Flexco moves conveyor inspections into the digital age

Flexco’s conveyor auditing process has been enhanced by the introduction of an app specifically designed for conducting onsite belt inspections.

The Flexco audit app, which was introduced in the second half of 2017, is allowing the company’s experts to provide real-time assessments of conveyor systems at mine sites, helping operators resolve issues that are identified much quicker than in the past.

Turning the archaic pen-and-paper inspection method into a distant memory, the Flexco app is delivering a new level of efficiency for the teams maintaining the materials handling equipment.

Historically it would take several weeks for mining companies to properly analyse findings from a conveyor system audit. With the Flexco audit app, these miners are now discussing the assessments before the Flexco field expert has even left the mine site, according to WA sales manager Adam Wright.

“With the audit app we can essentially press send at the end of the day and the report will be emailed through to the maintenance supervisor or management on site. We can then talk the mine’s maintenance team through the entire audit while we are still on site,” Wright told Australian Mining.

Developed by Flexco’s global heavy duty team, the audit app is applicable to mining and any other industry that uses conveyor systems for materials handling activities.

Flexco field specialists focus on finding the root cause of any conveyor system challenges before they become serious problems. The app then allows the specialist to input the information into an easy-to-read report, including information about how to solve the issues, for mining management to be able to easily and quickly implement changes to limit the chance of unscheduled downtime.

To reach these outcomes, a Flexco auditor, accompanied by the app on a tablet, will walk along the conveyor belt at the mine site with a representative from the mining company’s maintenance team.

The app is stacked with industry-leading features for inspections, including conveyor system ratings, diagnostic issues, attachment of photographs and product information, which generate data on the conveyor system’s condition.

This information is compiled into in-depth reports once the belt conveyor system walk has been completed for both the mine’s and Flexco’s reference.

Wright said it was important that Flexco’s field specialists work closely onsite with mine’s crew to complete the conveyor system inspections.

“It works really well if the maintenance personnel  and Flexco field specialist develop a strong partnership on conveyor system audits, which we advise to be consistently scheduled,” Wright said.

“What Flexco will do is highlight the conveyor system’s flaws, and then recommend how to improve on the issues, including how to develop better strategies for scheduling maintenance activities.

“The audits will essentially provide the miner with a digital, real-time inspection that explains what they need to fix or upgrade to deliver the productivity gains they are targeting.”

An effective audit of a mine’s conveyor system often leads to a reduction in operational costs and maintenance activities for the miner, leading to this increase in productivity.

Wright reinforced the importance of a Flexco field specialist being onsite when the conveyor system is operational to achieve an accurate assessment of the equipment.

He said the Flexco specialist would need to spend up to two days walking every operational conveyor on some bigger mines, such as the iron ore sites in the Pilbara.

“The ideal time for us to go would be for a day or two when the plant is running and then for up to a day when the plant is shut down,” Wright said. “By the time the plant is shut down we will have collected the information we need to analyse what it is doing to provide suggestions.”

The app can also help mining companies with the identification of components on their conveyor systems, whether it is manufactured by Flexco or another materials handling company.

Wright said it was common for mines to lose track of the parts they have on their conveyor systems and where the components were sourced from.

“We are not only capturing what’s on the system and making recommendations, but also the part numbers on the system and then cataloguing that information,” Wright said.

“This provides more in-depth information that has the ability to help from a procurement and purchasing side of things as well.”

As the Flexco audit app is demonstrating, having a third-party conveyor specialist equipped with industry-leading technology regularly assess a belt line can prove to be a crucial element of an operation’s productivity strategy.

This article also appears in the May edition of Australian Mining.