Traditional methods of remote monitoring and control using RTUs and scada systems are well entrenched in the mining industry. But there is a wave of new technologies available now that have the potential to change the way we think and act in our endeavours to meet environmental compliance and optimise cost of operations.
These technologies are providing a platform for the complete re-engineering of many business models in many other industries. This paper explores the potential impact that these technologies can have in the mining industry and the potential benefits.
Traditional methods of monitoring and control using PLCs and scada software are well entrenched in the mining industry.
These traditional technologies were designed for a world of central command and control, tailored for the production environment – not necessarily suited to the new distributed world of business imperatives such as: increased plant availability; reduced environmental impact; increased green credentials; reduced operating costs; and reduced manpower resources.
This brings into focus current initiatives in the mining industry such as environmental compliance, optimised asset management and energy efficiency, all over ever widening geographic areas.
What is required is the application of a new breed of technology overlaying the traditional production systems, that is capable of reaching further to acquire more data, and sending it directly to those in the organisation that require it, all in real time.
Traditional systems have a few defining features and resulting limitations for the new connected world:
The front end data collection is done by multichannel PLCs that often perform other production functions such as local control logic, and are not ideally suited to reading specialised instruments, wide area communications and single points of data.
High cost of implementation and power requirements limit their application in wider remote monitoring applications.
The communications network – typically Ethernet, serial or wireless – is privately owned and run by the mine, requiring on site technically trained service staff to keep the infrastructure running. Due to the high capital cost, the reach of these privately owned networks is limited and often mission critical in the production process, making access for other business functions restricted.
The scada back end is an integrated graphics work station (or set of work stations) designed for the use of trained operators in a control room environment.
The data collected is stored in on-site databases that require ongoing management and backup, with limited ability to access by other users outside of the control centre.
Data from these production systems is not easily accessible in real-time by operational staff in the field or in the back office where the business decisions are made.
This traditional infrastructure is well suited for the conventional monitoring and control of production processes such as pumping stations, conveyer systems etc. But, the new set of business imperatives is putting pressure on management to monitor more and more data in real time, and distribute this to more people in the organisation, also in real time. The current automation infrastructure based upon PLCs and scada software is not suited to this task, and it is time to reconsider the business model.
For the new imperatives we need a new paradigm. This paper explains how this technology is already field proven, available now, and surprisingly affordable. To learn more about Omniflex’s Data2Desktop remote monitoring solution, download the full White Paper at http://instrumentation.co.za/+C18507
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