Nacip Fayad
Industrial Sales Director
SKF
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View from the Top

Industry 4.0 to Transform Mining Operations

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 10:51

Q: What is the largest barrier to implementing Industry 4.0 in the Mexican mining sector?
A: Mexico is a follower in terms of technology and it is difficult for Mexican companies to become early adopters of technology or innovation. The culture in Mexico is to integrate technologies slowly but when something goes wrong, they toss it out. This complicates the advancement of technology and innovation. Compared with other Latin American countries, such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile, Mexico is far behind in this regard, even though the country has strong purchasing structures, and is the most robust of the Latin American markets. What we have noticed is that most large companies separate their innovation departments from the rest of their operations. There are some that include it in their production department but it remains independent. It is difficult to sell technologies because you have to pitch to many departments, instead of approaching one single director who can make the decision to implement it. Negotiating and selling the added value of the product has become more difficult.
Q: What companies have decided to invest in transforming their processes with Industry 4.0?
A: Our technology is already being used by the largest mining groups. Nevertheless, there is a gap between purchasing the technology and actually evolving into Industry 4.0. We have not been able to convince all our clients that these types of changes take time. That said, we have developed successful projects with Fuerza Eólica del Istmo. This is the closest we have come to a complete Industry 4.0 project. Another barrier we encounter is that to enter into Industry 4.0, it is important to establish partnerships with other companies. We have observed that most clients already have their strategies for an ERP already divided into the different modules needed and to follow the processes. What is missing is the equipment itself that allows for continuity in the processes.
Q: How does SKF combine its products and services to transform mining companies into Industry 4.0 adopters?
A: We have a remote monitoring system that not many companies have. People in the field with predictive technologies and the technology itself allow for the conservation of the equipment. We are integrating all of the elements of industry 4.0. Our Industry 4.0 services combine services and technologies to provide our clients with a well-rounded offer. The market is advancing quickly and new technologies are being created constantly. Mexico, however, is adopting these technologies very slowly in comparison to other countries. We have visited plants where concepts such as IoT are not understood completely, and many processes are still being done manually. We have decided to create a showroom in our Puebla plant to be able to illustrate to our clients how their processes could be streamlined and improved. At our plant, we are able to monitor specific processes and machinery to constantly identify new ways to improve maintenance and prevent downtimes. The cloud is used to store the data gathered throughout all processes and from the machines, but there still continues to be distrust from our clients as to where their information goes and is being stored.
Q: How quick is the ROI when investing in new technologies and can you elaborate the success story at Fuerza Eólica del Istmo?
A: When implementing these services, the ROI can be as fast as six to 15 months, depending on the type of project. At Fuerza Eólica del Istmo, we are monitoring its 32-turbine wind farm, which is difficult to inspect. Whenever there is an issue, it would have to stop all turbines, which costs a lot of money. The client made the investment and in eight months, we were able to detect a malfunction in the main gearbox in one of the transmission cogs. The alert was given and the maintenance was programmed. Monitoring can be done online with people or offline. Online is designed to retrieve and monitor in remote or insecure areas. Industry 4.0 allows for preventive action. It extends the life of machinery and plans for maintenance and replacements. It facilitates the circular economy by reusing raw materials and parts.