Rig control systems (RCS) are all about faster fault detection, lower maintenance costs and enhanced rig availability, creating more productive conditions to improve drilling rates and drill steel economy.
Since Atlas Copco first introduced computerised control systems for drilling rigs as early as 1998, there are more than 3 000 RCS rigs currently in operation around the globe. Ongoing research and development and subsequent continuous improvements, developments and modification have resulted in even smarter systems and functions from Atlas Copco.
The most recent development is the new, award winning fifth-generation automation (RCS 5) which takes the control to an even higher level offering even more refined functions for planning, conducting and analysing the drilling process, including wireless online data transmission between rig and site office. Customers can choose their preferred level of automation, from the simplest form of automation to the latest sophisticated RCS5.
“We have introduced RCS on a large portion of our equipment offering, from our underground loaders, dump trucks, drill rigs, roof bolters, simbas and scalers to our exploration rigs, our small to medium surface drill rigs and finally our medium to large range of blast-hole rotary rigs,” explains Atlas Copco South Africa’s Mining and Rock Excavation Services (MRS) training manager, Richard Lotheringen.
“The mobile trailer is in response to increasing customer requests for training on our RCSs and to meet customers’ ever increasing need to continuously improve technical staff competencies on Atlas Copco mining equipment’s industry-leading technological features,” continues Lotheringen.
The Atlas Copco training academy at the Johannesburg head office provides a range of training programmes including RCS. But Lotheringen points out that the cost of traditional training offered by OEMs can sometimes present a barrier to competency development for customers who are not always in a position to fork out on expenses like transport and accommodation.
A collaborative approach to increasing the efficiency of customer operations is a key element of the Atlas Copco way of doing business and following some research on ways to bring high quality training to customers’ doorsteps, the academy suggested a mobile training solution.
A mobile trailer was duly purchased in 2015 and fitted out as a mobile training unit to meet a number of objectives; it can go virtually anywhere, it relates to any of Atlas Copco’s machines equipped with RCS and it is be fitted with all the necessary components to satisfy customers to the highest levels.
“With the RCS simulator, its own batteries and two fold-up camper sets, we can even offer training in the bush!” says Lotheringen.
In January 2016 the mobile training unit went on its maiden voyage to the Atlas Copco Middelburg offices to conduct customer training. In addition to the RCS basic theoretical training, the course enabled participants to carry out practical training including identifying all components, physically building the circuits as per their machine, loading software/parameters, tests system functionality and troubleshooting faults using the RCS test kit.
Lotheringen reports that the results were excellent with a massive learning percentage increase per learner. The general feedback from participants was extremely positive. The participants stated that they had learnt a lot about the RCS systems and believe that the course will help improve their working skills. They also said that they would recommend the course to all.
The customer reported that in addition to staff not having to be away from home during training, using the mobile training unit has resulted in substantial savings on transport and accommodation costs.
“But the biggest savings of all,” concludes Lotheringen, “was in fuel costs and that our customer did not have to stop a machine from production.”
Atlas Copco has received requests for training locally as well as from Botswana and Namibia and eight additional courses are expected to take place in the near future.
To date, they have completed over 13 RCS courses using their mobile simulator with a good number scheduled for the rest of this year.
Feature image credit: Atlas Copco