IM 2021 January 21 | Page 46


Embedding expertise

Weir ’ s new Cavex 2 hydrocyclones , equipped with Synertrex , are automatically alerting operators to roping or blockage conditions ahead of time
COVID-19 may prove to be the catalyst to move more maintenance oversight into the cloud and beyond , Dan Gleeson reports

The influx of digital solutions into the mine

maintenance space has come with excitement as well as trepidation .
For mine owners and operators , the potential to react to near real-time information from equipment presents a massive opportunity to reduce downtime and , therefore , boost productivity .
For mine maintenance professionals , the concern is that digitalising the maintenance workflow will cut jobs and put control into the hands of machines . Yet , the underlying reason many of these solutions have gained traction in the sector is that the industry is short of the skills needed to efficiently maintain process plants on a 24-7 basis . These hardware , software , cloud- and edge-based solutions are trying to emulate the tasks personnel across the plant have previously carried out to fill these gaps .
The solutions are embedding the expertise mine maintenance professionals have routinely exhibited to ‘ fire fight ’ or prevent situations from occurring , allowing those same people to concentrate on analysing bigger datasets to make more fundamental changes to the mineral process plant workflow .
IM found more than a few examples to back that opinion up .
Enabling equipment efficacy
“ Synertrex ® is an enabler for our customers to run their equipment better , for our service teams to offer improved service and maintenance cycles , and for operations to run with increased process performance .”
Stephen Marshall , Head of Engineering Operations at Weir Minerals , has seen these qualities first-hand over the last two-and-a-bit years , as have the miners that have subscribed to Synertrex .
Since its launch in 2018 , Synertrex ’ s use has provided many high-profile accounts of equipment failure prevention , improved service interval consistency , process performance boosts and more on a variety of Warman ® pumps ; Cavex ® hydrocyclones ; GEHO ® PD pumps ; and Enduron ® high pressure grinding rolls , screens and crushers .
Using a combination of Microsoft Azure-backed cloud computing , smart sensors and a tailored digital interface , Synertex continues to evolve , with Marshall keen to reveal the latest developments when speaking to IM .
The company is busy leveraging the platform ’ s three core elements to monitor equipment at multiple sites and provide advanced warnings about impending issues to customers , especially those in remote locations or where personnel may not be on hand to troubleshoot issues .
This capability has become even more important during the pandemic and – catalysed by COVID-19 – Weir is investing further in its remote monitoring service offering .
“ We ’ re in the process of planning and rolling out , in 2021 , control centres where we will have full-time staff monitoring regions and sites ,” Marshall said . These staff will interact with Weir service teams to make sure maintenance cycles are correctly scheduled and followed , while identifying potential issues that might affect productivity or performance on individual items of equipment should they go untreated .
“ This goes as far as developing detailed dashboards for online condition monitoring ,” he said . “ Instead of a person walking up to a site and
having to place their monitoring equipment onto a bearing housing to determine its condition , for instance , we are putting in place the ability to do that from a centralised online location .”
This is where Synertrex is enabling plant personnel to change their maintenance processes , shifting teams away from the reactive routines they are used to into a proactive environment that can result in improved equipment uptime and performance .
The first two remote centres – set to open in the March quarter – will be in South Africa and Chile .
“ The experience we gain from setting up and configuring those two will form the basis for a broader rollout across all the main mining regions , probably over the balance of 2021 ,” Marshall said . “ This will provide equipment monitoring visibility that would otherwise have been provided by site visits we were carrying out prior to COVID-19 .”
The enabling qualities of Synertex go beyond this , providing an entry into a process plant ’ s existing data handling and distribution infrastructure on site .
“ Hand-in-hand with the sensors and the digital infrastructure we are putting in place to carry out remote monitoring , we are naturally providing the capability of feeding all of that data into the customers ’ local DCS ( distributed control system ) or SCADA systems ,” Marshall said .
This allows mine sites to leverage the data Weir maintenance personnel have to hand to troubleshoot equipment performance through their own localised control system protocols .
Such integration uses industry-standard communication procedures and benefits from Synertrex ’ s high-speed data transfer , according to Marshall .
This option is already in use at certain mine sites , and Marshall says it continues to evolve with the help of more sophisticated and affordable sensors that , when combined with that high-speed data transfer , provide condition monitoring updates at more regular intervals .
“ This will enable us to gain information about how our equipment performs , not only from a predictive maintenance cycle point of view but also from a process performance perspective ,” he said .
Weir is using this process performance data to improve the operation of its Cavex hydrocyclones .
44 International Mining | JANUARY 2021