Schaeffler solves condition monitoring hurdles

Schaeffler condition monitoring

OPTIME is an out-of-the-box, plug-and-play solution.

The OPTIME wireless online solution helps mining companies to monitor the performance of rotating machinery remotely, without the obstacles usually encountered in other online or offline solutions.

Rotating machinery is part of a mining activity just as there are many parts to a functioning body.

Its performance impacts the rest of the mine operation, making it in a mining company’s best interest to enhance machine productivity and employ condition monitoring as a solution that pre-empts issues. 

While most mine sites have a form of condition monitoring in place, online condition monitoring has historically been expensive to deploy.

When an operator tries to manually collect data for the purposes of condition monitoring, it is apparent that the breadth and depth of a mining operation is virtually impossible to cover.

Not only is offline condition monitoring time consuming and impractical, it also provides just a snapshot of the machine’s health.

Conversely, the cost of online condition monitoring supports its ability to efficiently prevent catastrophic machine failure and improve equipment uptime.

It becomes even more important with commodities such as copper and iron ore reaching record high prices, emphasising the need for mining companies to avoid downtime. 

An online condition monitoring system that’s coupled with analytics can gather data at several points in a day, creating a full view of operations and providing a solid base of meaningful data. 

Schaeffler Australia’s Industry 4.0 and engineering solutions manager, Ben Kang, likens the difference between online and offline condition monitoring to sending an email as opposed to posting a letter.

“That email is distributed straight away, almost instantaneously into your inbox or console,” he says. 

“Similarly, a person going from point to point, machine to machine, to sequentially collect data and then send that in for analysis, is the equivalent of posting that information by snail mail.”

Schaeffler’s condition monitoring solution, OPTIME, can alleviate many of the pain points associated with machine reliability and performance through cost-effective mass condition monitoring. 

It is easy to set up and highly cost efficient for mining operations, without requiring operators to spend much time on the analytics side. 

Historically, cabled systems are complex to install, incurring a high cost when covering a site as vast as an iron ore mine. 

They also require data interpretation, which would call for special expertise and additional expenses. 

“On the other hand, OPTIME is a wireless online solution that ensures the prognosis of rotating equipment reliability is addressed using in-built algorithms for expert diagnostics, without the need for analysis by the customer,” Schaeffler Australia industrial services manager Mark Ciechanowicz explains.

“With these prognostics, customers will have visibility on issues far in advance and also know what to do to resolve them.”

The benefits of OPTIME have been evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Schaeffler consultants or engineers have not been able to get to Australia’s mine sites due to stringent border controls. 

“In 2020, we had cases where our service engineers couldn’t get to site and consequently their condition monitoring systems came to a grinding halt,” Ciechanowicz says. 

“What came out of that experience – and many of our clients took this on board – was that if they had invested in a form of remote condition monitoring, they would be less exposed to these circumstances. 

“And long term, it makes more economic sense because you’re removing those costs of flying or driving a service consultant out to site.”

With OPTIME, operators can conduct remote diagnostics from the point of collection to the reporting without being on site via the OPTIME app and dashboard.

With operational ease at the centre of OPTIME’s design, the solution is further set apart by being an out-of-the-box, plug-and-play solution.

This applies right from the set up and provisioning of gateways and sensors, through to the automatic creation of a dashboard, allowing companies to start viewing data from the get-go.

It is also designed to prevent any external parties from infiltrating the network as OPTIME operates on an independent Wirepas Mesh network.

Users can communicate completely outside of their existing IT infrastructure without worrying about cybersecurity risks. 

On top of this safety focus, OPTIME can monitor hundreds of rotating machines for a few cents per machine per day.

“This is a solution that has been designed and manufactured by a technology company which has its roots in roller bearings,” Kang says.

“All of these algorithms have been developed on top of years of automation, analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence. And they work seamlessly behind the scenes to give customers clear, easy-to-understand insights that they can action instantaneously.”  


This article appeared in the June edition of Australian Mining.

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