The mining industry is now being presented with the next generation of operational monitoring systems for engine-powered plant.
The systems represent a big step forward on what has been currently available and some equipment owners and operators, in the mining industry, who have had an advance look at the equipment, are regarding it as a real step up, not only because of its new capabilities, but the realistic and practical costs.
For owners and operators of engine powered equipment on mining sites, such as Haulpacks, heavy earthmoving equipment, excavators, cranes, materials handling equipment, generators and compressors, there is now a way forward to far better management of that equipment.
The development of this new age highly sophisticated monitoring equipment has been carried out by a U.K. based company, Dytecna Ltd., which has specialised in developing heavy duty vehicle tracking and monitoring equipment for the UK Defence.
Dytecna’s sophisticated technology has been described as far ahead of other equipment presently on the market.
“For the Australian mining industry, a recent study has revealed the need for a range of tracking functions, with a view to providing security controls as well as an ability to anticipate breakdowns, reduce maintenance and repair costs as well as significantly reduce down time,” said Andy Brittain, the manager for Dytecna’s Australian operations.
“We have developed a ‘black box’ system that can monitor the mechanical condition and health of equipment and then report on the condition and performance, by sending data to an off-job-site based computer system, using communication systems such as Global Messaging Systems (GMS) telephone technology and, where such telephone technology is not available, the Global Satellite (GPS) technology,” added Mr Brittain.
In addition to the important issue of operational monitoring, the Dytecna system’s diagnostic information enables identification of plant problems and failures, without the need for service or mechanical personnel to visit the machine at a mine site. This can represent a substantial minimisation of the cost of ownership.
Off-site monitoring and diagnostics and the ‘on board’ retention of operational history means that both preventative and remedial action can be communicated to the operator and those responsible for maintenance, in order to minimise plant down time.
If a site visit is necessary, most of the time consuming diagnostic work will have already been carried out and the correct spares can be made available. Servicemen or repair crews, if needed, can then arrive at the mine site, knowing what the problem is, and, with the right parts, thus saving a return journey to base for the appropriate parts.
“Typical of the functions that can be monitored are engine temperature, oil pressure, hydraulic oil pressure and temperature, contamination of engine oil and or hydraulic oil, idling speed, engine speed, transmission and drive line performance as well as issues relating to fuel e.g. consumption and quality.
“Many other key operational functions can be monitored as well.
“Dytecna’s ‘black box’ offers the advantage of more reporting functions than competing units.
“Whereas, say ten inputs from monitoring points is the standard for most monitoring equipment, the Dytecna unit can accept 26 inputs from monitoring points,” explained Mr Britain.
Despite the relatively large capacity of the unit, its capability may not be sufficient for some complex pieces of equipment. In the event of a need for more input capability, multiple units can be installed and linked by their own dedicated CAN Bus network.
In short, Dytecna is offering advanced state-of-the-art integration of microprocessor based data logging, GPS tracking and GSM communication.
Where necessary the Dytecna units can link directly into vehicle information systems, such as the CAN Bus J1939, as used on most modern engine controllers, and, the Dytecna units can then extract operational data without the need for additional sensors.
Alternatively, for vehicles without Electronic Control Units (ECUs), sensors can be wired directly the monitoring equipment.
The arrival of Dytecna’s VHUMS unit is not unlike putting contractors, and plant owners, at the control desk with ‘Star Wars’ style technology.
Before deploying the VHUMS systems, trialling in harsh conditions included locations such as the Sahara and very demanding areas in Morocco … where conditions are dusty and temperatures can get up to 55 degrees C., explained Mr Brittain.
By monitoring usage history and trending the operating parameters, owners and operators of mining plant can be notified of the optimum service or repair timing.
It is clear that while this new ‘Star Wars’ style technology of satellite navigation, tracking, immobilisation and monitoring equipment provides excellent capabilities for security purposes its additional capabilities to monitor various functions is providing a welcome advance for an industry that has laboured in a technology vacuum for some time.
*Rod Lindblade is the principal of Northfield Communications Pty Ltd — Business-to-Business advertising and journalism.
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