A large mining client contacted RidgeTech to add digital asset tracking and reporting at one of their underground sites in North America. The client wanted a more accurate, efficient and timely method to track assets throughout an immense system of underground tunnels, and to monitor and report the progress of their mining machines. Existing processes involved hand written reports between shift leaders and eventually up to senior leadership. The process was slow and often resulted in missing information. This routinely caused miscommunication between shift supervisors and left senior leadership making decisions based on inaccurate and out dated information.
The short term requirements were a) to improve shift to shift communication and b) to increase the speed and accuracy with which information was made available to the management team. They were also very clear that they hoped this project was just the beginning of their digital journey so we needed to ensure that the solution was scalable and took into consideration future expandability with Industry 4.0 technologies and practices.
RidgeTech engaged all of the clients’ stakeholders including operations, maintenance, engineering and senior management to better understand how each of their roles could benefit from digital solutions. Each team had their own unique list of requirements as we developed a roadmap for the client’s digital transformation. To gain an understanding of their operations, we toured underground and surface operations, reviewed existing and proposed future processes and compiled a list of the hundreds of assets that needed to be tracked.
We also completed an audit of their existing SCADA setup including software, server structure, performance and scalability. In this case, the client had already been experimenting with Inductive Automation’s Ignition Software and had previously procured a full site license. Our extensive experience with Ignition and knowing how flexible and scalable the platform was, gave us the confidence that it was the right choice for this application and for expansion into the future. The ability to generate customized modules and reports meant that we could satisfy the various requests for information from each of the stakeholders and Ignition’s unlimited licensing structure allowed for cost effect growth into future projects.
RidgeTech took a very transparent approach with the development of the GUI’s and the back end logic and we met weekly to review progress and solicit feedback from each of the teams. We developed intuitive screens to collect user input that would allow information to be added quickly from ruggedized tablets and terminals throughout the entire facility. Our team developed an underground map of the mine that allowed operators to easily show mining progress and input data for each completed section.
We created end of shift reports to make turnover accurate and efficient for the underground teams. RidgeTech also developed individual reports and historical data tailored for engineering, maintenance and senior management so that they could quickly analyze the information that was important to each of them. We rolled out the new system to a select group of team members in parallel with the existing manual processes. This allowed our team to debug and validate the system without any significant impact to operations. After a few weeks of testing and commissioning the new system, we rolled it out to everyone.
The initial project to develop the asset tracking and mine head progress reporting systems took approximately 8 months from concept to completion and the solution was extremely well received. Almost immediately the client noticed reduced turn over times between shifts and equipment utilization increased significantly within the first few weeks. Senior management was also receiving accurate information in real time and were able to make more informed decisions. After the success of the first project the customer began to accelerate their digital transformation and we have since completed several projects with them including:
- Generation of maintenance work orders
- Email generation for production summaries and maintenance issues
- Improved end of shift reports with safety information and updates
- Downtime reports
- Automated data collection from PLC controlled equipment
- Vessel loading reports
- Enhanced equipment utilization reporting
- Utility usage monitoring
- Communication boards – dash board, COVID information, HR updates
These digital transformations and the data collected have become critical to our client’s overall operations. They are extremely happy with the way their teams have adopted the new technology and the digital solutions have changed their company’s culture for the better.
We are proud to have been able to support this client through such a profound operational change and we are excited to see how many more enhancements we can develop with them in the future.