Cooking up a digital feast
A meal begins with something small – the starter. From that initial plate, it can grow to include a feast of courses and delicacies that delight the diners. So, too, a relationship between customer and supplier can grow from a first initial project into an ongoing relationship that brings benefits to both. Which is what happened when we helped a heap leach miner, working one of the largest gold and silver deposits in the world, troubleshoot a problem with its crushing area control system.
The starter: providing a reliable process control solution
With a low-capital, low-cost process and 34-year mine life, this Nevada mining operation has a bright future. But during commissioning, it had encountered reliability and operating problems with its crushing area control system. Based on third-party technology, the control system had been engineered by the EPC contractor responsible for supplying the crushing area, which included FLSmidth gyratory and cone crushers.
Poor networking and system integration meant that, when the crushers shut down, the operators and maintenance staff did not have information they needed to determine the root cause of the failure. They weren’t even able to say if the problem was mechanical, electrical, or related to the automation system. They also had difficulty restarting equipment, because the control system didn’t provide clear and consistent information on what was preventing start-up. As a result, they had to resort to manual operations and bypassing interlocks to allow them to operate the crushers. This caused equipment damage.
With our extensive experience in process control and mining sector expertise, as well as our involvement as an equipment supplier to the project, we were able to help fix these problems. This was the start of a positive working relationship with the customer that has since grown into a significant partnership to unlock the value of digitalization at the company’s operation.
Into the feast with a menu of digital solutions
After the success of that initial work, we approached the company to propose a replacement control solution, based on our ECS/ControlCenter™ software platform, that would eliminate the problems with the original system. Importantly, we were also able do it quickly, while providing flexibility for future digital development at the mine. ECS/ControlCenter can be easily scaled up to cover complete process areas and even whole mine sites, and is a stable foundation for further advanced process control and digitalization solutions.
Based on these benefits, the company ordered ECS/ControlCenter in late 2018 with delivery in early 2019. Scope of supply included the ECS/ControlCenter software, computer hardware, system engineering, site service, remote services and training. In addition to the short delivery time, we also faced the challenge of reverse engineering a solution, as the information provided on the original control system was incomplete.
With the successful implementation of ECS/ControlCenter, which seamlessly integrates control at the machine and plant levels, the customer got a taste of the benefits of digitalization that soon had it asking for more. Such as better reporting and data analytics capabilities. Such as real-time operational visibility for company management. Such as the integration of data from the crushing plant control system into the company’s ERP and maintenance management systems.
Once the benefits of digitization are understood, they are hard to ignore. As a result, the company gave us the opportunity to work with them to continue to improve their operations with our portfolio of digital solutions (we call this, ENABLR). All built on the foundation provided by ECS/ControlCenter. In 2019, we went on to supply:
- ECS/ControlCenter™ Remote Access
- Does what it says on the tin! ECS/ControlCenter™ Remote Access offers secure read-only access to ECS/ControlCenter apps from any location in the world (according to company IT policies). Users can see the same information as the plant operators, such as trends and the alarms and events history.
Our SiteConnect™ app brings the control room to your mobile device, enabling users to view key operating data on their phones or tablets and set up notifications of key events, such as when the crusher is stopped.
Discover more about our mobile insights app.
- FLSmidth Field Agent
- FLSmidth Field Agent collects data from ECS/ControlCenter™ and sends it to the FLSmidth Cloud, where it is the source of data for SiteConnect™ and our remote condition monitoring services.
Our data historian and reporting tool, ECS/PlantDataManagement provides long-term storage of all operating data. It allows reports to be generated as either PDFs or Excel files, while PDM Web offers online dashboards – both of which chart performance against KPIs.
ECS/PlantDataManagement is also the point of data integration with ERP and maintenance management systems.
- Downtime is lost revenue. The sources of downtime are therefore important to understand. Our asset downtime tracking solution, ECS/UptimeGo draws and stores operating data from ECS/ControlCenter to record and catalogue downtime events and identify their causes. As a result, downtime is better understood and maintenance efforts can be focused to help avoid it in future.
Throughout commissioning and the first year of operation of these applications, we also provided regular remote service to the customer, resolving 38 service requests remotely. As the site is a 7-hour drive from the nearest FLSmidth office, this saved a minimum of 266 hours in responding to service requests.
In one example, an inexperienced contract electrician onsite was unable to troubleshoot the cause of a fault that was stopping operation of the crusher. After requesting our support, we were able to remotely connect and use the information available in the system to guide the electrician to solve the problem – all within 90 minutes of receiving the call. If we had had to send a service engineer, they would have made is less than a quarter of the way to the mine in the same amount of time.
It's satisfying to see the technology showing its value during the pandemic. Remote service has been a real game-changer
This and other examples proved the quality and cost-effectiveness of such support – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when site visits became all but impossible. The value was again appreciated by the customer, who agreed on the benefits of extending it via an annual PlantLine™ service agreement. Paid for in quarterly fixed-price payments, this agreement covers:
- 24/7 advanced troubleshooting, including remote service
- 40 hours of remote engineering
- Four site visits for preventative maintenance
- Managed antivirus
More courses to follow?
Digitalization done poorly leaves a bitter taste in the mouth – as our customer found out with its first crushing station control system. But in the hands of an expert, a gourmet chef, digitalization is a feast of benefits that – once tasted – leaves only in a desire for more.
Starting with our initial troubleshooting and through the subsequent installation of ECS/ControlCenter and other advanced digitalization solutions, we’ve proved ourselves to be just such a gourmet. And there’s more we could offer – from proactive condition monitoring to our mechanical support service based on Augmented Field Engineer. Ultimately, we bring real results to operations, optimising processes and reducing costs. All of which helps boost the bottom line and empowers sustainability.
So, if you’re looking to taste what digitalization has to offer, pull up a chair at our table and let us take you through the menu.