Lifting productivity and safety performance through collaboration

Schenk Process's Prolift

Schenck Process is realising the value of collaboration in its development of innovative solutions for the Australian mining industry.

As experts in train loading for mining companies, Schenck Process is always investigating ways it can help its clients be safer, more economical and productive during this process.

By working with leading companies and services groups in the industry, Schenck Process developed a solution, known as ProLift, that removed many of the difficulties involved with the maintenance procedures of a train loading chute change out.

Traditionally, the procedure has posed several risks to site personnel, as well as significant downtime for mining operations.

It has generally involved extensive manual handling, the need for elevated platforms, and the use of four chain blocks to lower the 20-tonne chute from where it was installed to rail level.

According to Schenck Process research and development project group manager Karl Carter, the whole process would usually take around 75 hours to complete, slowing the productivity of some of Australia’s leading miners.

“There was an opportunity there to develop the next phase and improve the duration of the process,” Carter said.

“Schenck Process had an idea to create a tool that enabled the unit to be self-powered, to provide lifting and lowering functionalities to remove the chain blocks and that would move itself in and out of the rail corridor, which aimed to reduce the change-out time from 75 hours to 24 hours.”

As Schenck Process set the groundwork for ProLift, its R&D team realised it couldn’t develop the tool on its own and sought partners to collaborate with on the project.

To support the development, Schenck Process engaged Brisbane-based company CMP Engineers, which provided experience in mobile plant equipment, rail-mounted equipment and lifting equipment.

Schenck Process then involved a client in the iron ore industry to define the company’s requirements for the tool at its Western Australian operations, which led to the trial of an interim solution.

The collaborative team established three familiar areas of mining where it would target operational improvements by using the tool – safety, efficiency and cost improvements.

Following a joint design phase, the parties involved agreed to a solution that comprised a temporary rail transport dolly and a chute transport that would be compatible with the change-out tool. Schenck Process had six months to deliver the finished product.

After a period of due diligence, including testing at the workshop of fabricator Steelstruct, Schenck Process trialled the chute transfer frame and the rail transport dolly at a WA iron ore operation.

The trial received positive feedback from each of the parties involved, with the client now realising significant benefits in terms of safety, cost efficiency and productivity by applying the tool.

Carter described the collaborative process as a “paradigm shift” for the company, adding that Schenck Process was not finished with its development of ProLift just yet.

“There is always room for improvement,” Carter said.

Schenck Process is now exploring concepts to further enhance the safety and efficiency of the chute change-out process, including a quick change-out flange connection, quick disconnect for hydraulic and electrical connections, and enhancement to allow for gate removal.

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