VEGA continuous condition monitoring lights up the Pilbara

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The VEGABAR 38 monitors gearboxes at a major iron ore mine.

VEGA has rolled out its latest innovation in sensor technology at a major iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with more diagnostics and a simple LED status indicator all integrated into the VEGABAR 38. 

Up in the Pilbara, where every second of uptime counts and predictive maintenance is king, Current Engineering Solutions chooses VEGA above all else for its equipment sensor needs.  

To begin realising the value of the VEGABAR 38, Current Engineering Solutions has implemented four units across several gearboxes at the mine – two for tank level measurement, and two for oil pressure and temperature. 

Current Engineering Solutions senior electrical engineer Paul Smith says one of the great benefits of the sensor is its simple design.  

“Where your standard instruments will need condition monitoring to take place every week or so, the VEGABARs have a light display to quickly tell you the equipment’s health,” Smith tells Australian Mining.  

“In this way, your asset’s actually telling you when it’s going to fail, as opposed to really having to look deeper into the diagnostics which takes time.” 

The quick and easy nature of the sensor allows any operator to check for the green light – or any of the other 256 configurable colours – to ensure the equipment is running smoothly.  

This saves time and money on hiring an expert to travel to site at a moment’s notice when something unexpectedly goes wrong.  

The mine’s nearest city is Karratha, at least a two-hour drive away. In practice, that’s potentially two hours of lost production should something malfunction on equipment like the gearboxes, which Current Engineering Solutions is employed to maintain.  

Smith says the VEGABAR is complementary to an operation’s usual monitoring practices, but certainly reduces the risk of an emergency call-out. 

“Condition monitoring will have a place, but the VEGABAR is the same as having continuous condition monitoring, just for the cost of a sensor,” he says.  

“I think it’s really something that will distinguish VEGA from the rest.” 

THE VEGABAR 38 is a simple tool with several benefits.

VEGA area manager for north-western Australia, Andrew van de Sande, says the sensor’s LED light bar was the simple fix the industry didn’t realise it needed.  

“The status indicator is fantastic. It gives you an instant signal without having to check a gauge or hook into a system,” van de Sande says. 

“These operators don’t want to be looking at a gauge and trying to read something and writing it down. Operators can now walk in and see green, green, green, red.”  

But even more important, from VEGA’s point of view, is the ability to provide a range of information through one easy-to-install device.  

“What we were wanting to achieve was to ascertain pressure and temperature out of the same instrument. Negating the need for multiple pieces of equipment,” van de Sande says. 

This capability was achieved using a three-wire design, allowing more power to enable a wider range of transmissible data. For those looking for simpler diagnostics, however, the sensor also comes in a two-wire version. 

The VEGABAR is powered by an IO link master which allows for those multiple pieces of information to be transferred.  

Smith says the multiple functions of the sensor allow for not only the removal of additional units, but the removal of all the potentially expensive accessories that come with them.  

“With the IO link functionality, it’s not just saving on two devices for the pressure and temperature. You’re also saving on two runs of cable, two control points and all the programming configuration as well,” Smith says.

“You’re effectively getting two sensors for the price of one.”

Once installed, the VEGABAR continues to prove useful with its Bluetooth connectivity.  

VEGA’s condition monitoring app allows users to plug and play, and van de Sande says it’s been designed to make their lives as easy as possible.  

“It’s as simple as opening an app, hooking up via Bluetooth and configuring the sensor to your heart’s content, and then walk away whistling,” he says.  

“We can set these up in a matter of minutes, whereas previously it would have taken operators much more tinkering to gauge their equipment’s status. 

“The app even has a demonstration mode so you can familiarise yourself with the instrument before you hook up to one live.” 

Of course, sensors like these aren’t only designed with time and money in mind. Safety is at the heart of VEGA’s business, which has been built upon a culture of family values.  

Rather than helping to learn where things have gone wrong on a mine site, van de Sande says the company is striving to build a reputation which reduces incidents in the first place. 

“It brings customers back into the realm of being a proactive maintenance department, rather than a reactive one,” he says.  

“The enemy of safety is an unplanned break in work, so once we start implementing proactive instrumentation to let us know when issues are about to occur, we start seeing our TRIFR (total recordable injury frequency rate) begin to drop.” 

The VEGABAR 38 uses an LED status indicator to alert operators.

An ex-tradesman with years’ experience on mine sites, van de Sande is thrilled with the progress VEGA has shown in its offering.  

“I’m proud to say a lot of VEGA’s products are now in that proactive range so that we can generate a work order before the equipment even nears failure,” he says. 

“We’re certainly kicking goals into the 21st century and bringing on that ethos of ‘smart mines’ which a lot of the larger companies are driving these days.” 

For these reasons of safety and being proactive – if not for the simple ease with which operators can go about their jobs – Smith says the VEGABARs have already become a big hit at the mine.  

“The guys on site are very supportive and they see it as a game changer; likewise, as do I,” Smith says.  

This article appears in the October issue of Australian Mining Magazine.

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