Mine equipment managers know the importance of equipment availability and managing scheduled (planned; preventative) and unscheduled (unplanned; corrective) maintenance, but the right metrics are not always available and reports are often seen after the fact, resulting in poor performance, reduced availability and loss in productivity. With maintenance costs typically compromising 30% to 50% of a mine’s total operating costs, it is vital for successful managers to manage downtime efficiently to optimise availability and productivity.

Why 20% scheduled and 80% unscheduled if it should be the other way around?
Typically, mines collect heaps of data from on-board computers and generate reports but the challenge lies in getting meaningful information from this data, resulting in measurable metrics, where benchmarks can be determined and downtime can be managed efficiently. Most equipment managers face the same challenge where more unscheduled maintenance than scheduled maintenance occurs, resulting in poor performance (A typical 80/20 scenario). Why is it, when so much data and reports are available, that this is happening? While there are many complexities and challenges around maintenance processes, these are the key challenges that can be managed better:

  • Lack of metrics on artisans’ performance – While data is available on equipment, very little data is tracked on artisans. Questions that managers need to ask include: How long does it take each artisan to perform a certain task, like changing an oil filter? How does this performance compare to other artisans? Where are the artisans and what work are they busy doing? What did the artisan’s route consist of for a specific shift? Are the artisans performing optimally?
  • Lack of standards – Service manuals are often read once during training and never again. Artisans perform maintenance in their preferred way and often in a different order, with few checks in place to ensure consistency and efficiency. Very little, or no reports are available on the actual maintenance work done, apart from an overall duration and a list of parts used.
  • No real-time visibility – Most of the reports are generated after the fact and while this can help to improve processes, the fact is that it can be managed better if information was available in real-time. In some cases managers see reports days or weeks after shifts ended, resulting in a reactive management style.
  • Reliance on machine data – The on-board computers on most modern mining equipment today records a vast amount of data and most managers know which parts fail after how many hours. Often overlooked, however, are the areas that the computers cannot measure. The physical condition of things like power cables, hydraulic hoses, air intakes, engine belts, tyres and tanks need to be inspected by a person before operating any machine. This information needs to be recorded and must form part of preventative maintenance metrics as well as safety information that can be managed.

What is the solution?
The reality is that these challenges can be resolved and by managing with real-time visibility, the 80/20 rule can be reversed over time, allowing equipment managers to plan and schedule maintenance work more efficiently, maximising availability and performance.

To achieve real-time visibility on the key metrics in a standardised format, you have to enable your field workforce, and you do this through mobility. By implementing a mobility solution, supervisors, operators and artisans are equipped with rugged handheld devices, allowing them to capture information digitally, which is then fed back to a central system where it is accessible to managers in real-time. Managers can also assign jobs to field workers so they know exactly what they need to do before they start a shift. This becomes an automated, standardised, paperless process with accurate operational information that enables equipment managers to manage what they can measure.

How mobility can help you manage better
Here are a few examples of how mobility will help equipment managers to streamline operations and provide them with the real information they need to manage more effectively:

  • Scheduled maintenance job cards – Managers assign scheduled maintenance jobs to artisans and they receive a prioritised list of jobs on their mobile devices before they start a shift. Routes are optimised, instructions are clear and managers know when a job was started and completed, how long it took to get to the next job and how well the artisans perform.
  • Maintenance work sheets – As part of maintenance job cards, a standard work sheet on the handheld device tells the artisan exactly what to do and in what order, standardising the way work is done and serving as a reference, should the artisan be new or a bit rusty. Time stamps are recorded as the artisan progresses, allowing managers to measure the time it takes to perform maintenance down to the level of individual tasks, e.g. changing an oil filter. This, in conjunction with the equipment data, becomes really valuable information and managers can start measuring performance on team and individual level and manage inefficiencies.
  • Equipment inspections – Before operating any machine, the operator has to complete a visual inspection and record the findings on the handheld device. Built-in intelligence tells the operator not to operate the vehicle if certain check points failed, and preventative maintenance can be done to avoid major breakdowns. By using the handheld device’s built-in camera, photographs of problems can be taken, which is available to engineers and artisans in reports before they go out to perform maintenance.

Implementing a mobility solution at a mine doesn’t only improve the equipment manager’s effectiveness but can have a big impact on all areas of operations. Activities that typically involve a form or checklist can easily be converted to an automated process with digital forms on rugged handheld devices. Examples include safety inspections, incident investigations, hazard identification, shift and delay reports, goods received, asset location tracking, quality checks, etc.

How do I implement a mobility solution?
Specialist digital solutions provider FLUX launched MobiFlow, a flexible mobile workforce software solution particularly ideal for rugged environments like mines and heavy industry. Working with their partners, South African mines, mining equipment manufacturers and mining technology providers over the past year, FLUX tailored MobiFlow for the mining environment to a solution that can be implemented rapidly within a few months, as opposed to the typical six to twelve months typical software solutions take to roll out at mines. By understanding the challenges, from underground connectivity to intrinsically safe handheld devices and the way artisans work, the solution is adopted quickly and seamlessly and benefits are realised immediately after rollout.

MobiFlow enables visibility and allows you to be more responsive by mobilizing your field and plant workers. Work is carried out in the field using handheld devices with pre-defined tasks, business forms and information is sent back to a central system in near real-time. Information is standardized, accurate and captured only once in a paperless environment. Business rules and workflows are automated to streamline operations and detailed collaborative reports are available when needed.

You can manage your maintenance schedules more effectively by using MobiFlow.

For more information or a free demonstration, contact FLUX:
Tel: +27(0)12 997-4145
Fax: +27(0)12 997-6177
Web: www.flux.co.za
e-Mail: info@flux.co.za