How Preventive Maintenance Increases Mining Operations Safety
The expense of preventative maintenance is a worthwhile investment when the costs of lost productivity and human injury are brought into the equation. Reliability of mining equipment translates into more value derived from that equipment over time, with fewer costs associated with it, both human and financial.
The Cost of Defensive Maintenance
Too many mining operations are simply playing defense when it comes to equipment maintenance; inspections are done on an irregular basis, and repairs occur only after an asset in the equipment fleet breaks down. Every hour that a machine is down for maintenance or repair is an hour during which it isn’t drilling, hauling or digging, and that downtime is usually longer for major failures. All the while, that equipment is depreciating in value as well. Minimizing downtime through a proactive maintenance routine can help maximize profit per ton.
The human cost is also often overlooked with regard to equipment downtime. Every minute that a poorly maintained piece of equipment is in use, the greater the risk of injury to personnel is. Higher accident rates don’t just impact the person injured and their family; it contributes to more downtime for crews overall, higher insurance rates and poor morale for other employees. All of these factors have seen and unseen costs for a company.
Safety Benefits of Proactive Maintenance Schedules
A forward-thinking maintenance plan forces departments to predict patterns of equipment failure and adapt their inspection and periodic maintenance tasks to compensate. Managers start to think about the entire lifecycle of a piece of equipment instead of just from one quarter or one work detail to the next. Defects can be identified and repaired quickly, not just for equipment that breaks down, but for equipment that is likely to break down after a certain number of hours in operation. This means that downtime happens on a reliable schedule (before an equipment failure) rather than an unpredictable basis or when a work order for repairs happens to come through. (You can learn more about work order software here.)
Routine inspections can help catch equipment failures before they become catastrophic. If failure rates are too high, the inspection schedule can be accelerated to compensate. By analyzing the historical data on an entire fleet of machines, and even on a machine-by-machine basis, maintenance managers can identify patterns of equipment failure and schedule inspection and repairs on a more regular basis, extending the working life of your capital investment in equipment at all levels of operation.
Recording Operator Feedback
Systems that incorporate operator feedback can help fine-tune inspection and preventive maintenance schedules. (You can learn more about routine scheduling and preventive maintenance software here.) The operators on the ground are doing their own pre- and post-operational inspections, and they know better than most when changes in their own equipment start to occur. Creating that kind of feedback in the maintenance system, and learning how to incorporate it into decision-making processes, can help improve overall safety.
The benefits of increased safety reverberate throughout a mining operation, beyond just lower injury rate and decreased insurance costs. A reliable, well-maintained fleet of mining equipment has a direct impact on overall productivity and operational continuity, which can often be hard to quantify, but is a real and ongoing benefit for the companies that are able to get out ahead of maintenance and repairs through effective planning and prevention.