Leopoldo Castillo
Mining Vice-President
Schneider Electric Mexico
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View from the Top

Automation Solutions and Software Boost Production

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 15:51

Q: How can Schneider Electric’s technologies contribute to production increases for mining companies?

A: Automation is specifically designed to make processes constant. It measures the equipment’s operational parameters in a way that enables users to predict unfavorable conditions that could cause downtime. This downtime and potential loss of materials can lead to considerable economic forfeiture. The equipment’s condition should also be taken into account, since the outcome is different when our systems are used in relatively new machines. Schneider Electric’s automation systems can help increase productivity by 25% in modern machines, and by 6% in machines that are over 20 years old. Our technology can also reduce the operational risks that mine workers are usually exposed to because the amount of required personnel is reduced when a procedure is automated. Consequently, more technical positions are created, which is an undeniably positive outcome. A miner has been historically depicted as a strong man covered in dirt and coal. This stereotype is now outdated because of the technologies available to us. Physical strength is no longer as important as scientific knowledge and engineering abilities.

Q: What benefits can mining companies gain by implementing Schneider Electric’s energy management systems?

A: Due to an increase in energy prices, mining companies have begun constructing their own power plants and outlining agreements with possible energy suppliers. Our integrated energy management system enables users to negate all of the energy variables when gauging devices in mining sites. This is not limited to electricity, as it includes air, vapor, and water. Energy sources can be monitored with our ‘Energy Advisor’ system, which also enables the management of energy according to consumption. This system quantifies losses and improves energy performance across different processes. The Energy Advisor can also help mining companies decide when to use energy from the national utility CFE or from other sources, resulting in financial savings and more efficient energy consumption. This is something we want to promote strongly in the Mexican mining industry.

Q: How do Schneider Electric’s technologies adapt to specific client needs?

A: Our technology is entirely adaptable and flexible, and it is specifically designed so that users can add necessary components. Previously, management software was rather limited, as it could only operate with a certain number of variables. Today’s software suites allow users to add a virtually unlimited amount of variables. The technological needs of mining companies have evolved; their operations tend to take place in remote zones with extreme climatic conditions, meaning that special facilities are needed to safeguard electrical equipment. Schneider Electric supplies E-houses to protect instruments and ensure their optimal performance. The infrastructure of these E-houses ensures that the control systems work properly, using cabling, conditioning, and resistance to vibrations. In addition, these containers can be modular and adapt to different production volumes.

Q: How has the use of Ethernet technologies simplified communication processes and promoted the necessary scalability and flexibility for extending a mining installation’s life?

A: We have pushed this technology because we know its advantages and, fortunately, this has permeated into the mining industry. Ethernet is a universal communication system that works through different physical capabilities and enables easy identification of the points where the information is being sent and received. We decided to integrate Ethernet into our systems so that our instruments can transmit information to the TCP/IP base in a way that allows users to assign an address to each component. This makes it easy to access instruments from anywhere in the world and makes the information transparent. For example, a company can upload information to its corporate headquarters to monitor operations in real-time. Ethernet also allows users to incorporate their technology into existing systems. This was previously very complicated because communication channels had to be bridged in order to ensure proper operations. Ethernet technology removes the need for intermediate points of communication in system interconnections, reducing potential points of failure and increasing equipment availability to mitigate downtime.