Monitoring machine performance is vital

By Dineo Phoshoko

PWC’s SA Mine seventh edition states that South Africa saw a 20% decline in equipment productivity over the past seven years – in response to this, Geotab Africa has launched a new tracking tool.

Monitoring machine performance becomes essential in identifying factors that lead to a decline in equipment productivity. Once these factors are identified, there is an opportunity to fix it and therefore it is possible to achieve maximum performance from the equipment, which is beneficial to the operational efficiency of the mine.

Source and Destination is Geotab’s cost-effective tracking tool which measures productivity and monitors the performance of heavy earth moving equipment used in open pit mines.

“Having real-time information available on equipment performance, productivity attributes and employee achievement, results in faster improvements to the cost versus allowable model,” says Aveng Moolmans’ planning manager, Shayne Wright.

How it works

Source and Destination is comprised of Geotab’s GO device and open-platform fleet management software.

The GO device can be installed across all brands of yellow machines and is easily expandable to read information from various sensors such as the bucket tipping signal from a dump truck. The solution can tally loads and record different variables such as loading and tipping times. It is also able to record the length of time it takes for a hauling machine to load and then drop-off material at its destination. In addition, the device also singles out specific loading and hauling equipment, as well as the material they carry.

Geotab 001 WEB
Source and Destination from Geotab Africa measures productivity and monitors the performance of heavy earth moving equipment used in open pit mines.
Image credit: Dreamstime

In addition, the tool can measure vehicle downtime and operator efficiency, allowing for early identification of problem areas. Machine operators can tag in prior to using the equipment. All these statistics are made available through interactive live dashboards and customisable reports. The device is powered by the machine it is monitoring and does not rely on electricity to operate.

The platform also allows users to geofence areas where materials are offloaded. Additional configuration includes specific materials that are loaded into the system and assigned to a specific loading machine. Therefore, the system can monitor the machine’s performance, considering several variables, such as the time it takes the machine to get to an assigned destination. This information is referred to as the base set of data.

“Having real-time information available on equipment performance, productivity attributes and employee achievement, results in faster improvements to the cost versus allowable model.” - Shayne Wright, Aveng Moolmans

According to Romeo McKay, Geotab senior software engineer, Geotab has an open platform which allows for fine-grained customisations. “It’s a new product that we’ve added on top of the existing internet of things (IOT) base,” McKay says. He also adds that the device is used by numerous mining contractors and mines in South Africa and across the African continent, and is currently running on about 115 to 120 vehicles collectively.

Illustrating the device’s application on site, Wright explains the hardware is installed on all machines that have a steering wheel or joystick, which replays equipment data and position via a cell network in real time. He adds that the solution was trialled during the last quarter of 2015 and implemented in the first quarter of 2016.

“This data is viewed on a website in both fixed and owner-customised reports. The maintenance division concentrates on anomaly measurements and diagnostics within an array of information including temperatures, pressures, levels, volts and power and selector positions. The production division concentrates on performance indicators that include material movement, reconciliations, time and operator performance,” Wright says.

Installation and connectivity

Source and Destination is a plug and play solution, therefore is quick and easy to install. Geotab recommends that a mine employee, with a technical background, should be trained on installing and monitoring the system. The employee will be able to handle any repairs and installations, when necessary. Training on the installation process and using the system does not take longer than a day.

Data from the system is transferred to servers through a cellular network. If there is a delay or break in the transmission, the data is saved on the device. Once connection is restored, the saved data is uploaded to the servers. Prior to installation, Geotab will test the cellular network connectivity around a mine and will recommend the cellular network provider that has the best coverage in the area, to set up the required network towers. If needed, Geotab will also request the network provider to set up additional towers to optimise coverage.

Maintenance of the system

Source and Destination does not have maintenance requirements and physical checking of the device is not required. The system generates daily reports which provide notifications on the status of the device. The notifications are sent via email and contain information on any potential problems with the device, which allows technicians sufficient time to resolve any problems.

“Maintenance is applied only when inbuilt system reports inform this requirement. Alterations to mining parameters can be updated from any internet connection,” adds Wright.

Future capability expansion

Source and Destination is currently only available to open pit mines and the solution cannot be used underground due to challenges around consistent connectivity. Geotab is in the process of investigating a solution for underground mines and Source and Destination will soon be suitable for drilling vehicles on open pit mines. “We are in the process of integrating with a drill depth monitor, so that we can include all of those other yellow vehicles,” explains McKay. He concludes that the developments are part of Geotab’s Source and Destination road map.

Source and Destination benefits

  • Provides insight into the productivity and efficiency of the mine
  • Automated load tallying
  • One system across the fleet, compatible with assorted brands of vehicles
  • Cost effective alternative system
  • Monitors when vehicles start and end production each day
  • Ensures that vehicles are fully productive
  • Monitors engine data to avoid unplanned maintenance and break-downs
  • Monitors that minerals are dumped according to their specific grades, with minimum errors
  • Promotes the safe use of machines by monitoring speed, rev count, braking, cornering and acceleration
  • Monitors machine downtime
  • Provides key control access to ensure compliance


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