Avoiding the cost of poor condition monitoring

Stainless steel mounting pads can be applied to a machine, bringing each sensor online in under five minutes.

If ever an activity needed improving, it’s condition monitoring for mining machinery. Enter Schaeffler’s OPTIME solution: An intuitive, interconnected and inexpensive way to save businesses time and money on the upkeep of all their moving parts. 

The wireless OPTIME solution allows mining operations to stay on top of day-to-day activities with the confidence that all machinery is running smoothly. 

Schaeffler industrial services manager Mark Ciechanowicz explains how important it is to maintain machinery in the current economic environment. 

“Downtime costs are a major factor, especially when iron ore prices are at an all-time high. In these times you don’t want to be caught in a situation where the plant is down or not running while you need to keep up with production demand,” Ciechanowicz tells Australian Mining.

“That’s really what we’re trying to eliminate and OPTIME affords customers that time to be proactive rather than reactive.”

OPTIME is a wireless online solution that provides users with a prognosis of their machines’ working status. Through simple stainless steel mounting pads, each sensor can be applied to a machine and bring the user prognostic results in no more than five minutes. 

Once attached, each sensor interconnects through to a gateway which sends the data to Schaeffler’s cloud for analysis using specially developed algorithms. 

The interconnected nature of the sensors and gateway allow for a completely remote and secure network, removing any cybersecurity risk or concerns about the network affecting nearby IT infrastructure. 

This technology is called a Wirepas Mesh network. As Ciechanowicz explains, the network caters to operations of any size as the sensors all talk to each other. 

“It’s literally plug and play out of the box. Once the gateway is powered up, the sensors can then be provisioned to find their own path to the gateway. It really lends itself to long distance communication,” Ciechanowicz says. 

“We’re talking 100 metres between sensors, as well as between the sensors and the gateways. But that doesn’t mean we’re restricted to 100 metres because each sensor acts as a repeater. You could in fact have sensors that are hundreds of metres from the gateway.”

The OPTIME solution is incredibly intuitive and only relies on the user providing as much meta data as possible. The more meta data – in this case, information about each machine – the more effective the technology will be. 

Anything from the type of bearings to the number of gear teeth will help OPTIME in alerting customers to mechanical problems such as imbalances, misalignments, mechanical looseness, lubrication issues and more. 

The technology is controlled through a mobile app which is easily downloadable from your chosen app store. From the app, the user can input meta data, view the status of tens, hundreds or thousands of machines and get on top of any maintenance activities which may be coming up.

With a lead time of up to two weeks, OPTIME will be saving customers time and money by removing any painful downtime waits for parts or people to arrive. 

“A lot of mining sites in Australia, they are remote, and this poses a lot of challenges,” Ciechanowicz says. 

“One is in getting the inventory or the spare parts to site if they don’t have them in stock. Two is getting the human resources, whether internally or subcontracting, deployed to site.”

The interconnected nature of the sensors and gateway allows for a remote and secure network.

OPTIME has two options to choose from, depending on the user’s application, but only one option for battery life – five years. 

“The other thing that is key is the way it has been designed from the ground up, and they’ve designed a cost-effective solution. Our battery life is very competitive. These wireless products usually only give up to three years, so five years is remarkable,” Ciechanowicz says. 

As for the two options, both measure temperature and vibration, but the second option provides the most comprehensive analysis. 

“One is the AW-3 which is a sensor that measures vibration and temperature that goes up to 3000 hertz max frequency. And the other sensor is the AW-5 which goes up to 5000 hertz,” Ciechanowicz says. 

“We believe the higher the frequency you go the more advanced prognosis you have of impending doom – that is, in a nutshell, why we lean towards a higher frequency.”

At a time when COVID-19 restrictions have disallowed so many regular on-site maintenance activities, the OPTIME solution is perfect for remote conditioning monitoring for mine sites of any size or location. 

Remote condition monitoring is increasingly becoming the norm, and it’s thanks to Schaeffler’s OPTIME solution that such activities can take place. 

With an ability to integrate seamlessly into any operation, working side by side with existing infrastructure, there’s little reason not to take advantage of this intuitive, interconnected and inexpensive monitoring solution.

This story also appears in the July issue of Australian Mining.

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