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Siemens: Total Automation Increases Safety, Efficiency

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:11

Q: How does Siemens help its clients take advantage of the industrywide trend toward greater automation?

A: COVID-19 has accelerated automation in the mining industry by roughly three years, according to our estimates. There are many windows of opportunity in Mexico’s industry. Miners here are already highly technical, which provides a good foundation for further improvements. For instance, it is hard to accomplish social distancing in underground mines. But thanks to digital technology, it is possible to operate remotely. Siemens has operations around the world where a majority of the assets are controlled remotely. Additionally, we offer remote support systems. The need for a specialist to travel to mining sites has gradually diminished. Field service can now be done remotely. With the appropriate technology, it can be undertaken comprehensively and safely. The client’s technicians can become our eyes and hands on the field, and we do not have to go there physically anymore.

Another trend related to automation that has been put in the forefront due to COVID-19 is home office. For the first time in Mexico, Siemens is carrying out remote factory tests, for example. This is a pioneering initiative, since factory tests by definition are supposed to be done at a factory. But thanks to our technology, we can do them remotely, supervised by our client working from their home office.

Q: What other examples of automation technology does Siemens offer?

A: Siemens has a product called Asset Health Analytics. It monitors conditions remotely. But it goes beyond mere data recollection. It includes an AI algorithm that processes data and packages it according to different operational areas. Specialists in each area are able to monitor the processed data and inform clients of any abnormalities. Moreover, once data has been processed by the algorithm and interpreted by a human expert, recommendations for process improvement can be made.

Our digital-twin technology is another example. Thanks to this technology, we can simulate a process and model it mathematically. The applications are numerous. One can visualize how a project yet to be built will behave in advance. Also, when the project is already ongoing and an expansion or repair must be made, our data scientists generate the digital twin and offer advice according to the simulation’s behavior under a variety of scenarios.

Q: How does Siemens bring together all automation levels in a mining operation?

A: Siemens has two platforms for achieving this. The first is called Totally Integrated Power (TIP). The second is called Totally Integrated Automation (TIA). Together, they integrate into a single platform all automation levels of a plant. This solution makes it easy to communicate among different levels of automation and control. For example, applied to a plant’s energy consumption, this solution joins all different levels of electrification into one single digital platform that optimizes power use. That leads to what we call the mine of the future, where automation and electrification are integrated into a single platform that promotes operational efficiency.

In terms of sustainability, Siemens’ TIA and TIP generate the required conditions to enhance the reliability of the mine’s processes and improve sustainability. By totally integrating automation, the process is optimized. This translates into a healthy and reliable power network, resulting in measurable sustainability.

Q: What problems do Siemens’ rectifiers solve and how do you integrate them into the TIA and TIP system?

A: Our heavy-duty rectifiers have many applications. For instance, they are necessary for metallurgical processes like electrolytic refining of certain minerals. That process is founded on the high demand for high-amplitude currents. Our equipment allows the generation of the high current levels that are necessary for such processes. These rectifiers are the heart of the process, creating energy efficiency in high-consumption processes.

Rectifiers are crucial for guaranteeing safety. When nominal currents of 1,000 amperes are involved, any incident could be fatal. Siemen’s rectifiers are the most reliable in the market and are widely used in mining operations throughout Mexico.

Siemens’ rectifiers are connected to a control system that governs their operation. That platform can be connected to our total automation solution, aligning rectifier performance with that of the whole process. Rectifiers are electric machines that need a control system to notify them how to operate and at what efficiency level. The connection is between the electric and the automation platforms, resulting in higher efficiency and safety.

Siemens is a global technology company. Its businesses are bundled into eight divisions, with healthcare and wind power as separately managed businesses. Siemens operates 289 major production and manufacturing plants worldwide.

Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst