November 2006

Improving mobile equipment reliability

By H. Ednie

As is their nature, mining professionals have taken on the challenge of maintenance and equipment reliability and are reaping the benefits from strategic planning and program implementation to increase equipment efficiency and cost-effectiveness. From RCM II to maintenance and repair contracts (MARCs) with equipment suppliers, today’s mines are extending equipment life to keep the operation running.

The CIM Coal and Oil Sands Operators’ Conference in Jasper this October featured a session on managing maintenance. Presenters shared how their mine sites are using different strategies for handling equipment maintenance. Prairie Coal and Royalty Ltd. is focusing on detailed planning and applying reliability centred maintenance (RCM II); Albian Sands relies on MARCs with their key suppliers. Elk Valley Coal Corporation (EVCC) handles its maintenance in-house, with best practice sharing and a reliability engineering team across the five operations. All three companies have circumstances that make their maintenance strategy appropriate for their operation; and each organization is realizing improved equipment reliability, while simultaneously, all three highlighted areas that could be improved in their maintenance program. The possible approaches and major challenges make managing the maintenance of mobile mine equipment a true conundrum that will continue to be a focus of innovative thinking.

It’s about planning

At Prairie Coal, maintenance has experienced vast improvements, thanks to new efforts for keeping equipment utilization up. A strategic approach to planning is keeping maintenance jobs on time, and is greatly reducing the number of emergency jobs for the maintenance department.

“All non-emergency jobs are planned by the maintenance planners,” said Dean Jeffrey, senior maintenance planner, Prairie Coal. “Labour time estimates are done for all routine work, which eliminates the wasting of excess time.”

The company took a hard look at their maintenance performance a few years ago, and “we found we weren’t world class,” Jeffrey said. “Operators were identifying problems, but no feedback was coming to them from maintenance on the jobs requested, and problems were not always documented.” A backlog of work orders sat unevaluated and was not used for work scheduling or manpower and parts planning.

Targets and key performance indicators (KPI) were identified to guide the transformation of the maintenance program. And once proper planning became the norm, the results were obvious.

“Planning is a process; it’s always updated,” Jeffrey said. “To plan can be defined as the art and science of getting your act together before spending your money. And the job planning process defined the details necessary to perform the job.”

Maintenance workforce productivity increased through the elimination of some clerical tasks, reducing the time waiting for work orders, materials, and instructions. Tasks now take much less time. For instance, the required man hours to overhaul a dozer undercarriage has decreased from 128 to 90 man hours.

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