It didn’t take a six-year federal study to show that miners want fluid analysis equipment on-site for speedy but comprehensive results as part of their equipments’ preventive maintenance programs. But that’s what a 2004 U.S. Department of Energy study concluded, and what an increasing number of players in the mining industry, including service provider Megatrol Inc. and equipment provider P&H Mining Equipment, are moving to implement.
“To stay maximally productive, mines need real-time information they can act on as part of their daily planning instead of a periodic checkup,” said Tom Barnes, product support manager, P&H Mining Equipment, “Equipment is bigger and more complex; mines are more remote; and technical help is harder to get, especially in emerging markets.”
Fluid analysis is vital to machine health, but collecting and sending hundreds of lubricant samples each month to an off-site laboratory is costly at more than $20 per sample. That cost is multiplied when mine managers have to wait for results, anywhere from days to weeks.
Real-time on-site analysis is now eliminating the wait and reducing the cost. In 10 minutes or less operators can have comprehensive analysis showing metal wear and contamination before equipment loss and downtime become catastrophic, allowing mine managers to repair their equipment faster and get it back in service more cost effectively than ever.
Jon Rose, who has 40 years of experience in the mining industry as owner of Megatrol Inc., a provider of proactive solutions for efficient mining equipment management and maintenance, said “An extra hour of operation can lead to very expensive downtime and that is a prime reason for on-site oil analysis.”
For real-time analysis and repeatability of data that can help maximize mining equipment production uptime, Megatrol turned to On-Site Analysis Inc. (OSA), a global leader of used-fluids diagnostic analysis technologies. OSA was formed to address the market need for faster, comprehensive, laboratory quality testing and consequently developed the MicroLab on-site analyzer. Essentially a “lab in a box,” the on-site analyzer was developed to produce lab quality results in a smaller package and with an easy to use touch screen interface.
The analyzer can identify the presence of 20 metals, measure physical properties such as glycol, TBN, soot (diesel engines only), fuel dilution, water, nitration, and oxidation, and also measure viscosity. It has an integrated particle counter and provides comparisons against expected equipment wear rate curves similar to off-site labs, unlike hand-held analyzers that are limited to single tests like viscosity.
After analysis is complete, the equipment delivers a diagnostic report that includes suggested preventive steps. The data can be downloaded to a password-protected Web site for review from anywhere in the world. Results also are e-mailed as an alert if an abnormal finding is discovered.
Megatrol is successfully using two OSA labs at a mine in Gillette, Wyoming, USA, testing 600 to 800 fluid samples monthly from a fleet of several hundred vehicles including trucks, dozers, scrapers, and support equipment. According to Rose, such fast test results from analysis can save an engine, transmission or a major bearing on key mine equipment.
“With timely on-site analysis and repair, a high-volume mine site could save thousands by avoiding unscheduled repairs and downtime,” said Rose. “By replacing a $5 hose in time, for instance, you could save a $120,000 engine or $70,000 transmission.”
Every minute of downtime is scrutinized and any unscheduled downtime must be minimized, particularly on key equipment that can adversely affect production if that equipment breaks down, said Barnes.
P&H has added on-site fluid analysis to its Prevail Remote Health Monitoring Program, which expedites equipment diagnosis, maintenance, and repair through its MinePro Services network, and is starting to roll it out globally. The PRHM program allows managers and technicians to monitor all key equipment vitals online.
“Working with OSA, we’ve added on-site oil and hydraulic fluid analysis, plus an ability to track historic component wear trends with flexible online reporting to our ability to monitor vitals like temperature and equipment fault logs,” said Barnes. “This gives mine managers and technicians near real-time ability to analyze, diagnose, predict, and respond to needed repair from a one-stop, secure website interface, or to receive critical email alerts. It also allows mine operations to benchmark and develop trends which lead to optimized performance and best practices.”
According to Barnes, the availability of more immediate results allows operators to streamline preventive maintenance programs and optimize routine maintenance tasks and oil change intervals. The improvement to machine availability and utilization alone can significantly improve the operation’s bottom line and has the additional benefit of reducing disposal costs and environmental impact.
As a result, “mines could achieve ROI in less than one year with the Prevail Remote Health Monitoring Program, including on-site fluid analysis,” said Barnes.