Álvaro Rendón
Director General
ECN Scientific
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View from the Top

Offering Optimization as a Service

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 14:14

Q: How are ECN’s solutions increasing efficiency of mine operations and where can you add the most value?
A: Efficiency derives from multiple factors. We have solutions that impact several of these factors and can achieve a 3-5 percent improvement. For example, our ImpactFinder acts as a sound analyzer for mills to better control and maintain the amount of material within the SAG and Ball mills. We measure efficiency by achieving greater production with the same inputs, improving recovery. Also, our control and system information solutions optimize development costs and times by up to 30 percent in the commissioning stage of a new plant operation. We contribute by delivering commissioned equipment on time as it is preconfigured to be installed and start operations in the easiest and fastest way. This also reduces the risk of failure when integrating our equipment. ECN has another technology called UD-Line, which helps to check that the right chemical reactive dose for mineral flotation is being used while saving reactive. An optimum dose is crucial to obtaining a higher mineral grade recovery.
ECN also adds value to the industry by being a Main Automation Contractor (MAC). This is a company distinction that enables us to participate in larger projects, as our clients know that they can leave their whole automation process in our hands. But while MAC speaks to our market offer, it is not a certification. ECN is certified by the Control System Integrator Association (CSIA) for the high quality and training of our staff and processes. This ensures our clients that we will deliver a reliable service from beginning to end.
Q: How and to what extent does your solution impact the sustainability of mine operations?
A: Mining businesses get complicated during price downturns, which force operators to optimize their operations. Our products help to improve efficiency, which results in a series of cuts that are in turn sustainable. For example, a mill operating at optimum capacity will save energy and be more sustainable. Also, UD-line reduces chemical dosing and its operational risks, which prevents environmental accidents. Predictive maintenance is increasingly important. Companies previously employed a team specifically to gather the data for it but today intelligent sensors can collect all the information automatically. IIoT and machine learning technology enable companies to predict failures without needing to invest in a team of people to do so by hand. This permits a better and more sustainable use of resources.
Q: How do you guide your clients in overcoming resistance to new technologies?
A: Miners never want to be the first-adopters when trying a new technology but they always want to be second. I find this resistance not only in Mexico but also in other jurisdictions like Peru. What has worked for us best is to not have prototypes but projects. For example, we developed UD-Line as part of a mining project in which the client trusted us to provide a solution. Companies usually do not like to be the guinea pig when trying new technologies. But once you convince them to try it once, they are more open to giving new technologies a chance with well-measured risk.
Q: How do ECN’s strategic alliances improve the company’s value and offer?
A: We ally with companies that complement our supply, such as Thermo Scientific. A company that has some of Thermo Scientific’s equipment for measuring ore grades can further improve its operational efficiency by better dosing its chemical reagents through our UD-Line Technology. We are promoting the concept of optimization as a service, which I think is the biggest added value of Industry 4.0. It refers to the possibility of having integrated services through online measurements, in turn allowing suppliers to generate reports more directly. We have close alliances with supplying companies, such as MolyCorp, as we believe that our optimization as a service initiative can significantly impact the supplier base.