industry 4.0

Companies such as Facebook have become one of the most valuable enterprises in the world within the span of a decade. However, social media is not the only beneficiary of the new gold. 

Industrial companies believe they can benefit from this evolution or revolution, that some call Industry 4.0, digitalisation, Big Data or Internet of Things.

Big data addresses key manufacturing challenges

The manufacturing industry for example has already embraced Industry 4.0. Digitalisation of the work place has already begun in this sector and now the process industries are getting more and more interested and mining is no exception.

“A lot of our customers ask us about this trend and what it means. And it’s no wonder, if you keep in mind that the mining industry is facing huge challenges because of declining ore grades and volatile commodity prices,” says Dhiren Naidoo, Industry Manager: Primaries and Metals at Endress+Hauser.

But how can Big Data help mining companies to master these challenges? Data is already produced in abundance within mining operations, such as process information from the field, inventory values, plant status and market prices. The problem is that much of this data is stored and accessible on different systems and platforms.

The first step towards Industry 4.0 must be the integration of this data to open its real potential. Integration must 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, to ensure consistent engineering. With the help of Endress+Hauser, you can boldly take this first step today.

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

Reliable measurement technology is the basis for this. Endress+Hauser can provide you with a complete range of measurement technologies for data communication.

Endress+Hauser can plug most available fieldbus technologies directly into their smart measurement sensors. 

In addition, the local data transmission unit – Fieldgate, with integrated web server, allows for global data acquisition via private and public communication networks. A standard internet browser is sufficient for querying inventory data.

Fieldgates from Endress+Hauser not only provide current measured values, but also offers the possibility of monitoring device stations, requesting information and sending data directly to a superordinate inventory management software system such as SupplyCare from Endress+Hauser.

Extensive inventory management

SupplyCare offers extensive functions for inventory management, such as convenient access to the current fill levels in tanks and silos from the comfort of your desk. With the integrated e‐mail function, you can request information quickly and easily. For example, with the analysis module, you can also calculate and evaluate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

When it comes to vertical integration, intelligent networking between sub‐systems from the ERP system to operating and control level is essential for optimised functionality and best efficiency of the digital mine.

The reality today is often less than streamlined or smooth operations. It is characterised by closed system silos, missing interfaces and many manual data transfers, and thus potential error sources.

These decoupled system silos can be connected to form an elegant overall system with a continuous data flow thanks to Endress+Hauser‘s BPI concept (Business Process Integration). BPI acts as middleware beneath the sub‐systems and thus forms a shared platform for data exchange between these systems.

This is not just limited to the IT world however. By using Industrial Ethernet at field and control level, automation components can also be integrated in the overall system. 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.

Many of Endress+Hauser’s smart measurement sensors can be used to monitor process conditions and verify measurement integrity. One example is HEARTBEAT.

Several examples of HEARTBEAT Technology’s benefits are already used in the concentration processes in many copper and gold mines. For example in froth flotation tanks – a Promass 100 coriolis flow meter will schedule a flocculant batch remix by measuring changes in the medium chemistry.

The aim is to produce process optimisation and stability using a combination of smart sensors which monitor their own performance, indicate process anomalies and tell maintenance when things need cleaning or recalibrating.

Taking the first step

Finally, in order to get close to this goal of maximum process efficiency at the lowest possible cost, intuitive and reliable process asset management is crucial. Endress+Hauser offers a so‐ called Big Data asset management software which is manufacturer‐neutral.

The cloud‐based asset management toolbox, called W@M has proven beneficial to management, maintenance, process engineers and metallurgists in generating plant wide process improvements and providing relevant and reliable data on process wide performance.

A simple example is a 10% proven increase in heap leach and stripping performance in a copper mine when they use W@Ms powerful measurement performance capabilities to monitor variations in the performance of critical measurement parameters such as acid usage, PLS output, organic to aqueous stripping rates against pipeline breakage, filter rupture or other process imbalances.

So, in short, what does a software give us which is “Industry 4.0” or “IoT” ready:

  • Quick, visual and targeted access to the right data at the exact time when it is needed
  • Easy to download cloud-based tools – Operations apps for mobile smartphones and tablets
  • Wireless and wired connectivity to smart sensors and other process equipment for diagnostics, verification and condition monitoring

“Many customers are sometimes surprised, that for the first implementation of Industry 4.0 they don’t have to completely revamp their whole operation. But this so called fourth Industrial Revolution is more a gradual evolution than a big bang revolution,” explains Andrew Reese, Global Industry Manager at Endress+Hauser.

“We at Endress+Hauser take pride in being an innovative company, and our R&D engineers take great pride in being ahead of the game in smart sensor development. And that means for our customers their first step towards Industry 4.0 and the ‘digital mine’ will be a small one.”