Most of the assets in an open-pit mine (specifically, with shovel-dumper combination) are largely mobile such as trucks, excavators, dozers etc. Hence, an immediate solution that comes to a manager is to install GPS (Global Positioning System) devices in the assets and track them in the mine and determine what they are doing. Off-The-Shelf (OTS) GPS devices can provide location of the asset on map (visually) including few parameters with history of data and send data to server over GSM/CDMA networks. OTS GPS devices helps manager know working hours of an individual asset and location wise. However, this OTS GPS based solution suffers from following challenges (eg.: for a truck):
- GPS devices help only to track trucks in the mine but do not convey what activity trucks are doing
- In order to know what a truck is doing, entire trail of truck should be monitored. Otherwise it looks either working or not working at a specific location. To monitor truck continuously, a person should stay completely record truck events/activities manually
- GPS devices also provide few parameters like engine ON/OFF, which can help know if the engine is ON or OFF. This gives working hours of truck but not how productive the truck is. It does not give inefficiency of operator
- Some OTS GPS FMS mention when a truck is stopped as idle. But that is less helpful because even a truck waiting for its loading is actually working but can be shown as idle or at the time of unloading also it shows as idle
- GPS devices can determine trips made by truck based on geo-locations not by actual activity, hence leading inaccurate reporting
- Off-The-Shelf (OTS) GPS devices usually send data to server over GSM/CDMA network. One key challenge in the mines, GSM/CDMA network is inconsistent/poor. Hence, the data from an asset reaches server late and the lag is not predictable
- An activity of a truck is determined in relation with related assets around it such as excavators. If GPS devices are deployed on GSM/CDMA network, the data from different assets (trucks & excavators) reach server at different times, it is difficult to assess what activity of truck is performed/performing
- These OTS GPS devices are meant to track vehicles in urban areas and for long travels, where signals are good and do not need continuous monitoring. Whereas, the cycle times in mine are often 30 minutes or less and state changes in less than 5 minutes, hence continuous monitoring becomes essential to record equipment utilization and/or mine operations
Because of these reasons, such OTS GPS based solution adds more challenges to operations management than enabling them. GPS is surely a key component of the solution, but it is not the only component or enough to have meaningful operations data. In contrast, Mine Management Systems help managers provide information to make operations decisions quickly, have complete visibility of operations in single screen, easy to analyze related equipment/operation data and identify bottlenecks, enable communication with appropriate operator to guide etc. In addition, it also integrates with OEM control system, other systems such as tyre monitoring, pay load management, operator interface etc. to enable equipment (such as trucks, excavators) health monitoring, fuel scheduling, tyre air refill scheduling, truck dispatching etc. It also enhances maintenance due to advanced information of equipment health leading to reduced breakdowns. It also monitors other assets such as dozers and graders to help analyze efficiencies of excavators and truck haulage. It also monitors other assets such as crushers, screening systems so actual production can be determined at every stage and gives complete view of stock in the mine. Usually, the hardware used in the system is different than OTS GPS device and it offers advantages as shown in the table.
So, the comparing OTS GPS based solutions with exclusively developed Mine Management Systems is not appropriate and also any attempt to evolve a solution using OTS GPS based solution to a Mine Management System can be time consuming and very expensive proposition. Most of the Mine Management Systems suppliers would provide more suitable for mining environment to withstand dust, humid, vibrations, temperature etc. Business decision in choosing any solution depends on value to cost ratio, but not on cost alone. Though he cost of OTS GPS based solution looks low but cannot be really useful for mining environment given its value to managers. While, the value to cost ratio is significantly high for professionally developed Mine Management Systems.
Note: An insight in choosing an appropriate supplier for Mine Management System will be posted soon.