Metal | Reliability Engineering

14 Apr 2017

Arrelic Insights

TRF strategies: Reliable Techniques to achieve Operational Excellence

The metals industry is a diverse, capital-intensive industry that is sensitive to broad economic conditions and world markets. Whether the plant converts ore to metals or forms trade goods from billets, converting raw materials to finished goods creates tremendous reliability challenges for the maintenance professionals tasked to maintain the mechanical systems that support the processes.

There is a tremendous growth potential in the metals and mining sector in India. India ranks 4th globally in terms of iron ore production. In FY16, production was expected to reach 140 million tonnes of iron ore and it is supported by the fact that India has around 8 per cent of world’s deposit of iron ore. Furthermore, India has become the 3rd-largest steel producer in FY16 with the production of finished steel at 90.63 million tonnes. India stood as the 3rd-largest crude steel producer in 2015, while its production increased to 90 million tonnes in FY16 as compared to 88 million tonnes in FY15. According to Ministry of Mines, India has the 7th-largest bauxite reserves which was around 593 million tonnes in FY15. Aluminium production is estimated to be 4.7 million tonnes per annum during 2012–17 while the aluminium production is expected to increase by 6 per cent in FY16 from FY15 (Source: Ministry of Coal,, BP, Ernst & Young, TechSci Research)

Rise in infrastructure development and automotive production are the growth drivers, along with power and cement industries also aiding growth in the metals and mining sector. Demand for iron and steel is set to continue, given the strong growth expectations for the residential and commercial building industry.

There is significant scope for new mining capacities in iron ore, bauxite, and coal which is substantiated as The Ministry of Steel aims to increase the steel production capacity to 142.3 million tonnes by the end of 2017 indicating new opportunities in the sector. So, it’s evident that this industry is broadening its horizons both in terms of scale and scope. However, this growth can be fully realised by the entities who have proper plans and control over their resources. At present, although newer and newer technologies & processes are emerging in the sphere, but the efficient utilisation and maintenance of those technologies & processes is still in its nascent stage. 

The single most critical issue is gaining buy-in to the concept of performing maintenance actions based on operational context and equipment need as opposed to a generic OEM recommendations or arbitrary calendar-based time intervals.

Reliability oriented maintenance is a relatively new tool for mechanical engineering in India to addresses reliability issues in process industries. It analyses the system and sub system of plant and tries to find out the failure modes, effects and consequences of the failure. Also, the study can be at preventing or reducing such failures. The growing need for higher reliability arises from the requirement to develop and validate the maintenance plan which continuously performs in the most efficient manner possible. It is a growing need of failure analysis for processing plants as they are large and complex engineering systems. Reliability analysis and planned maintenance needs to be carried out to avoid loss of availability of equipment/systems which will help the plant managers to optimize the performance of the systems and maintenance task as well.

We, at Arrelic, provides optimising solutions for your operational excellence. Sustainable productivity improvements have become a key focus for mining executives across the world, since a commodity price rally has become unreliable. Furthermore, mining companies have undertaken substantive cost reductions and are now moving forward with more streamlined cost structures.

To achieve operational excellence, we suggest using analytics to monitor key aspects of operations and to employ reliability techniques where possible. Tackling energy costs is also essential, and mining companies should embrace innovation and rely on efficient consumption of fuel resource.

As unexpected pressures mount, incremental improvements are no longer sufficient to cope with escalating labour issues, higher costs and lower ore grades. Therefore, many organisations are becoming innovative, helping to reduce capital, people and energy intensity while boosting mining intensity. We employ innovative solutions to improve your plant and process maintenance techniques by using various reliability methods, to ensure your plant’s optimal performance with minimum resource input.

To reap these rewards, however, mining companies must overcome their traditionally conservative tendencies. By breaking this mindset, mining companies can free themselves to adapt practical and crucial applications and apply them to fit their current needs. Our reliability framework will help corporations to adopt new design paradigms that leverages new information, mining and energy technologies to maximize value

Companies need to embed innovation into the corporate strategy, even if it starts small. Miners should consider modular technologies, which allows companies to think big, but test small and scale fast. Mining companies should consider leveraging emerging reliability technologies to improve their financial standings and the TRF system will help them to harness organizational intelligence. Lastly, operational realities need to be considered, since fundamentally altering industry realities, innovation often threatens the status quo. Arrelic will ensure that the solutions suggested are grounded in reality and will proactively reduce your costs and maximise efficiency.

Energy supply shortages are becoming more pronounced in the industry, and demands on energy are increasing worldwide at a rate that traditional energy sources are struggling to keep up with. Renewables have been historically seen as overly-expensive, unreliable and unproven, but this is changing. As the benefits of renewable energy come to outweigh its risks, the groundswell of adoption is only set to rise.

To make intelligent changes on either the supply side or the demand side, companies need to manage energy as a portfolio within the organization. Companies looking for alternatives to traditional fossil fuels should also consider their full range of options—along with the viability of hybrid systems—to determine which solution makes best sense. Reliability techniques can also help you to address performance issues of assets under new technologies.

Although mining companies have made significant strides in their dealings with local communities and many handle it quite well, many companies still lag at effective stakeholder engagement. This is partly due to the fact that the number of stakeholders keeps growing. There are also frequently fundamental conflicts between various stakeholder interests. Despite these complexities, mining companies must find ways to enhance stakeholder engagement and better manage constituencies. Failure to improve engagement can result in more than project delays, cancellations, terminations of licenses and mine closures. It can also spark active anti-mining sentiment. To avert these outcomes, miners must find ways to proactively address disparate stakeholder demands and create win/win platforms.

Given the varying needs of different stakeholder groups, mining companies must not only identify all affected parties but understand what matters to each and create a shared vision. To prevent the dissemination of misinformation, companies should also formalize their communication strategies. Social media is also increasingly becoming the tool through which communities engage, and by using data analytics to mine social media feeds, companies can gain a better understanding of community concerns and how they are perceived, and use this information to appropriately redirect their activities.

Machinery and equipment that isn't properly maintained can be very dangerous. Even equipment with fail-safes can malfunction if you do not perform efficient maintenance checks. And don't rely solely on those spaced out inspections; make sure that your employees know how to perform a quick inspection before and after using each piece of machinery. The people who come in regular contact with your equipment should know what a machine looks like, how it smells and how it sounds when operating properly. If a machine is deemed potentially unsafe, it should be shut down immediately for repairs.

Furthermore, your facility is only as safe as the people working in it. Your employees should undergo regular training on all equipment maintenance programmes they might come in contact with. It should include proper operations as well as how to check that everything is working as it should. As machines are upgraded and replaced, training should be repeated. Workers should be exposed to periodic safety training, as well, so that they know the most current best practices for keeping themselves and their co-workers safe. This should include emergency response for burns or other injuries, how to recognize symptoms of gas or chemical exposure, and who to contact during an emergency.

The reason why maintenance management is a bit similar between different types of industries and facilities lies in fact that equipment does not break down, components such as; gears, couplings, control valves, transducers, seals and bearings break down. The whole equipment e.g. a compressor does not break down. These components are the same with some variations in all industrial plants. The environment they operate in is different but if an electric motor is covered by chocolate, saw dust or pulp the consequence is the same: it will overheat and shorten electric life dramatically. Some plants have a more aggressive corrosive atmosphere but again the consequences of corrosion are the same. And reliability and maintenance management is driven by the system and processes people work in, not by the physical assets the organization maintain.

There are some differences that make implementation and execution of best reliability and maintenance practices a little difficult. These are more cultural differences and it is important to know and understand these. They include political systems which makes a difference in how profits are calculated and taxation rules which make a difference in how life cycle costs are calculated.

Some industrial plants have many short and long shut downs others have no scheduled shut downs. This fact only changes the way you plan and schedule work that requires equipment to be down to do work. If your plant has scheduled shutdowns you must plan work before you schedule work to be efficient. If your plant has no scheduled shut downs, or if it is easy to shut down and start up again, then you should focus more on planning and execute planned work when the opportunity to access physical asset can be done safely at best opportunity from manufacturing point of view.

We can use various techniques such as Root Cause Problem Elimination to ensure the downtime of mining equipment is reduced as much as possible.  We can also apply Life Cycle Cost when specifying equipment and how beneficial it will be us for both short and long run. We can also present a better design for processes from reliability and maintainability management point of view if we are consulted in early equipment process design.

We can use tools such as 5S, Single Minute Exchange of Dice (SMED), Reliability Centered Maintenance methodology (RCM), RBI (Risk Based Inspection), FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis), PMO (Preventive Maintenance Optimization) etc. to enhance performance of work within the processes that build the whole reliability and maintenance system.

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