On the way to smart mining

More and more companies all over the world are turning to digital integration to increase efficiency and save money. Siemens’ digital portfolio for mines combines a deep understanding of mining processes with state-of-the-art electric, automation and IT solutions.

In today’s world, mining companies have their work cut out for them as they face declining ore grades, increasing safety requirements, stricter environmental regulations and volatile prices. Cutting-edge solutions are the way forward, and that means integration of more and more digital technologies. For some time now, mining customers around the world have recognized the potential of digitalization, for example to reduce cost pressure or to comply with legal requirements.

For a cleaner, safer and more efficient stockyard

A case in point is new environmental regulations from the Chinese government calling for newly constructed stockyards to be indoors. However, the high temperatures and levels of dust involved make for harsh working conditions. The answer is autonomous storage and retrieval machinery for these indoor facilities.

 

Siemens is currently supplying its autonomous stockyard management system for a such a facility under construction by HBIS Laoting Steel Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of one of the world’s biggest iron and steel producers.

 

The system comprises a material tracking and management system (MAQ), an autonomous stockyard operating system (MOM), a Simatic PCS 7 process control system and an industrial network. Consulting, engineering, project management and commissioning are also part of the project.

Autonomous control

Interaction between these different components enables control of all the plant’s machines and conveying technology. Furthermore, it offers wide-ranging benefits, such as the capability for all machines and conveyors to be controlled from a single system.

 

A core element of the autonomous stockyard management system is the stockyard 3D model. It provides information on the volume and quality of stocked material, and it enables autonomous operation of all the plant’s storage and retrieval machines. The model is updated regularly with data delivered by stackers and reclaimers.

Sensors prevent collisions

After the working area and the parameters for each job are specified, the details are calculated automatically and approved by the control center. The job is then transferred to the machines, and the rest is automatic. To prevent collisions between machines and other objects and constructions, the stockyard machinery comes with a protection system that relies on data delivered by sensors.

 

The new setup will allow HBIS Laoting Steel Co. Ltd. to not only drive down its operating costs, but also achieve a 5 to 10 percent improvement in system efficiency and to increase production capacity by 3 to 7 percent. The use of autonomous storage and retrieval machinery also improves safety, as no operators are needed at the machinery. In addition, the mechanical parts of the equipment are exposed to less wear and tear.

Keeping uptime high

Equipment like storage and retrieval machinery is operated around the clock. It is essential that it functions without fail, because unexpected downtime can carry a price tag in the millions.

 

This is where predictive maintenance comes in. Process and operational data are collected via sensors on motors and other essential equipment. Thanks to intelligent analysis using algorithms, it’s possible to predict the optimal time for machine and plant component maintenance.

Digital services for reliable operation

For medium- and high-voltage applications, Siemens offers Digital Drive Train Services. This cloud solution ensures constant knowledge about the condition of the components. Before critical changes can arise, certified service experts contact the user immediately, identify the fault, and provide support with troubleshooting.

 

Users also benefit from automated status reports and notifications that allow them to detect faults at an early stage. If despite these measures downtime does occur, operators can react quickly by directly connecting a service expert to the plant.

 

A similar digital service is also offered with Asset Health Analytics for Gearless Mills. The solution takes into account the specific requirements and behavior of a gearless motor, yet also covers all components – including power and cooling equipment, drives, the mill itself and the e-house. 

The future is now

From stockyards operating with very little human intervention to mining drives and components communicating their status automatically: what just a few years ago seemed like a futuristic scenario is now reality. This also applies to the Siemens Minerals Operation Management Solutions offering: it helps eliminate information silos across entire operations.

 

Digital solutions have become well established in day-to-day mining operations – and more and more mines and mining areas are set to benefit. The Siemens portfolio of digital solutions for the mining industry, however, still has its sights firmly fixed on the future: SmartMining, a cloud-based platform to detect and analyze anomalies in a whole range of equipment will soon be available - making the mining industry even smarter in the future.

Securing automation and IT systems against cyberattacks and manipulation is a top priority in almost every plant and project also in the mining industry. However, many operators lack the required expertise to identify risks and threats. Siemens has therefore developed several blueprints for automation and control systems engineering to facilitate security engineering and eliminate potential security weak spots. Key areas of importance include:

·       helping the asset owner identify critical assets and specify suitable protection goals

·       supporting the security life cycle process through an efficient threat and risk analysis

·       implementing efficient and effective testing and compiling and

·       providing the required documentation

2019-03

Picture credits: Siemens AG 

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