Mining is a large industry sector accounting for a total of 13,294 mining operations in the United States alone (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2015). The mining sector is represented by four types of mining operations: surface, underground, dredge and artisanal, which all require different infrastructures, equipment and operations. Beyond these differences, mining companies are further differentiated by commodity types as noted by the following breakdown of mines: 1,460 coal, 315 metal, 924 non-metal, 4,303 stone, and 6,292 sand & gravel mines.
While the mining industry is comprised of a mix of large and small companies, it relies on millions of dollars of heavy equipment and machinery, numerous operators, complex operations, standards and procedures, as well as rigorous safety measures. Regardless of its size, managing a mining operation effectively and safely can be a daunting task. As has been the case in other industry sectors, mining companies are looking for ways to automate their operations to achieve optimal outcomes in the form of increased productivity while minimizing operational slowdowns and hazards. The solution lies in Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) which are highly sophisticated software systems that utilize thousands of data points that at any given time, can provide a user with an overview of a facility’s operation or alternatively, with the status of an individual piece of equipment. While CMMS systems can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a company, in general, they can track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets requires preventive maintenance or repairs. Recent innovations in the software include secure cloud-based platforms, mobile device accessibility and paperless functionality that further increases ease of use and functionality. CMMSs are well suited toward the mining industry.
Below are eight benefits of a CMMS for mining companies:
1. Reduced equipment downtime through preventive maintenance
Mining operations are highly integrative. When one part of an operation fails, the whole operation can be affected. Having unforeseen shutdowns are costly and negatively affect a mine’s productivity. By using a CMMS, regular preventive maintenance (PM) can be scheduled during times that will not interfere with mining operations. By conducting preventative maintenance (PM), unanticipated equipment breakdown can be avoided.
2. Extend longevity of mining equipment and machinery through preventive maintenance
With routine preventative maintenance (PM), equipment can perform optimally because any small repairs can be done during those times. By maintaining equipment on a regular basis, unnecessary wear on equipment which could ultimately lead to equipment breakdown or failure can be avoided. In this way, maintenance management software can help companies extend the lifespan of its equipment.
3. Faster response time to critical work orders and repairs
Like CMMSs, mining operations have also become highly sophisticated with many different pieces of equipment as well as operators to consider. Because of this, prompt and accurate response times are essential when work orders are submitted. Since all assets and equipment are inventoried in the software’s database, automated work orders identifying the location and the specific part and/or piece of equipment in need of repair or replacement can be generated with just a few clicks of a mouse (or taps on a device). Work orders are then immediately transmitted to the identified source (i.e., maintenance and/or parts department, supplier etc.). The system can also track the progress of a repair thus ensuring that the work order is being completed as it should.
4. Improved labor efficiency and productivity
An attractive feature of CMMSs is its ability to generate a wide range of reports. By analyzing the productivity of various operation locations, managers can determine the efficiency of equipment, its operators as well as overall productivity. The information provided can assist managers in assessing labor efficiency - be it by repositioning equipment, upgrading equipment or by updating operator training.
5. Improved capabilities for tracking repair costs
Management software can track repair costs of all equipment and assets. Reports can provide a break down cost repairs by parts, service hours as well as the time a piece of equipment was out of service. This information helps managers make important decisions about resource allocations and equipment replacement and upgrades, as needed.
6. Better inventory management for spare parts and consumables
When a CMMS is set up, many companies choose to have a complete audit of their operation. A complete audit includes inputting all inventory stock, including spare parts for equipment. The software makes it possible for companies to monitor its inventory levels of spare parts and set thresholds for them. In doing so, a spare part will always be available when needed but also, it prevents unnecessarily stockpiling costly items that are rarely used.
7. Improved procedures to assure compliance with industry and regulatory safety standards
The mining industry is strictly regulated by safety standards considering the hazard risks associated with its operations. Maintenance software adds all information regarding safety standards, codes and procedures into its database. It also notifies managers when inspections must be conducted. By including these data, managers can feel confident that all equipment will be maintained and meet industry standards.
8. Powerful reporting capabilities to measure against KPIs
As noted previously, CMMSs can generate a wide range of reports based on a company’s needs. When it comes to evaluating a company’s performance, maintenance management software utilizes key performance indicators (KPIs) which are business metrics used to evaluate factors that are crucial to the success of an organization. These include Preventative Maintenance (PM) Compliance assessed by measuring Estimate vs. Actual Performance, Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR).
Mining represents a large and diverse industry sector with complex operational needs including distinct infrastructure and equipment as well as rigorous safety standards. Efficiently managing these challenging operations is best suited to an automated maintenance management approach using a computerized maintenance management system. CMMS software can be customized to meet the unique needs of a mining company and assist in improving productivity, maintaining high safety standards and achieving a greater return on investment (ROI).