COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for companies in the mine maintenance game, such as DINGO and its Trakka® maintenance software.
The company recently signed a global agreement with Newmont that saw the leading gold miner expand the use of Trakka to manage the workflow generated from its Operations Support Hubs in Perth, Western Australia, and Denver, Colorado. DINGO will provide continuous support to seven connected sites and hundreds of users, the company said in the press release.
While DINGO has a partnership with Newmont that dates back more than 20 years, the global Trakka pact is a sign the miner has confidence in the Brisbane headquartered company’s ability to not only deliver condition monitoring solutions for its fleet of mobile and fixed machinery, but also advanced predictive maintenance insights for its operations.
Discussing the wider issues associated with fixed and mobile machinery maintenance, Chuck Tollman, DINGO’s VP of Customer Success, said condition monitoring of haul trucks continues to be a focus area for miners.
“There are significant industry pain points around haul trucks,” he told IM. “There is just a lot more opportunity for cost reductions in that area, particularly from a parts/asset cost perspective.”
Whereas in the fixed plant environment, monitoring solutions are employed to increase production and reduce downtime, the focus for mobile machinery operators is typically about how to reduce sustaining capital spend.
“On the mobile equipment side, the haul truck engine might be more of a cyclical maintenance concern, but it represents a very high-cost component in the $400,000 range,” he said. “It is also sent out for a rebuild much more often than, for example, a gear box in a fixed plant environment.”
The number of companies able to provide fixed plant digital maintenance solutions are vast, but the mobile equipment monitoring market is far less crowded, according to Tollman.
“The applications and technology in the fixed plant environment advanced much quicker thanks to a number of manufacturing solutions,” he said. “This has made it much easier to maintain as there is broader utilisation of and access to sensor-based solutions across the mining industry.
“However, the mobile environment is starting to catch up with more sensors, on-board data, etc but it has a big gap to close.”
DINGO has historically been known for its fluid analysis on mobile machinery, but in the last decade it has taken a more holistic view of mine maintenance, according to Tollman, providing dynamic monitoring of onboard machine health data, operational data, visual inspections, and work history.
It is this dynamic monitoring expertise that is differentiating DINGO from the rest of the market, according to Tollman.
This agility goes beyond just its monitoring capabilities. DINGO has also been able to adapt to the new environment created by COVID-19.
“There wasn’t an established remote implementation process for DINGO in the past, but we quickly adapted,” Tollman said of the way the company continued to execute new business in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.
“We gathered all the materials needed to on-board new customers, and made it a virtual offering,” he said. “We conduct the same training modules as if the customer was there, face-to-face, but by remote video.”
With a string of Trakka implementations across the Spanish speaking market, Tollman estimates the company has already surpassed the growth expectations set out at the start of 2020.
DINGO is continuing to adapt to the reality of minimal staff at site, recognising the need to create more remote and mobile tools for its customers.
“A portion of our product roadmap has been focused on developing tools that can be utilised for special inspection applications, for instance,” Tollman said. “These tools work perfectly for sending critical data to remote, centralised teams managing operations. That could be with us relaying the data to our customers at a centralised location, or us providing the services from one of our own support hubs in the USA or Australia.”
The company has already developed a suite of mobile Asset Health apps that are growing in demand with this market evolution.
On top of remote deployment and assistance, Tollman sees COVID-19 acting as a catalyst for further automation in the sector; a development DINGO is prepared for.
“What I do see in the industry is an increased focus on autonomy and removing people from site, with more autonomous trucks, shovels, etc,” he said. “In this environment, typically, an operator is one of your best predictive maintenance tools. If you do not have an operator, you need a robust set of systems and sensors in place, and somebody monitoring the output on an ongoing basis to check on these machines and components.
“We can do that already.”
This transition is likely to be aided by edge-based predictive maintenance models the company is building to consume data and continuously learn about maintenance needs from on-board mobile equipment sensors.
“We have to start by identifying the model and the accuracy of this model before it can be plugged into the system for the continuous input and learning,” Tollman explained. “A lot of the work is currently in the trial stage, but it is advancing quickly.”
For the wider market beyond the Tier 1 miners, Tollman sees the application of more basic condition monitoring solutions as providing the biggest ‘bang for their buck’.
“There are still big opportunities with the typical condition monitoring applications,” he said. “These are the solutions that continue to provide the step change in performance and cost that miners are after simply by taking full advantage of their existing systems and data.”
Daniel Gleeson │ International Mining │ January 2021 – Excerpted from Mine Maintenance feature Embedding Expertise