Roberto Pérez
Director General
SP Sinergia
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SP Sinergia: A Solid Base for Mining 4.0

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Thu, 11/12/2020 - 11:49

Q: Why is integrating information, machinery, processes and maintenance the main challenge facing Mexico’s industry today?

A: Companies tend to carry out their day-to-day business by means of isolated teams, cells or departments. Each of these departments plays according to different rules and seeks to achieve different goals. The purchasing and the maintenance departments, for instance, have different KPIs and different incentives to achieve those KPIs. That diversity of KPIs among departments is an opportunity area. KPIs are often not defined correctly for the benefit of the company as one whole organism. They usually do not maximize the value of the whole productive chain. The point of digitalization is to establish a system that integrates this compartmentalized information, allowing managers to make decisions that optimize the process as a whole.

Q: How can the integration of information through digital technology help miners become more efficient?

A: An example of this could be a mining company whose purchasing department buys a voltage regulator to replace an old one. Its main KPI will be to keep costs low. The maintenance department will agree with the purchase of a new regulator as the old one is no longer useful. Neither department is basing its decision on the regulator’s total cost of ownership. They just look at the baseline of what the machine costs when they first bought it. Digitalization gives you a picture of how much downtime the regulator has caused. It indicates any additional cost that the machine can produce. It gives you a total cost of ownership and total opportunity cost. When those two are added, you get the true cost of the equipment during a given period of time. Digitalization enriches the purchasing department’s KPIs with data that used to be only for the maintenance department. Now the purchasing department can seek to replace the equipment based on much-improved information.

Operating procedures are very rare in the industry. If companies did a thorough analysis of every piece of equipment they bought, then they could save millions. They would not be looking at initial pricing but at the cost of owning that equipment over many years. Companies would then develop memory and stop making the same mistakes over time. Also, once a certain level of automation has been achieved, enormously helpful solutions like digital twins become possible. More generally speaking, digitalization lets operating and maintenance processes depend on automated systems instead of constant human guidance. Operations directors can then become operations analysts because the operation runs itself and managers focus on macro trends.

Q: How can SP Sinergia’s portfolio of products be deployed to increase a company’s digitalization?

Q: Full digitalization resulting in total operational automation is the final stage of a many-leveled ladder. SP Sinergia is focused on the first level: making sure equipment communicates its operating conditions. Regarding motors, they communicate current and voltage. Whereas dashboards communicate temperatures. Every equipment in a mine can be armed with sensors that send out information concerning the machine’s operation. That is condition monitoring and it anticipates when a machine will fail. Managers are able to undertake changes opportunely and avoid sudden downtime. All the information generated is sent to a dashboard where an analyst can understand it and make related decisions. SP Sinergia delivers equipment, motors, variators and other equipment that have the capacity to feed information to a central system. We also provide software integration services ourselves. There are very few plants around the world that have achieved full information integration. Close collaboration with the client to move from one stage to the next is key.

Q: How do you help a medium or small mining company that wants to incorporate digitalization?

A: As a starting point, we look at where costs are greatest. For miners, that usually is in energy consumption. Is energy cost per ton produced within the industry’s benchmark range? If not, we analyze the main consumers to understand why. We look at production in terms of kw per produced ton. After evaluating the efficiency of the primary process, we move onto secondary processes, trucks and other machines. Diesel use is also important, in addition to electrical power. Then we can start addressing opportunity areas. We can optimize an existing asset or replace equipment for a more efficient one. The No. 1 area we deal with is energy cost; No. 2 is asset management: how much does my mine cost in total cost of ownership? Once those are covered, we can coordinate all operations between all departments through information coordination.

SP Sinergia provides digitalization solutions for mining companies in Mexico.

 

 

Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst

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