The title of ‘most important’ resource has been held by many different materials over the course of our history. And now, at the beginning of the 21st century there is another contender. A player, that in reality is not even a substance at all: Big Data.
Industrial companies believe they can benefit from this evolution called digitalisation.
The manufacturing industry has already embraced the IIoT and now the process industries are getting more and more interested, mining is no exception.
Integration as a first step
But how can Big Data help mining companies to master the challenges of declining ore grades and volatile commodity prices? If you think about it, data is already produced in abundance within a mining operation: process information from the field, inventory values, plant status and market prices to name just a few. The problem they face is a lot of this data is stored and visible in different systems and platforms. So the first step towards the IIoT has to be the integration of this data to open up its real potential. Integration has to be aligned along three axes: horizontally along the value creation in the supply chain, vertically from the field to the control level, and from planning to maintenance to ensure consistent engineering.
Looking at the first axis, an exact forecast of consumption based on current inventory values and planned material movements is the key to reducing warehouse stocks and at the same time, improving the delivery service. Reliable measurement technology is the fundamental basis for this supply chain management.
Endress+Hauser can provide the complete range of the required measurement technology. For data communication, the instruments can plug most available fieldbus technologies directly into their smart measurement sensors. In addition, the local data transmission unit, Fieldgate, with integrated web server, allows for global data acquisition via private and public communication networks. A standard Internet browser is sufficient for querying inventory data.
Fieldgates not only provide current measured values, but also offer the possibility of monitoring device stations, requesting information and sending data directly to an inventory management software system such as SupplyCare, which offers convenient remote access to the current fill levels in tanks and silos, as well as extensive functions for inventory management.
Full control of processes
When it comes to vertical integration, intelligent networking between the sub-systems of mine processes, from the ERP system to operating and control level and on to field level, is essential for optimised functionality and efficiency. The reality today is often less than streamlined or smooth operation. It is characterised by closed system silos, missing interfaces and many manual data transfers, prone to potential errors. These decoupled system silos can be connected to form an elegant overall system with a continuous data flow, thanks to Endress+Hauser's BPI concept (business process integration). BPI acts as middleware beneath the sub-systems and thus forms a shared platform for data exchange between these systems. This is not just limited to the IT world however, by using industrial Ethernet at field and control level, automation components can also be integrated in the overall system.
Digital communication enables advanced measurement sensor diagnostics which can form the basis of effective process condition monitoring and preventative maintenance measures, or calibration requests which can be triggered in the ERP system. Many of Endress+Hauser’s smart measurement sensors can be used to monitor process conditions and verify measurement integrity.
Simply look for the Heartbeat Technology logo
Several examples of Heartbeat Technology’s benefits are already used in the concentration processes in copper and gold mines. In one example in froth flotation tanks, a Promass 100 Coriolis flowmeter will schedule a flocculant batch remix by measuring changes in the medium chemistry. The aim is to produce process optimisation and stability using a combination of smart sensors which monitor their own performance, indicate process anomalies, and inform maintenance when things need cleaning or recalibrating.
Big Data made easy
In order to get close to this goal of maximum process efficiency at the lowest possible cost, intuitive and reliable process asset management is crucial. Endress+Hauser offers Big Data asset management software which is manufacturer-neutral: the cloud-based asset management toolbox, called W@M (Web enabled Asset Management) has proven beneficial to management, maintenance, process engineers and metallurgists in generating plant-wide process improvements and providing relevant and reliable data on process-wide performance.
An example is a ten percent proven increase in heap leach and stripping performance in a copper mine when W@Ms powerful measurement performance capability is used to monitor variations in performance of critical measurement parameters such as acid usage, PLS output, organic to aqueous stripping rates against pipeline breakage, filter rupture or other process imbalances.
“Customers are sometimes surprised, that for the first implementation of IIoT they don’t have to completely revamp their whole operation,” explains Endress+Hauser’s industry manager for primaries and metals, Susan Buitendag. “But the fourth Industrial Revolution is a gradual evolution rather than a big bang revolution. We at Endress+Hauser take pride in being an innovative company in smart sensor development to ensure our instruments are ready for this digital evolution. Our customers’ first step will only be a small one towards IIoT in ‘digital mining.”
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