Industrial mining equipment is responsible for the majority of work output during mining operations. However, because of the frequent contact with abrasive resources and materials, workers run into frequent equipment issues. To keep construction and mining machinery, as well as other necessary tools properly maintained, the best mining companies take care of existing equipment with pre-planned maintenance tasks.
In this comprehensive guide, we, with the help of experts at Frontu, will present a framework for an effective maintenance strategy that should keep mining machines in optimal condition and minimise equipment downtime. Keeping construction and modern mining tools in optimal condition with scheduled maintenance will also reduce the daily wear and tear that goes unnoticed, but compromises the equipment’s operational efficiency. By the end, you should know the basics of mining equipment failure, why it occurs, and what is the proper maintenance protocol for your work site.
What are some of the benefits of maintaining your mining equipment?
Before diving into maintenance management tips, let’s take a closer look at the wear and tear of machines, suffered under hard working conditions. Understanding these criteria is the best way to organise maintenance costs and optimal servicing frequency for well-maintained mining equipment.
Factors that damage mining equipment
While most mining conditions can vary greatly depending on your project, costly breakdowns and workplace injuries are still pretty common in natural resource excavation. Understanding the damages that come from harsh environments, lack of operator training, and scarcity of regular inspections will help you prevent expensive repairs and unexpected downtime.
The biggest determinator of equipment’s performance is the direct contact between tools and excavated material. Even without visible damages, dirty equipment loses its operational efficiency, while energy consumption only keeps growing. However, while these components suffer the most damage, their replacement does not cover all damages caused by environmental factors.
Extreme temperatures, humid environments, and stability of the underground structures can speed up the depreciation of heavy mining equipment. Constant buildup of dust and debris reaches many internal components in complicated machines. Understanding how your working environment affects mining machinery and equipment performance will help you prepare for sudden damages and reduce downtime.
Ineffective maintenance strategy
Although machines used in construction and landscaping projects still suffer a lot of wear and tear, the mining sector is infamous for especially harsh working conditions. Applying the same maintenance rules for underground mining equipment is often not enough, and machines will cease to function properly. A thorough maintenance plan is needed to monitor equipment performance when working conditions are harsh and unpredictable. However, modern solutions like heavy equipment software provide great help for comfortable equipment management on the mining site.
Lack of employee training
While the work under harsh and dangerous conditions already causes plenty of stress, proper operator training is needed to keep construction and mining equipment in tip-top shape. If existing employees only know how to operate the machine, but have no idea how to perform regular inspections and clean major components, the result is complete machine failure. With employers that train workers properly, the operator who understands the processes behind generated work output will have a better feel for faulty equipment and address wear and tear immediately.
Mining equipment maintenance types
Mining equipment maintenance is not that much different from the basic servicing of construction machines. It is the harsh working conditions , as well as safety requirements, enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), that increase the frequency of maintenance activities.
To avoid costly repairs and keep operating costs as low as possible, industrial equipment managers look at tracked equipment through these key maintenance practices:
Routine maintenance focuses on mandatory servicing procedures assigned to appropriate time intervals. For example, regular maintenance procedures usually begin with cleaning, but in harsher environments, operators often inspect and clean equipment before and after every shift.
Tune and adjust your maintenance schedule to find appropriate time frames for routine maintenance tasks. Cleaning procedures and regular inspections should be a stable of daily maintenance schedule, while fluid servicing and examination of internal components.
Preventive maintenance procedures plan out required replacements for air filters, fluid servicing, and detailed inspections to stop the gradual failure of major equipment components. Under a thorough maintenance plan, all machines receive proper lubrication, and operators are trained to inspect the equipment, check engine oil, and perform other maintenance services to prevent massive repair costs and extend the machine’s operation hours.
While both preventive and predictive maintenance procedures tend to overlap, predictive servicing focuses on implementing modern solutions to track the state of large and complicated machines and their fragile components through sensors that track equipment managers and inform them about all maintenance activity. Then, based on the retrieved results, technicians can predict the gradual failure of specific components, and prepare for future repairs.
The most common and easy approach, reactive maintenance strategy addresses issues the moment they pop up. For successful mining companies, such an approach is inconceivable, because lack of preparation causes faster deterioration of components, which not only damages heavy machinery faster but also increases its operating costs. In short, reactive maintenance is never the answer when dealing with heavy-duty equipment, especially mining machines.
What dictates mining equipment performance?
Just like all heavy machinery, equipment performance in mining operations depends on scheduled maintenance procedures. With the help of a pre-planned servicing strategy, technicians can detect any damages a lot faster. The rest depends on the company and its ability to determine environmental conditions, which can greatly reduce the machine’s lifespan, even with routine maintenance.
Again, another detrimental factor is proper training that helps operators understand the intricacies of a controlled machine, and worker safety training that focuses on both the optimal state of the vehicle and the health of fellow employees.
Last, but not least – technology advancements. While the first iterations of industrial machines focused solely on the significant increase in work output, new mining machines have safety equipment components, air filtering systems, and sensors that track the state of components and operational performance.
Despite the obvious improvements in work output, the modernisation of mining equipment introduces the right blend of features for tracking equipment performance, which eliminates a portion of monotonous maintenance work. For example, even if some damages fail to appear in the manager’s logbook, successful warnings make the life of an equipment manager a lot easier.
Why is Equipment Maintenance Important in Mining?
Ever since the introduction of industrial equipment, the sheer work output and stabilisation of underground structures have sped up the excavation of valuable resources while improving workplace safety. While it is still a dangerous occupation, even with the help of heavy machinery, mining equipment maintenance reduces the likelihood of untimely deaths that not only affect other workers but also cost a lot of money to the company.
Also, the lack of servicing causes random outbursts of gradual or total equipment failure, which results in costly repairs and downtime. The implementation of a preventive maintenance plan is a great way to quickly see the immense benefits of proper equipment servicing.
New industrial machines are extremely expensive, therefore companies need to train workers properly and highlight the importance of regular maintenance services. By combining the manufacturer’s recommendations with unique environmental conditions in a present work site, the best businesses find ways to extend equipment’s lifespan and slowly replace dying parts with pre-planned replacements.
Mining equipment maintenance tips
After a comprehensive rundown of maintenance types, benefits, and recommendations, proper servicing boils down to keeping machines as safe as possible and teaching employees to recognize equipment depreciation. When everyone is aware of potential damages, problematic components, and the workplace hazards associated with the operation of mining equipment, the rest boils down to the strict execution of a proper maintenance plan.
Mining equipment maintenance costs
The upkeep of your mining equipment maintenance strategy can vary greatly based on the employment of operators and skilled technicians. More machines need additional personnel, and modern tools need electricians and special workers to take care of delicate machine components.
With labour costs out of the way, other expenses depend on your maintenance plan. If equipment managers only react to the failure of major components, the equipment downtime and expensive replacement parts. In this situation, even a simple preventive maintenance plan can save you a lot of money.
Main equipment maintenance challenges in the mining industry
Even with the right decisions and a positive attitude from a skilled equipment manager, harsh working conditions, unrealistic deadlines, and an insufficient maintenance budget are factors that cause the most problems for the health and operational efficiency of mining equipment. For example, as industrial machines only obtain new and revolutionary capabilities, skilled technicians are hard to come by, as budget constraints prevent companies from offering technicians a fair salary.
Mining equipment maintenance procedures
First of all, despite the various machine types, all equipment maintenance procedures begin with visual inspections during which the operator looks for visible signs of external damage. Shovels, excavator buckets, and other components that come in contact with abrasive materials receive the most attention. After identifying any signs of damage, operators inform equipment managers, which later organise the ordering of replacement parts. Visual inspections are quick and easy, usually performed before every shift. If the company manages a lot of mining machinery, the equipment can be organised and monitored in heavy equipment software.
Cleaning procedures keep machines safe and efficient. A mine is one of the worst environments for heavy equipment machines. They must be inspected at least once before every shift. From basic rags and sponges to industrial vacuum cleaners and other specialised tools, cleaning is the foundation of every maintenance plan, responsible for stopping rapid equipment depreciation.
After that, most servicing tasks focus on fluid replacement and lubrication. Industrial machines have many moving parts that get severely damaged by friction, especially when components are also covered in dust and debris. Fluid level inspections and replacement procedures should be done at least once a week.
While most of the previously mentioned procedures can be completed by trained operators, thorough inspections of electrical components and other technical parts should be left to skilled technicians, especially for such sensitive workplace conditions. If the budget allows it, many companies choose to outsource complex maintenance tasks to the manufacturer. However, if a company manages a lot of underground mining equipment, then it might be better to employ a skilled technician at your company.
Modern mining projects depend on industrial equipment to keep work processes as fast and efficient as possible. While unique machines may have different servicing needs, understanding the benefits and challenges of managing mining equipment should help you prepare an optimal maintenance plan for your project.