Mining machinery:
Why implementing preventive actions to avoid unplanned downtime is so important

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Every machine with moving parts has to contend with friction and wear. It’s no surprise, then, that heavy-duty mining equipment – which undertakes the most demanding tasks (breaking, crushing, and milling rocks), in some of the harshest environments, up to 365 days a year – are likely to experience considerably more wear and tear than most.

The difference is the cost of repairing or replacing these immense machines is huge. More than that, the financial loss associated with unplanned downtime – that is, when operations unexpectedly stop because of maintenance or mechanical failure – can be catastrophic. According to Senseye, around 23 hours per month of mining production is lost to machine failures, costing around $187,500 per hour. If not repaired properly and quickly, this can equate to millions – if not billions – annually.

In such a competitive industry, unplanned downtime is something operators desperately need to avoid. The key to achieving this is by prioritizing improving machine uptime: the duration equipment can work when it matters, for the longest lifespan possible.

Magnificent mining machines

Heavy-duty machinery – from drills to earth movers to conveyor systems– are the backbone of any mining organization. Most production is reliant on their good working order. It’s why it’s so crucial to be aware of equipment vulnerabilities that could trigger mechanical failure, such as:

  • Abrasions 
  • Wear
  • Loosening (of say bolts and fasteners)
  • Misalignment
  • Corrosion
  • Leakages
  • Technical failures

By foreseeing issues and proactively managing equipment downtime, operators will sustain peak production levels and profit.

The true cost of downtime

Planned downtime – or factors affecting productivity – is a cost of doing business that any organization has to factor.  In the mining industry, this can include:

  • Scheduled maintenance
  • Idle time (e.g., operator breaks)
  • Inactivity during moves between sites
  • Waiting time (e.g., for a truck to be unloaded)
  • Environmental disruptions 

However, it’s unplanned downtime that’s the killer. It’s estimated the total cost of unscheduled downtime can be as much as 15 times that of scheduled event. And it’s not just the expense of last-minute repairs and replacements that have a negative impact. It can also effect:

  • Production speed – which in turn can impact product delivery, customer satisfaction and competitive edge
  • Profit 
  • Safety – accidents are more likely to occur when technicians are doing emergency repairs. This could also have implications on insurance costs, legality, and public image

It also creates idle time for processes both upstream and downstream of the area with equipment failure. For example, if a mill within the mining process is down for an unplanned issue, then the conveyor system supplying the mill with materials needs to stop feeding the machine. Downstream, the processes are getting starved of material to process and therefore also idle, alongside all operators. Essentially, a shutdown in one area can have a ripple effect on the entire operation. 

Prevention over cure

Fortunately, there are preventive measures that can be taken to keep unplanned downtime to a minimum.

Investing in quality
Investing in the most reliable equipment available, as well as the best quality maintenance tools and technicians, is a good starting point. Big profit returns require big initial investment.

Regular maintenance
Implementing regular inspection and maintenance procedures, to equipment specifications, is an obvious way to reduce the likelihood of running into costly problems in the first place.

Lubricant management
Lubricating all moving parts minimizes the damage caused by friction. With many different lubricants for different jobs, good management is vital. For example, anti-seize lubricants are used to mitigate parts such as bolts, fasteners and flanges from corroding and seizing, and therefore facilitate disassembly and maintenance. 

Use threadlockers
Thread-locking fluid – or a threadlocker – is a single component adhesive that can be applied to the threads of fasteners, such as screws and bolts, to prevent loosening from vibration and shock, plus seals against leakages and corrosion.

Embrace smart technology
Smart inspection systems are a great way to monitor equipment 24/7. They provide predictive reports on its health, meaning they can advise if a machine needs maintenance before a serious breakdown occurs.

Apply protective and wear resistant coatings
High quality protective and wear resistant coatings is a cost-effective way to not only protect against abrasion, erosion, chemical attack, and corrosion, but to also restore worn surfaces and increase part efficiency, therefore saving costs and extending equipment life. Routine maintenance, including overcoating of existing abrasion and wear resistant coatings can eliminate wear-through of the coating, thereby infinitely extending the equipment life.

Final thoughts

Protecting the good working condition of mining equipment by implementing preventive measures, such as applying the correct sacrificial wear coatings, fastener loosening and anti-seize lubricants, will help to avoid disastrous failures, and ensure machinery is available during peak times. It can also help to avoid huge replacements costs down the line by significantly extending equipment lifetime – perhaps even forever.

The fact is, you only get to remove materials from the earth once. Ensuring it’s done at the lowest cost possible is vital to maximize both opportunity and profitability, and why it’s so important downtime – planned or unplanned – is kept to a minimum. 

Henkel provides a full range of protective and wear resistant coating product solutions.

To find out more – or further discuss anything in this article – please contact us

About the authors

John Borden is the Director of Global MRO Activation at Henkel. John has 22 years of developing and coordinating global market strategies and initiatives. John collaborates closely with Loctite regional teams, channel partners, service providers, and customers. John is focused on identifying and providing relevant solutions for business partners to extend their equipment life.

Loren Nauss is the Business Development Manager for Maintenance Chemicals at Henkel. Loren focuses on extending equipment life, improving equipment, and increasing overall equipment value, using Loctite Nordbak chemical solutions. Loren has a bachelor’s degree in Business, from Eastern Connecticut State University. Loren has 29 years of experience supporting- rebuilding, repairing, and fabricating industrial equipment and incorporating the use of Loctite adhesive, Sealing, and Coating solutions.

Loren's industry experience includes products, projects, and applications in mines, quarries, pulp, and paper industry, power gen, oil, and gas, as well as many other general industrial areas. Loren also has worked for 6 years as a machinist.

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