Game-changing digital solutions for mines from SKF


With digitalisation seeping into the mining industry and transforming day-to-day procedures, this sector is enhancing its Industry 4.0 operation and process compliancy. As a preferred supplier of premium brand products and services to customers in the mining sector, SKF South Africa aligns with this revolution to assist customers in increasing their productivity and profitability.


“One of the challenges in industry today is gathering information from different sources in the plant and extracting meaningful data that can be viewed and displayed in a manner that makes sense to various stakeholders,” states Zulfikar Umar, Remote Diagnostic Centre Manager at SKF South Africa. “Digitalisation enables different data streams, which would have traditionally been compartmentalised, to be collated and analysed from a macro perspective allowing for smarter decisions, quicker reaction times and better planning of operations.”

As the implementation of new 4IR technologies is a costly exercise, mines tend to be more cautious in adopting change but Online Condition Monitoring Specialist at SKF Group, Lourens Zeelie, says that it is worth the investment. “By moving from old to new cutting-edge technology, South Africa’s older mines can achieve significant savings such as energy reduction for example. These digitalised technologies, which offer continuous monitoring and expert analysis to detect and correct faults before they negatively impact the mine, are a far more cost-effective option compared to replacement of equipment.

One such technology is SKF’s IMx8, an online condition monitoring system that assists mines to enhance productivity. IMx8 enables operators to remotely view real time data of equipment performance and, through cloud computing and smart devices, improve production processes.

Zeelie points out that condition monitoring using vibration is already being widely utilised across the mining sector. It is crucial for operators to have the full picture of their machine’s health in order to prevent unexpected failures leading to costly machine damage and unplanned downtime.

Supporting Zeelie’s sentiments, Umar shares more of SKF’s advanced technological solutions such as Data Collect which records vibration and temperature and enables visual inspection routes to be captured digitally. “All this information is fed back to SKF’s Remote Diagnostic Centre where it is analysed, assessed and represented in a report format or even through online dashboards for customers to have at their fingertips,” notes Umar.

Without two key elements of digitalisation, namely data and connectivity, mines would not be able to reap the full benefits that digitalisation brings to the table. Digital systems on mines are predominantly cloud- based which means that customers have 24 hour access to information. According to Zeelie, the SKF IMx16PLUS has built in Wifi and 3G capabilities to support cloud connectivity, eliminating the need for customers to purchase any hardware such as a server for data storage. These digital systems remove operators from hazardous areas whilst still enabling them to have a clear view of operations.

Equipped with all this relevant, targeted data, customers require specialised data analytics to be able to fully understand and utilise this information to its full potential. Recognising this need, SKF has placed its focus on Big Data and operates nine Remote Diagnostic Centres. The drive behind these centres is focused on creating a uniformed methodology of data collection and management as well as analysis and reporting. Umar elaborates that the goal in the not-too-distant future will be for plant equipment to self-diagnose impending faults and predict lead times to failure. “This will enable the equipment itself to order critical components for replacement early in the failure curve thereby assisting in alleviating logistic issues related to long lead times. The knock-on effect will be leaner stock holdings, just-in time-delivery and well planned maintenance windows, all of which will have huge financial savings whilst increasing plant efficiency,” says Umar. The advantages gained by incorporating digitalisation into equipment cannot be underestimated. Digitalisation not only contributes to overall enhanced efficiencies but also to significant cost savings in the long run. The mining sector is poised to greatly benefit from the integration of these cutting-edge technologies and SKF is geared to provide these game-changing solutions.

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