70 per cent of mining companies are now using at least one type of industry 4.0 technology to improve productivity and operational efficiency. Yet there remains a degree of hesitance toward widespread adoption. Just one in three are investing in cloud-based technologies (35 per cent) and sensors (34 per cent), and less than a quarter (24 per cent) in autonomous equipment.
It is not easy to implement these connected technologies at scale, especially when the industry is experiencing a number of background challenges: Depleting ore reserves and declining ore grades in existing operations mean that companies have to mine deeper to reach new deposits, which in turn increases costs. This is problematic when Industry 4.0 often requires high up-front investment. It can also be tough for businesses to assess where the investment will pay off in terms of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) 1.
Improving operations by connecting digital and physical resources
Still, the potential upside is huge, connected technologies can help firms better understand their resources, optimize material and equipment flows, anticipate problems before they happen – and automate processes to help staff focus on higher value tasks.
For example, high-tech solutions for lubrication management, such as Shell RemoteSense, now incorporate advanced analytics to deliver real-time lubricant condition monitoring and produce actionable insights to boost operational efficiency. And wireless smart sensors are being deployed, through services such as MachineMax, to monitor vehicles on a mining site and deliver insights on how to optimise utilisation.
Lubricants account for around five per cent of total maintenance expenditure. Yet keeping equipment well-oiled can help to reduce component wear and ultimately costly downtime
What we can say with certainty is that paying proper attention to machinery is vital. Given the variable nature of mining, frequently operating in extreme locations with challenging geology, equipment is under stress and susceptible to breakdowns. For mining to move forward, digital technology and data must be combined with physical maintenance best practice.
Technology-enhanced decision making
For example, thanks to 4-D systems, data gathering can be accelerated - making the assessment process more efficient. Mines have become better able to predict and identify potential equipment issues, all helping to lower costs and increase profits.
Services such as Shell LubeAnalyst - which provide detailed analysis of equipment from oil testing - act as early warning systems that can identify machinery issues before they lead to breakdown. Digital assistance is also at hand from technology such as Shell’s AI-driven LubeChat, which can help mining companies make faster and more informed decisions on lubricant choice and application.
Unleashing maintenance savings
Lubricants account for around five per cent of total maintenance expenditure. Yet keeping equipment well-oiled can help to reduce component wear and ultimately costly downtime – which can have far greater financial ramifications, particularly when it comes to critical equipment. In fact, we believe selecting the right oils and greases, and adopting effective lubrication management strategies – supported by data and 4.0 technology - can help to reduce maintenance budgets by 30 per cent 2.
1 Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is defined by Shell Lubricants as the total amount spent on industrial equipment, including cost of acquisition and operation over its entire working life, including costs of lost production during equipment downtime.
2 Costs include maintenance, labour and fuel.
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