Prescriptive Maintenance: A Necessity for Metals and Mining

January 11, 2023

The mining industry is undergoing a digital transformation across the entire value chain — from Exploration all the way to Reclamation. These new technologies are changing the way mines operate, bringing improved operational efficiencies while also lowering costs. Mobile and fixed plant equipment maintenance presents one of the largest components of operational expenditure within the mining industry, stemming from the fact that, as a rule, most operators tend towards the application of preventative maintenance regimes that OEMs design for the equipment they sell. Regardless of whether it’s mobile or stationary equipment, it is delivered from the manufacturer with a detailed schedule of maintenance.  

These schedules stipulate at what cadence to inspect, test and service specific components and when they should be repaired or replaced throughout the equipment’s useful life. These outdated methods for performing maintenance do not create any measurable value for the consumers nor do they factor in any other operating conditions — such as operator use and abuse, variable or extreme weather conditions, varying work environments, etc. — potentially impacting the overall availability of the asset.   

Mining companies need a more proactive approach to equipment maintenance across all assets, a method that improves reliability and is optimized to their specific work environments and processes. The ability to utilize asset sensor data to proactively monitor equipment for imminent and future failures is something that adds immediate value to a maintenance program. Predictive and prescriptive analytics, utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence provide, a new strategic approach for how companies manage maintenance. These solutions allow for companies to plan around predicted downtime rather than having to reactively work through it.   

The costs associated with unplanned downtime results in lost revenue and profits for the organization but can also have human and environmental costs as well. When there is advance warning of a failure, teams have more time to plan their options for mitigation, which allows the opportunity to minimize the negative impacts while also reducing related costs. Taking it a step further, the prescriptive maintenance programs provide the potential solutions to the customer which again increases the efficiency of the team and allows more time to evaluate, prepare and optimize.

Aspen Mtell®, AspenTech’s Prescriptive Maintenance Solution for Metals and Mining, can be rapidly configured, deployed, and scaled with typical ROIs measured in months. Our Prescriptive Maintenance solution uses machine learning agents that monitor equipment, in real time, to transform your mining operations with AI-powered technology that learns and continually improves operations while gaining knowledge from continued use. Mtell then proposes adaptations to operating parameters of the assets ensuring the highest level of reliability, predictability, profitability and sustainability.  

Recently, Evolution Mining’s Mungari site implemented Mtell. Paul Robbins, Group Head of Asset Effectiveness for Evolution Mining, had this to say, “By implementing AspenTech’s Prescriptive Maintenance solution at our Mungari site, we’ve seen notable increases in productivity and reliability, the operation is safer because we’re getting fewer unplanned events in the field and has been a total success for the business.” 

Improvements made in this space will assist with the complex challenges that Metals and Mining companies will face in the future. While global decarbonization initiatives and a shift to renewable energy underpin increased demand for metals, mining operations also face increasing competition and energy costs, lower grades in known reserves, aggressive 2050 net-zero targets and perhaps the biggest challenge of all, the growing cost of equipment maintenance.   

From loading units, haul trucks, comminution circuits, and processing plants asset downtime can put workers safety, the environment, profitability and productivity at risk and lead to costly missed schedules and production targets, plant shutdowns, or increased energy consumption and waste generation. Working with maintenance operations and subject matter experts, you can put a tangible value of what a specific unplanned downtime event from failure would cost the company, realizing significant cost savings right away.   

A prescriptive maintenance solution allows the mine to operate more efficiently, profitably and with fewer safety and environmental risks while quickly showing ROI. AspenTech’s Prescriptive Maintenance solution empowers mine management to identify problematic performance trends well in advance of a failure and prescribes adjustments to operations or maintenance schedules to prevent those failures from occurring in the first place. For mining companies to overcome the steep challenges they could face in the future they will need to look beyond the status quo and embrace the powerful tools that were once a novelty but are now a necessity.  

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