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Industry 4.0: Mining is making its move

Many different materials have held the title of “most important” resource over the course of history. Now, Industry 4.0 is another contender.

A player that in reality is not even a substance at all: data. Industrial companies believe they can benefit from this evolution or revolution, that some call Industry 4.0, others digitalisation, Big Data or Internet of Things.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 10, 2019
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The manufacturing industry is already embracing Industry 4.0 and mining is no exception.

4IR: The future of mining is now

Data is already produced in abundance within a mining operation: process information from the field, inventory values, plant status and market prices to name a few.

The problem, however, comes in when you consider how a lot of this data is stored and is visible in different systems and platforms.

The first step towards Industry 4.0 has to be the integration of this data to open up its real potential.

Integration has to be aligned along three axes: horizontally along the value creation chain, vertically from the field to the control level and thirdly from planning to maintenance.

What will mining operations of the future look like?

This will serve to ensure consistency in engineering.

Looking at the first axis, an exact forecast of consumption based on current inventory values and planned material movement is the key to reducing warehouse stocks while improving the delivery service.

Reliable measurement technology is the basis for this. For data communication, Endress+Hauser can plug most available field bus technologies directly into their smart measurement sensor.

Additionally, the local data transmission unit, Fieldgate, with integrated web server, allows for global data acquisition via private and public communication networks.

Fieldgate also offers the possibility of monitoring device stations, requesting information and sending data directly to a superordinate inventory management software system such as SupplyCare.

This system offers convenient access to the current fill levels in tanks and silos and offers extensive functions for inventory management.

When it comes to vertical integration, intelligent networking between sub‐systems of mine processes is essential for optimised functionality and efficiency.  

TECH NEWS: Game-changing Industry 4.0 solutions

Endress+Hauser’s BPI concept (Business Process Integration) acts as middleware beneath the sub‐systems and thus form a shared platform for data exchange between these systems.

Maximum process efficiency

Digital communication, for example, enables advanced measurement sensor diagnostics, which can form the basis of effective process condition monitoring and preventative maintenance measures, or calibration requests, which can be triggered in the ERP system.

Endress+Hauser’s Heartbeat smart measurement sensors can be used to monitor process condition and verify measurement integrity.

Finally, in order to get close to the goal of maximum process efficiency at the lowest possible cost, intuitive and reliable process asset management is crucial.

Endress+Hauser offers a manufacturer‐neutral: the cloud‐based asset management toolbox, called W@M.

Already, it has proven beneficial to mining operations.

One example is a 10% proven increase in heap leach and stripping performance in a copper mine where W@M is used to monitor variations in performance of critical measurement parameters such as acid usage, PLS output, organic to aqueous stripping rates against pipeline breakage, filter rupture or other process imbalance.