With the changing face of the mining industry, companies are working hard to ensure the reliability and efficiency of existing infrastructure to minimise costs and maximise output without compromising on safety.
Data analysis and the integration of data into system processes is fundamental to achieving this, with the coordination of site wide communications (facilitated through network convergence) to capture all processes into planning systems allowing the optimisation of resources across all aspects of the mine site.
The importance of data
The value of data lies in the insights and operational intelligence it can provide to drive sustainable productivity and decrease costs. This value cannot be derived without distilling and analysing the data to make it meaningful.
As data collection processes become more complex, with the ability to collect more and more information from a broader range of devices, data analytics becomes a critical part of the decision making process. Interpreting data and integrating it into planning platforms allows for more efficient allocation of resources and for it to be incorporated into all aspects of planning. Examples of this include safety analytics where different data collection processes can be correlated to predict increases in safety risk factors such as fatigue and absences due to illness or injury. Predictive maintenance also becomes available when trending data across condition and performance of equipment can help with the development of maintenance schedules and assessment of equipment performance.
Around a network, data is collected from a range of sources including equipment and environment control and monitoring systems, employee management systems and productivity measures. Such systems contribute huge amounts of data, which needs to be distilled to gain operational benefit. Complicating this process further is that data is often gathered from many disparate systems and communicated throughout a network in a number of ways. For example, it may be locally displayed on a device, remotely viewed via a SCADA or PLC system, or accessed using other web based network interfaces.
Underground mine communications presents a number of unique challenges when it comes to data collection. Equipment or other communication devices may be spread across a wide area, often in hazardous or hard to access locations.
Typically this communication network includes a number of separate systems, from basic controller and sensors providing data local to the device, through to highly intelligent devices which provide feedback through PLC or SCADA systems to the surface via a web interface.
In addition, the communication network must cope with the arduous conditions of the underground mining environment and often be installed and maintained by personnel who are not experts in communication technology such as network cable termination or data interpretation.
These conditions make it challenging to ensure the information is interpreted in a consistent and coordinated way so that it can be actioned.
The benefits of network convergence
With so much data being collected and stored, it is not surprising that network convergence is the hot topic in industry. Network convergence, simply put, involves the combination and connection of different platforms and networks, allowing different types of systems to connect with each other using a common standard. This allows mines to coordinate information across their entire site irrespective of platform, and display this information in real time to a number of stakeholders.
Network technologies are moving towards cloud-based management systems. This allows users to work on a virtual network utilising hardware controlled from a central server that manages resources to connected devices. Cloud or virtual networking provides simplified hardware requirements and hence significant cost savings. For example, SCADA systems could utilise a private cloud network that includes the desired level of redundancy and efficiency. It also has the advantage of allowing for mobile computing. The portability of mobile computing is particularly beneficial in mining applications, where the network is characterised by a wide reaching and often moving network infrastructure in hazardous conditions. Mobile computing provides work location flexibility and easy access to data across the network saving time and increasing productivity.
In addition to obvious hardware advantages, the move towards network convergence, supported by cloud-based technology, is an effective means of data management. Data can be displayed easily across a number of connected devices. It can also be incorporated into ERP platforms to facilitate a more holistic approach to decision making across the business. This data can provide dynamic feedback of resources which can be easily shared between stakeholders and integrated into planning for all business processes including human resources, procurement, production, asset management and customer service and sales.
Networking technology such as Ampcontrol’s H3RO (Harsh Environment Reticulated Optics) enables integrated system communications to be achieved simply and easily, with access to cloud-based technologies. The system ensures reliable network communications and allows a more standardised approach to site wide installation and operation. Utilising a platform like H3RO, coupled with basic analysis capabilities, mine sites can maintain reliable communication of data for the entire underground mine network.
Data driven decision making provides mine sites with a means of driving production and efficiency gains through smarter utilisation of existing hardware infrastructure and resource management. The networking of site wide mine communications allows for the effective integration of data received from the variety of disparate operating systems. The advantage of this is more effective data collection and hence more valuable input into planning processes for resource allocation, improving productivity and safety. Ampcontrol specialises in networked communication and data management. We can help you drive sustainable productivity, improve safety and decrease costs with reliable networks, effective data management and ultimately meaningful data.