failures.

Although each of these systems offered their own advantages, their capabilities lacked sufficiency within the age of digitisation. Ultimately, the best way to optimise the performance of a system is to ensure maintenance is carried out just in time – fixing any issues before they become true failures.

Enter: prescriptive maintenance. Prescriptive maintenance not only focuses on detecting issues within assets well ahead of time but also prescribes the solution to mitigating these sorts of problems. This removes the need for inspections and preventive maintenance because you’re monitoring conditions in real-time, freeing up human resources. Essentially, by leveraging preventive and descriptive methodologies, prescriptive maintenance optimises system performance to offer a more proactive approach as opposed to simply a responsive one.

The success of prescriptive maintenance has been made possible through advancements in IoT technology. Legacy and disparate systems in the mining industry often create silos of operation by failing to share key data and endorse interconnectivity. Yet, with IoT technology, the gap between the edge and the core of mining organisations is closed by adding intelligence into the process to further streamline the relevance of interpreted data.

Subsequently, through its ability to create interconnected, interoperable business operations the IoT.nxt solution can improve performance across a company’s business ecosystem. When correctly implemented, IoT.nxt can address the following industry challenges:

  • Lack of visibility into mass flow across the mine from pit to port.
  • Legacy systems on equipment is dated: Modern methods seem out of reach because legacy systems are entrenched and often proprietary, resulting in a lack of insight into mining assets.
  • System downtime is crippling: Downtime caused by unscheduled equipment maintenance causes extremely high overtime and maintenance costs.

With IoT technology, it is never a one-size-fits-all solution. So in utilising Microsoft Azure, IoT.nxt has joined forces with Dell to create an IoT solution that can transform any ecosystem. Through horizontal interconnectivity with the IoT.nxt Raptor intelligent edge gateway and Commander platform visualisation dashboard and Dell’s gateway hardware, integration into all mining assets and critical systems are enabled. This offers users insight into critical systems such as water, air quality and location of personnel and equipment in real-time, aiding the ultimate goal of improving operational efficiency.

Unlocking ROI through failure prediction

In enterprise systems, you have a mean time between repairs so you can proactively do more than just run out to fix the issue. For example, now you can have two to three days where TMM is going to stand, so perhaps service kits can be installed or other steps can be taken to address the issue before it escalates.

Ultimately it comes down to return on investment. It’s not always just the downtime hours – it’s the lost product, the disruptions to operators and human resources that are left standing by waiting. In mining, if an excavator isn’t used, it can affect 3-4 haul trucks, so those operators aren’t being utilised and the haul trucks stand idle, using fuel.

The ROI is a much larger calculation, but it can be achieved more efficiently if you take these bottleneck and downstream factors into account rather than just the hours or tonnes you lost due to an excavator running out of fuel.

The aim of IoT.nxt is to predict failures, then prevent them. So, say an excavator is running low on fuel. The indicator would go on, yet it’s not connected, so nothing is displayed in the control room and the fuel runs out. This means the company would need to organise an order with their supplier, get a bowser, fill it up, and finally resolve the issue with this one excavator.

With the IoT.nxt gateway installed in that excavator, before the indicator for fuel even shows, old production data should provide us with a window of opportunity before it runs empty. Thereby allowing plenty of time for the full preparation side of ordering the fuel, getting it down with a bowser and filling up not only the excavator but any other equipment requiring fuel – hence, optimising the trip.

A shift in strategy to shift gears

At its core, IoT.nxt changes the maintenance and methodology strategy for clients by giving them a direct insight into what’s happening to a specific asset. Yet it does so without disrupting existing controls and instrumentation systems. Instead, marrying them with all other disparate and non-measured points of data.

Additionally, it comes down to the asset management principles of identifying your most critical equipment assets, based on cost, risk, and performance issues. That’s an entry point not just into mining but into any industrial space when in gas and oil. The whole taxonomy of maintenance is we have to do preventive and predictive maintenance on our critical equipment. We can still apply run to fail breakdown maintenance on non-critical equipment, yet it’s all about allocating materials to the right places.

While, ultimately, the IoT.nxt solution will not prevent the failure of equipment it will find and assess all potential maintenance issues before they evolve into failures, allowing for time to plan more comprehensively.

The entire process can effectively be broken down into six steps.

1| Reimagining business processes

The IoT.nxt system is like a diagnostic, providing a real-time condition insight of your assets. We offer the best practice business analytics while considering all current Standard Operating Procedures, processes and workflows within the current ecosystem. This provides relevant insights and operational functionality, as well as leverages automation and integration to create a complete company overview.

2| Avoiding Information overload

In providing the right information to the right people, the IoT.nxt solution can drive more efficient decision making and improve employee accountability.

3| Ready to configure

Our solution is designed to fit the conditions of an industrial environment. That means it can endure even the harshest of conditions and still remain effective in the field. This ensures competitiveness and relevance for the years to come.

4| Connected from edge to cloud

With a flexible, end-to-end solution that connects non-IP based devices through Raptor™ (our intelligent edge gateway) and connecting IP enabled devices to our IoT platform, Commander. Data is then consolidated from all devices to provide a single horizontal view of your entire business ecosystem.

5| Operationalise and uncover the potential

IoT.nxt takes your current systems and optimises them to maximise efficiency. Our technology-agnostic solution far surpasses global industry benchmarks and can be implemented into any industry, any system and any process without disruption. So, you can uncover the full potential of your systems.

6| Repeatedly measure for constant improvement

Our solution is not designed to be set up, implemented and then left alone. Rather, it is designed to allow you to continuously improve your systems and processes by receiving relevant data in real-time, thus allowing you to continuously analyse and change the rules by which you operate to begin to operate like you never have before.

IoT and SCADA Integration

While the IoT market is still in early production, it can coexist with SCADA. IoT is bringing about a wave of new business models and technologies that are changing the landscape of SCADA. However, the SCADA paradigm has always been one that is flexible to industry shifts. To find out more, click here.

It’s still your business. Only better.

To learn more, email [email protected] to find out about our ecosystem and how you could deploy this solution today.

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