Recognising the future of mining technology

Society’s pursuit to evolve has pushed the boundaries of digital technology.

The mining industry is in the midst of revolutionising how day-to-day tasks are handled through new technology such as sensors and machine-learning. This is referred to as the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

ifm has helped push the envelope of industrial technology for over 50 years. The company provides a wide range of automation technologies that mining companies can use for driverless trucks and other autonomous machines.

The company’s national product and brand manager, Glenn Thornton, is one of the many people from ifm helping to improve the mining industry through the power of IIoT.

“An increasing number of mining companies are seeking higher level efficiencies, improving production throughput and staff safety and gaining an edge over competition,” Thornton tells Australian Mining.

“Collecting, monitoring and analysing information from mining equipment, mining operators can take action in real-time. To have these critical points occur, practical solutions for the digital connection of machinery is required for the collection and use of relevant and important data.

“The basis is to increase efficiency, avoid downtime, optimise processes and increase profitability.”

But how does it work? For ifm it’s simple: Collate the data from sensors located on mining equipment and use it to derive facts and figures that help with machine maintenance, repair and production levels.

Thornton says the information starts with advanced sensor technology that generates large amounts of data that is transferred through all levels.

“This is generated from the machine as fixed plant or a mobile machine that is then sent to the control system in production and also to company administration infrastructure such as ERP,” Thornton says.

“In other words, solutions allow continuous flow of information from the shop floor (machine infrastructure) to the top floor (IT infrastructure).

ifm sees the mining industry is reasonably confident with the adoption of new data centric technology that utilises the industrial internet.

“The industrial internet was born more or less out of commercial systems some 20+ years ago. With the evolution of technology, industrial Ethernet has proven to be extremely robust in this environment,” Thornton says.

“It’s the biggest thing that’s going in industry. It’s the ability for companies to advance into a technologically competitive environment and be able to improve efficiencies.

“Some amazing application within this would be something that’s going to be starting with the information that’s been gathered to create a smarter machine – a more productive machine.”

And while a large number of mining companies are making the switch to digital technology, Thornton encourages more companies to align their operations with the future.

“For many industries, the view is about not only being efficient and competitive, it’s also about future proofing their business which entails a mind shift in the practices being utilised today,” he says.

“The requirement of a more visionary outlook to take the first step towards change is imperative but may seem daunting to many business owners, plant supervisors, engineers and so on.

“However, it isn’t such a big step to begin with and can be quite low cost to have a simple dabble with the technology.”

ifm will present the inaugural Excellence in IIoT Application Award at this year’s Australian Mining Prospect Awards to express this commitment to driving mining forward with technology.

The Prospect Awards have covered a wide range of disciplines in the Australian mining and minerals industry since 2004.

For Thornton, the ifm sponsored award provides an opportunity to showcase companies which provide the most innovative digital technology for mining.

Applications for the Excellence in IIoT Application Award need to involve projects that have been introduced after January 1 2019.

This article will appear in the April edition of Australian Mining.

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