Take the Lid Off Performance with IIoT

Author photo: Greg Gorbach
ByGreg Gorbach
Industry Trends

Here's another interesting use case for the Industrial Internet of Things.  It has all the right bits:  connected devices, network communications, (basic) analytics,  and application software.    The payoff is dramatically improved operating performance and enhanced safety. 


Dundee Precious Metals (DPM) is a mining firm headquartered in Canada with operations worldwide.  DPM's mine in Chelopech, Bulgaria, which produces gold, copper, and silver concentrate, set a goal to increase production by 30 percent without increasing manpower or the number of vehicles.  30 percent!


ARC's client interactions and surveys tell us that the most common driver for the Industrial Internet of Things is reducing unplanned downtime (ARC clients click http://bit.ly/1Ac9LcA for details) and there as a lot of fanfare about that.  But the second biggest driver is improving operating performance, and this may prove to have an even bigger impact in the end.  In this case, while setting a goal of a 30 percent production increase is impressive, this is exactly what ARC means when we talk about transforming industrial operations.  Incremental improvements are good, but dramatic, transformative improvements are achievable using existing technologies.  And as we will see, the actual results in this case far exceeded the goal.


Dundee Precious Metals mining IIoT.pngDPM recognized that a big limitation for mine managers was that they couldn't find out about production until the end of each eight hour shift, when supervisors filled out a paper report. If any process interruption occurred during the shift, they didn’t know about it until later, so they often couldn't resolve it before production was affected. 


They decided to use Industrial Internet of Things technology to "take the lid off the mine."  They reasoned that if they could see everything that was going on as it happened, instead of waiting for shift change, they could achieve their production  goals.  The real-time information that would be needed included miners' locations, equipment locations, vehicle status, and how many buckets have been filled.  DPM deployed a Cisco Unified Wireless Network in the mine as the foundation of a solution, with custom 2.4 GHz antenna, several other Cisco products, and an internally developed mining operations application.  RFID tags on vehicles and miners' caps enabled tracking of assets and people, and IP phones and tablets enabled communication and collaboration from anywhere, above ground or below.  Other systems such as the conveyor system, the blasting system, and lights, fans, and power, were also tied in to the network.


With the new Industrial Internet of Things technologies in place, a host of improvements became possible.  Knowing the location and status of vehicles enables supervisors to optimize some activities.  For example, drivers can be told where to go, and via an Instant Message, their route can be adjusted to pick up more ore.  Instead of leaving vehicles idle, they can be redeployed.  Shift supervisors and drivers can see how many buckets have been dumped, and how many are still needed.   If a problem with a vehicle threatens production targets, real-time video sharing with experts can ensure the fastest possible resolution to the problem.  For collaboration with other company locations on production, development, and project schedules, Cisco TelePresence provides a face-to-face experience that can be helpful, especially for international meetings. 


In addition to operating performance improvements, improvements in safety, energy, and asset performance were also achieved.  


Safety:  Signals from the RFID tags on caps and vehicles were used to determine locations of people and machines, which were then superimposed on a 3D map.  "Now we know where miners are and have been."  Moving the blast signals to the wireless network allowed the blasting system to be integrated with the people-tracking system, thereby helping to ensure that blasting will not occur unless every individual has exited the mine. 


Energy:  With the people-tracking capability also comes the ability to decrease energy costs by adjusting fans, lights, and power based on when people are in an area.  And vehicle tracking enables a reduction in inefficient routes and partial loads. 


Asset Performance:  Continuous transmission and monitoring of machine performance data such as engine and tire pressure, rotations per minute, number of buckets dumped enables the repair of vehicle when the information is trending out of range.  And if a vehicle is not ready when scheduled, it sends a notification to supervisors so another vehicle can be used.


DPM is also exploring the idea of extending the Industrial Internet of Things to people health monitoring.  One plan is to connect environmental sensors. 


Oh, and that 30 percent production improvement target?  DPM blew right past it.  Since connecting its people, process, data, and things to the Cisco Unified Wireless Network, DPM increased production from 0.5 million to 2 million tons annually.  400 percent! 


For more information about this case, follow this link:  http://bit.ly/1AwK5wl


ARC has seen a marked uptick in interest in Industrial Internet of Things in the last several months, and in particular, requests for use cases have skyrocketed.  We plan to highlight several interesting Industrial Internet of Things stories here in the coming months. 


Posted in IIoT and I4.0 Viewpoints: bit.ly/iiotblog


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