BHP’s BOS program empowers 80,000 problem solvers across the organization.

Technicians can now observe and share data in real-time accelerating optimization rates

By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

Professionals learn from collaboration. Sharing their experience and bouncing ideas off one another allows them to think through problems with like-minded individuals. New approaches to work are allowing front-line managers to share notes (and photos) about breakdowns and repairs with colleagues halfway around the world either in real-time or saved as reference material for when anyone in the company encounters similar problems.

With the constant pursuit of continuous improvement, maintenance practices always garner attention. The costs and knock-on effects on availability and productivity can be profound. Extending the life of equipment or improving availability by a few percentage points can save a mining operation or a mill tens of millions of dollars.

For years now, mining companies have been collecting and analyzing a wealth of data and using digital twins to consider different operating parameters. Maintenance has benefited immensely from this practice, and data analysis is now being used to improve operational performance.

Sharing the Benefits of Standardization and Digitization

Speaking at the Bank of America SmartMine conference at the end of June, BHP’s Chief Technical Officer Laura Tyler explained how innovation at the world’s largest mining company, coupled with digital data, has driven improvement and changed the way BHP works every day. This practice has been a major contributor to the company’s consistent operational performance over the last few years, Tyler explained. “We have been working on the BHP Operating System (BOS) since 2017,” Tyler said. “Our goal was to create a way of working that makes improvement central to everyone’s role in the pursuit of operational excellence, taking inspiration from the leading carmakers such as Toyota and the Toyota method.”

The BOS methodology builds on foundations that BHP has built over the previous decades, including 1SAP implementation, increasing digitization, implementation of centers of excellence and its more recent move to the cloud, Tyler explained. “It marks a fundamental shift in leadership, organizational capability and employee empowerment, and it is our most important lever to build organizational resilience and grow value,” Tyler said.

Together with the power of data and technology, BOS is making BHP safer, more reliable and more productive, and it helped BHP carve out about $1.3 billion in cost savings and revenue uplift in the last year alone. “This is a result of the BOS principles and practices, focused on our target to deliver our production commitments and increase margins on every single ton,” Tyler said. “This includes more efficient maintenance practices and higher productivity across the business.”

These improvements were owned by an empowered front line across our Minerals Americas and Minerals Australia assets through the BOS routines that BHP put in place, Tyler explained. “The company approached the practice in two ways,” Tyler said. “We look at it top-down, where we build a digital twin for each of our assets to model improvement along the value chain and identify bottlenecks. And, bottom-up, where the BOS effectively creates 80,000 problem solvers across BHP’s business globally to improve safety and productivity, but it is underwritten by in-house innovations and applications that provide the interface for people on the ground to execute and improve their work.

Many ideas start on the front line with people who operate BHP’s assets every day. “They are the ones that are often best-placed to determine how to standardize the work processes and how to share the innovative ways of working,” Tyler said. “A great example is the standardized work tools that we rolled out on any repetitive tasks across all of our Australian and South American operations. We started with maintenance because of the sheer significant spend there and the opportunity to put it into the already structured nature of work that maintenance is. This benefits equipment availability and reliability, or mean time between failures, both of which are material factors to achieve our production targets.”

To build a fully integrated BOS, Tyler said BHP deployed a global toolkit that leverages innovative market solutions and builds on those existing pockets of digital maturity across the business. “This app then provides the frontline maintainers and operators with an interface to follow the work instructions on how to do the activity, for example a truck maintenance activity, where they can upload the detailed equipment information as they execute the work, including examples such as photos or notes or whatever would be required for future work,” Tyler said. “They can raise a maintenance notification for follow-up and, importantly, input improvement and suggestions in real-time, while they are doing the task. These are fed back to site improvement teams, which accelerates the velocity of continuous improvement across BHP’s operations.”

BHP asset data is wired together through its 1SAP system. The company can directly compare data and process improvement between the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance mines in Queensland, Australia, the Escondida mine in Chile and the Western Australia iron ore fleets in real-time. “Best practices can be analyzed and spread quickly between the assets,” Tyler said. “Through the in-field app, about 12,000 maintenance activities are completed every month and more than 2,000 improvement ideas are raised. The standardized work app picks up those ideas and those ways of working, and improves the future ways of working. This approach, we believe, all wired through 1SAP, is a competitive advantage for BHP, driven by technology, making our frontline work safer and more productive.”

Through standardizing processes enabled by digital solutions, Tyler said that standardized work activities have yielded significant reductions in effort by driving consistent, quality outcomes. “We have also delivered about $200 million in value to BHP over the past two years, through reductions in maintenance costs and increases in production brought by increased equipment availability and mean time between failures,” Tyler said. “For example, the introduction of standardized work on one of our Hitachi excavators has reduced labor hours allocated to a 16-week service by over 25%, from 90 hours to 65 hours.”

Redesigning and improving how the work is done allows BHP to be more flexible and diverse in hiring for these operational maintainer roles. “As we eliminate or redesign tasks that have historically relied upon physical strength, we can change the way that we work,” Tyler said. “Given the safety, diversity and productivity benefits delivered so far, we are deploying the standardized work apps across all maintenance areas and we are trialing it at our iron ore rail operations to see how we can implement it through production as well.”

BHP is also using innovation with its data and systems in what it calls Total Equipment Strategies for its critical operating systems,” Tyler explained. “Initially applied to mobile fleets, we have now successfully extended it to our fixed plants,” Tyler said. “Total Equipment Strategies revisit the maintenance and asset integrity strategies for the critical pieces of equipment in our operations. Based on a mathematical analysis of the breakdowns, the maintenance patterns, and OEM recommendations, it delivers a recalibration of the maintenance strategies, resets the work orders in the systems and assesses the critical parts listing with the intent to increase availability and reliability, and reduce maintenance and inventory holding costs.”

At BHP’s Newman iron operation in Western Australia, the mobile Total Equipment Strategies project for excavators helped to extend the average equipment life by 40% and delivered an availability uplift of 2%. “The outcome was 3.5 years of extra life for the equipment, which may not actually seem like a lot but helped to achieve capital productivity by deferral of $80 million over five years,” Tyler said.

BHP plans to roll out these innovations and learnings at all of its new assets and major projects soon, capturing benefits from day one of production. 

Improving Reliability

For Komatsu, Reliability Solutions is one stream of its Mining Solutions suite. It collects and analyzes the data coming off of mining machines and offers ideas on how to improve operations. “Komatsu is uniquely positioned to combine equipment product knowledge, digital technology and data analytics, to form a partnership to optimize asset performance and evolve maintenance practices,” said Simon van Wegen, director of mining solutions, customer success, Komatsu. “Data connectivity is required as part of this solution and Komatsu can provide the telemetry technology that uses existing sensors to make the data available to the mine operator, as well as Komatsu’s network of monitoring experts, who are the face of the collaborative partnership.” Mine operators would need to reach out to their local Komatsu Distributor for more information on this solution.

One common misconception is that mine operators will have less control over their maintenance operation and machine data when implementing this service, van Wegen explained. The reality is quite the opposite. “We partner closely with our customers to be part of their day-to-day operation, with a combination of remote and front-line engagement,” van Wegen said. “Our aim is to help customers reach their goals and develop world-class maintenance and asset management programs. The mine operators see what we see, and we help them get more out of what the data is telling them. Their success is our success.”

The Reliability Solutions goals align with the goals of the mines, including:

• Eliminate costly unplanned maintenance and live work that puts personnel in harm’s way;

• Accelerate maintenance activities by providing insights and coaching to those performing the work; and

• Extend component life and maintenance intervals through condition-based maintenance.

The data also provides a signature when equipment is operated outside of its design limits. “We can detect this as early as possible via onboard logic and we can provide real time digital coaching and feedback to operators to address these issues proactively,” van Wegen said.

Reviewing where this technology currently stands today, van Wegen said it’s the people that get him most excited about what he is doing today. “The technology advances are exciting, but it’s our people that provide the engagement and are at the heart of our solution’s success,” he said. “Customers want more than an alert on a screen. They want someone that they can rely on and help them through a challenge. We provide that through our ongoing partnership that leads to sustained success. It’s how we create value together.”

Komatsu’s Reliability Solutions collects and analyzes the data coming off of mining machines and offers ideas on how to improve operations.

Motion AI Launches New Website

Birmingham, Ala.-based Motion Industries, Inc., a leading distributor of maintenance, repair and operation replacement parts, and a premier provider of industrial technology solutions, recently launched the new Motion Ai website, https://ai.motion.com.

The Motion Ai business group unifies acquired technical companies, including Applied Machine and Motion Control (AMMC), Axis New England/Axis New York, BRAAS, F&L Industrial Solutions, Integro Technologies, Kaman Automation, Meier Transmission and Numatic Engineering. “Blending the acquired technical brands under Motion Ai has been a huge success, and the resulting synergies are a major benefit for our customers,” Motion President Randy Breaux said. “Now, this new website makes assistance and solutions more accessible than ever for users who want to optimize automation and IIoT in their organizations.” 

This new and growing website reflects the unity of these legacy brands and showcases Motion Ai’s broad, technical capabilities with a clean, modern design that is easy to navigate. The Resources page contains educational videos, a blog with informational articles and a document library, including product specs and other descriptors to help users with their technical applications. The Industries page narrows the focus, so users can quickly find potential solutions to meet their specific needs. 

“The new Motion Ai website provides more innovative resources and enhanced information for users who want to learn anything and everything automation, robotics and motion control,” Motion’s Senior Vice President, Automation Intelligence, Aurelio Banda said. “As an automation industry leader, Motion Ai delivers consistent, relevant news and trends via this new website, while allowing for rapid-response functionality. We also look forward to launching a contemporary eCommerce platform soon.”

The website’s products page allows users to search anything automation-related, from motion control to pneumatics to sensors, while the information on the Solutions page ranges from automation and process to machine vision and robotics. In these spaces, users can easily research and source diverse products and explore Motion Ai’s wide range of solution capabilities. 

For custom assistance at any technical level, website users can access a complete and comprehensive team of experts, such as engineers regarding product or system design, and industry-segment specialists with ultra-focused expertise.

Ridgeline Launches Innovative Fluids Analysis Program

Denver, Colorado-based Parkland Corp. recently launched the Ridgeline Fluids Analysis program for maintenance professionals needing to detect engine problems before they occur.  The program provides a comprehensive analysis of the equipment’s used oil/fluids every time the fluids and lubricants are changed. This provides critical insight into the performance trends of the equipment, as fluids analysis explains the engine’s performance level over time. Going beyond just oil analysis, Ridgeline also offers coolant, fuel and diesel exhaust fluid analysis, and all of the results are available on an app.

“Ridgeline prides itself on offering lubricants and fluids that produce exceptional quality, reliability and high performance for your equipment,” said Tom McClary, director of lubricants and specialty products at Parkland. “The Ridgeline Fluids Analysis program adds another pillar of reliability to the Ridgeline brand by giving customers a window into their engine and helping keep small maintenance problems small.”

Maintenance managers will ship 4 oz to 6 oz of used oil or fluid to the Ridgeline lab in a QR-code-labeled test tube. The lab will review 25 analytes to detect wear and contamination and determine fluid condition. The test tube can be tracked and labeled in the app, where results will be shared. Ridgeline’s Fluids Analysis program delivers a time-sensitive 24- to 48-hour turnaround time, and provides a quick and accurate trend analysis explaining the integrity of an engine.

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