Smart hydraulics for Africa's mines
Across the mine, companies have successfully boosted competitiveness by harnessing Industrial Internet of Things-based technologies to optimise machine and process operation and maintenance.
Detailed, real-time intelligence and visibility has given engineering, technical and management teams the crucial information they need to make better decisions. In so doing, they can get more from their assets, optimise energy consumption, streamline maintenance, and more. Unlocking the benefits of this technology layer is allowing modern companies to gain a significant competitive advantage.
“Smart hydraulics, however, is still in its infancy in southern Africa,” explains Klaus Margraaf, Business Development Manager: Africa, Hytec South Africa. While mine areas such as conveyor belts, pneumatic compressors and bulk material handling processes have seen significant smart technology upgrades, these migrations generally haven’t trickled down to the level of hydraulic components.
Converting performance data into useable intelligence is the key requirement of smart hydraulics. The new ctrlX automation platform for Industry 4.0. hydraulic systems. They can be used in conjunction with existing WiFi installations to transfer data, enabling users to make more informed decisions about maintenance strategies.
“One of the main reasons for this is the perceived costs of smart hydraulics, and lack of awareness in what can be achieved,” Klaus explains. Because of this, many plants opted to monitor only the critical portions of their hydraulic systems.
Yet case studies from around the world suggest smart technologies can have similarly powerful performance benefits. Bosch Rexroth South Africa, through its hydraulics specialist company Hytec South Africa, is actively working with customers in developing new solutions and innovations tailored to our customers’ needs.
One of these smart mining projects is installing a simplified monitoring system onto hydraulic mining shovels, currently being tested to determine if recorded data is accurately communicated to end users.
The technology has also been applied to a ladle control system on a Mozambique mine, as well as for a large mobile machine on a Botswanan mine. Hytec is also undertaking additional studies on open cast mines in SA’s platinum sector to further develop and customise smart technology offerings.
“Our goal is to enable plant operators to receive critical, usable equipment and component information live,” Klaus says. “The instantaneous receipt of data allows plant managers and operators to optimise production processes and prevent potential faults. This intelligence enables accurate fact-based decisions on service extension intervals and early maintenance interventions.”
Bosch Rexroth’s comprehensive offering can be used for numerous applications. Various IoT devices can be connected to device portals, incorporating IoT gateway software. This enables information transfer to a cloud or plant server for distribution.
“These devices facilitate the gathering of predictive maintenance data, data analysis, visualisation and notification, optimisation and machine intelligence,” Klaus points out. Any third-party software, from simple reporting to complex AI systems, can be used with the gateway technologies. Bosch Rexroth has developed its own software products ranging from local monitoring software, ‘IoT Insights’, to high-end cloud-based reporting services like Nexeed Production Performance Manager.
The PR21 featured while in application.
“Systems have to be highly customised to be effective, and this is one of Bosch Rexroth South Africa’s specialities,” Klaus concludes. “Applying smart systems that have worked well in other markets to the African market is our mission. Bosch Rexroth South Africa is committed to helping the African mining sector achieve world-class smart mining technology, and will work the sector to ensure they receive the solution best suited to their requirements.”