It is a no-brainer, increased efficiencies, better utilisation and more SMU hours per shift - there has to be a trade-off somewhere, and indeed there is. Many years ago when I was a director of an open-pit contract mining firm, we quickly realized that with increased working hours, two aspects if not managed properly, were easily jeopardized, namely safety and the impact on mechanical maintenance. Thank goodness, with autonomous mining the safety aspect is well under control, but what about mechanical maintenance?
Sometime ago I posted an article "How to optimize and sustain mechanical availability through cost-effective outsourced maintenance" and I keep on wondering if we have adequate mechanical maintenance look-ahead strategies in countries such as Australia, who are currently the leaders in autonomous mining technology. Not only, in my opinion, should we properly investigate the impact that autonomous mining has on mechanical maintenance, to raise awareness, we should encourage dialogue and sharing of experience through conferences and the media.
Without a doubt the stats on mechanical availability at country level for autonomous mines should be impressive as a result of all the new equipment that has been phased in during the last five to ten years. But as we all know, with age comes increased maintenance and increased costs, which on many mines, as the equipment age, may impact an entire fleet. (it would be rather sad if mechanical downtime and costs outweigh the benefits associated with autonomous mining)
Assuming that we have mechanical maintenance all under control and we are just preparing room for error. The impact that autonomous mining has on mechanical maintenance should be clearly understood, prior to and during operating of autonomous mining equipment.
For more than two decades our company has applied lean mining principles during all our assignments, and not a single assignment was carried out without assessing or defining the life-cycle maintenance costs, component utilization and impact that mining has on mechanical maintenance. (Lean mining sets productive flows in motion in order to develop control systems with the aim of reducing losses throughout the mining process with its focus on the reduction and elimination of inefficiencies.)
To learn more about the processes and solutions we offer visit us at www.tacminmadini.com.au