A systems approach to bulk solids handling design is essential to ensure operational characteristics are matched throughout the plant
The mining sector worldwide remains under pressure to reduce operating costs, resulting in plants cutting back on essential maintenance in an effort to decrease spending.

This stance is cause for concern as cutting back on maintenance will increase long term operational costs on a plant. Although Mark Baller, MD of Weba Chute Systems says it is evident when taking short cuts in maintaining material transfer chutes and systems.

Baller explains that when cutting back on maintenance activities on transfer points the focus is almost always on reducing the cost of individual parts, components or tasks and not on the total cost of ownership as this can result in cutbacks in inappropriate areas leading to subsequent future additional costs.

However, he adds that they truly understand that this a tough time for the mining sector, and operations are under extreme cost pressure, the sourcing of cheaper alternatives will not save costs over the medium to long term for the plant.

He points to actual instances where damage caused through the installation of inferior components manifested itself within the first months of such a decision, and led to substantial unplanned expenditure, both in terms of production and repair to the transfer point.

[quote]For example, whereby an existing chute is modified to accommodate cheaper wearing parts; Weba Chute Systems are specifically engineered to control the direction, flow and velocity of material being transferred, and through this these transfer chutes and systems are able to achieve equipment plant availability as high as 90 to 95%.

Modifying an existing engineered chute system will adversely affect the dynamics of material transfer which, in turn, affects the performance of the chute leading to issues such as increased friction, blockages, spillage, higher rates of wear and inevitably unplanned downtime.

“It is in the difficult times that OEM suppliers and customers must work hand-in-hand to ensure the sustainability of the operation, and we would urge customers to communicate with us as it is through this approach that maintenance programmes can be tailored to suit individual customer needs and budgets, and assist in ensuring that equipment is kept in optimal running condition.”

Close collaboration is critical between both parties to ensure that the solution is beneficial to the customer while allowing the vendor to provide on-going support services with the objective of doing so cost effectively without sacrificing on quality or productivity.

Baller concludes that customers invest in Weba Chute Systems technology because of the inherent advantages offered to the operation and especially that of the bottom line long term. Therefore it makes no sense for plants to risk the performance advantages that the Weba Chute offers by using an inferior maintenance system.