BY THOMAS C MOUNTAIN
Eritrea needs a modern preventative maintenance (P.M.) program for its mining and transport industries. To understand how preventing sudden machine failure during operations is the largest preventable expense in mining and transportation one must understand how machines work.
Think of oil as the blood of any machine. When you go to the doctor for a check up you have a blood test done to see what is going on inside your body.
If oil is the blood of a machine by testing the oil you can see what is going on inside the machine. Testing oil, or oil analysis, is nothing new, what is new is how easily it can be done in this modern technological age.
A modern site based oil analysis preventative maintenance program could reduce breakdowns, equipment failure, by 85% by finding out what is going wrong inside the machine and repairing it during scheduled down time without any lost production.
Lost production, when a machine should be putting out and isn’t, is the largest preventable expense in the mining and transport industry accounting for up to 50% of total operating expenses in inefficient
mines and transport companies. In other words if the machines keep failing, less work is being done, less money is coming in while the bills pretty much stay the same.
To understand just how critical oil analysis is, take for example one of the huge rock excavators at Bisha mine that loads something like $20,000 an hour worth of copper ore. If a mechanical part in this machine fails without warning and the machine can no longer operate, the company, 40% of which is owned by Eritrea and our people, is losing almost $500,000 a day, $3.5 million a week in lost production.
It can take up to a week to fly the parts in via DHL, a day to complete the repair with $3.5 million worth of copper ore not being delivered to the mill. And this is just one machine for a week, and there are a lot of big machines running round the clock at the Bisha mine.
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Even more, when the Dubarwa/Embaderho copper mines starts production in 2019 followed by the giant potash mine in the Danakil, home to some of the most hostile conditions to humans and machines on the planet.
These days modern mining and transport companies are able to keep preventative maintenance to only 20% of total operating expenses by instituting a modern oil analysis (think blood testing) program.
When you add up as much as 30% reduction in operating expenses due to lost production by adopting a modern P.M. system in Eritrea’s mining industry over the decades to come, alongside 40% Eritrean mine
ownership, you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars that could be saved for our peoples benefit.
The Bisha mine for years operated under the “If it A modern site based oil analysis preventative maintenance program could reduce breakdowns, equipment failure, by 85% by finding out what is going wrong inside
the machine and repairing it during scheduled down time without any lost production. broke, don’t fix it” principle and its high levels of lost production time tell the story best.
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The Zara gold mine is owned and operated by a Chinese construction company and the new Dubarwa/Embaderho mine in the highlands outside of Asmara is the next Chinese construction company owned mine in Eritrea. The Chinese don’t practice preventive maintenance, they run their machines until they break.
It is really simple to do preventative maintenance in this day of the microchip. A smart phone with an infrared camera can tell you instantly with a picture of a passing machine if any part of that equipment was running hot and automatically text this message to the central office. The person using the infrared smart phone does not even have to read and write very well, just take a picture with the smart phone and technology does the rest. Knowing the operating conditions of a machine on the road allows you to flag that machine and prevent equipment breakdown in the field.
There is another smart phone sized device that in one minute tells you what condition your engine is in. Whenever you check the engine oil, you put a drop of oil on a spot in the “smart phone” and quickly find
out if there is any water leaking into the engine oil, the number one cause of premature engine failure.
This “Fluid scan” hand held computer along with “fuel sniffers” to detect fuel in the engine oil in one minute, the number two cause of premature engine failure, a “ferromometer” to detect amounts and iron particle size in a minute, the best indicator of pending engine failure and a desk top computer that in 15 minutes does an in depth precise analysis of the oil of any moving part in the machine, including transmissions, differentials, final drives and hydraulic systems.
There are vibration analyzers that measure sound waves being emanated by a machine and tell you just what bearing in what part of the machine is going bad, even as the machine is traveling past the hand held sensor. Like the infrared camera, this information is real time data that can flag problematic machines during operations and prevent roadside or in the field breakdowns.
Knowing what is going on inside the machine allows you to plan repairs efficiently when the machine is scheduled to be shut down anyway for maintenance. You order the parts before hand and Sunday night when the plant shuts down for maintenance you do your repairs, eliminating 85% of unscheduled repairs.
This is the key to preventing production loss, the largest controllable expense in mining and transportation.
Eritrea needs a modern preventative maintenance program and training for its drivers, operators and technicians to help save our country tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, money desperately needed for other priorities.
Thomas C. Mountain worked in the heavy equipment field for 20 years in the USA and was a Heavy Equipment Instructor and a Foreman for one of the largest mining, construction and energy companies in the country. See thomascmountain on Facebook and on Twitter or best reach him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com