Technologies are available today to help mining companies increase digitalisation and tackle the challenges facing their industry. Digitalisation brings together every idea, every process, every machine, every stakeholder and every eventuality to ultimately form a unified digital enterprise. At Electra Mining 2018, Siemens presented its full suite of digitalisation solutions tailored to the needs and challenges of the southern African mining industry.
The interactive stand was designed to simulate an underground environment and covered the four phases of the Siemens digitalisation process: design and engineering, automation and operation, maintenance and services, and electrification. Highlights included:
• The engineering and plant management software, Comos, which enables the complete digital planning of all major disciplines on a plant.
• A virtual reality experience, Comos Walkinside, showing how plant data can be visualised in 3D through a virtual tour around the plant.
• The cloud-based, open IIoT operating system, Mindsphere, which connects products, plants, systems and machines, enabling customers to harness and share the wealth of data generated by IIoT with advanced analytics.
• The operations intelligence software, XHQ, which collects, aggregates and condenses plant, process and business data in real time and gets it to decision makers to make fast decisions based on real facts and figures.
• The TIA Portal Cloud Connector, which serves as a communication tunnel and enables central management of engineering software.
Ralf Leinen, vice president of Digital Factory and Process Industries and Drives, Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa, said that modern mining houses need to stay relevant in the next fifty years in a challenging environment. Key drivers in the industry are health and safety, going deeper to get the ore grades, and capex issues. They understand the need for digital transformation and are embracing this new technology, which can help them improve productivity and engineer out risk at the stage when operations are being designed.
Simulation and training
“Comos is an environment where you can virtually design, develop, engineer and test the operations on a mine to create a 3D model, the digital twin. The whole mining operation is simulated in the virtual world before going live,” he explained. “Information is then fed back from the live operations to the virtual twin in a continuous cycle to further develop and improve the process. We are combining and integrating the virtual world with the real world. This is why we call it integrated engineering to integrated operation.”
He added that with Comos Walkinside you get complete virtual replication of a plant. This allows operators to be trained safely on high value equipment in a 3D virtual world, as if they were on a real plant – for example, shutting down a plant. Much more than a programming tool, Walkinside is an environment for educating and upskilling personnel.
Then there is Comos MRO for maintenance and reliability in operations, so a new technician on site can be trained in a virtual world. It gives visual instructions on how to execute the task at hand, whether it be inspection, maintenance or upgrading, and all the information generated is stored in Comos.
This is backed by Mindsphere, a platform for information sharing information that allows users to extract data from machinery, distil it into meaningful information, and share it over the web – mine performance for example. There is a whole ecosystem of developers all contributing and sharing these value added apps – all totally open.
“With our integrated approach, solutions for the digitalisation of plants and processes and industry expertise, we can help improve overall plant performance and secure long-term competitiveness,” concluded Leinen. “This includes connecting the virtual with the real world, addressing core elements such as plant life cycle management, plant design and engineering, process simulation and digital twinning, virtual commissioning, automation and operations, maintenance and services, and finally, closing the loop by feeding data analytics back into the plant model for continuous improvement.”
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