Digital technology is paving the way for the mining industry’s next era, and the experts at Digital Twinning Australia are providing companies with the opportunity to unlock a full suite of financial benefits in the virtual world.
Are we living in a simulation? It’s a question that has remained central to the debates of science fiction moviegoers for decades.
While it’s not likely that we are living in The Matrix, many industries have taken advantage of Industry 4.0’s data-focussed and automated technologies to create virtual reproductions of physical working environments through digital twinning.
At its core, digital twin technology replicates physical assets through a digital duplication that incorporates sensor data to provide detailed operating information about efficiency and wear levels in real time.
This provides an enhanced level of understanding towards the reliability, lifespan and uptime of machinery – referred to as legacy asset management – which prevents maintenance costs, reduces break-fix cycles and catastrophic failures that disrupt operations.
The company builds its digital twinning services using common off-the-shelf software to create Industry 4.0 technology, capable of receiving operating data from sensors in a self-managed Digital Twin Platform (DTP).
Using cloud-based technology, the DTP can import live data from machines, pipes and structures for a company to access through its digital replication of a physical asset.
For mining, this can be expanded to an entire site’s operation, visualising core operating systems down to lowest maintainable critical unit/s.
As data stores build and evidence becomes accessible, Digital Twinning Australia implements machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver predictive suggestions to keep sites running at potential. Being able to predict maintenance reduces costs.
“Digital twinning is part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 revolution,” Digital Twinning Australia chief executive officer Genene Kleppe tells Australian Mining.
“The purpose of IoT is dual: it’s to bring together a reduction in cost and to uncover new revenue streams.”
The ethos surrounding these revenue streams continues down the supply chain of an operation.
According to Kleppe, some of these areas involve a revamp to age-old methods to even the least expected fields.
“Mining companies engage suppliers to do the work that needs to be done, they expect their suppliers to deliver improvements, be smart and add value,” Kleppe explains. “Digital twinning technologies allow suppliers to deliver on these expectations.
“For brownfield constructors and maintenance service providers having a digital twin is the difference between proactively planning remediation and not being able to respond to a breakdown simply because resources are deployed elsewhere.”
“Concreters doing works at mining sites could be putting sensors into concrete footings for example. This could enable them to pour concrete and uncover all the environmental and deterioration factors through sensor technology. That opens a whole new revenue stream for them.”
Acting as a virtual counterpart to a real-world mine, digital twin technology has proven its worth during the COVID-19 pandemic, where fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) air travel has faced global shutdowns.
Travel bans have severely impacted traditional methods of maintenance for mining machinery, which are usually conducted by a team of engineers alongside maintenance personnel.
This is where digital twinning technology can rescue an operation from a potential shutdown.
“In a twinning situation, you can actually have those engineers located anywhere in the world and all be looking at exactly the same thing,” Kleppe says.
Rather than simply monitoring data from just a specific component in a mining operation, digital twinning allows for a more holistic approach, e.g. systems level analysis.
“We’re at a crossroads in the mining industry. Mining organisations collect an enormous amount of data, but that data is collected principally at a component level,” Kleppe explains.
“With digital twinning, it’s not just the pump – it’s all the mechanisms in the pump as well as the purpose of the pump. It’s comprehensive measurement focussed on operational impact.
“What a digital twin does is show you how different systems are interacting, which ones are redundant, which ones are useful. It’s a different way of thinking, looking at and using data.”
This article also appears in the July edition of Australian Mining.