Operations Illustrated: Benchmark Your Load-Haul Operations
Gather Operational Intelligence
It’s no secret that operating costs are largely comprised of equipment, personnel, and fuel. Therefore, being able to improve performance in each of these categories is essential to efficient operations and lowest cost per ton.
By collecting appropriate data and establishing meaningful benchmarks in each category, operators are able to better understand what constitutes desired performance, identify the equipment and people who produce the best results, and develop best practices that can be used across the operation or the company.
In many operations, telematics provide this data, particularly with load-haul equipment. “One of the things that the equipment manager is tracking is utilization of the machine: how many hours it is working, idling, and traveling,” says Doug Phillips, product manager for Volvo Construction Products, based in Shippensburg, Pa.
Fuel usage also is tracked through telematics. “If an equipment manager has three loaders and sees that one is burning 5 gallons per hour, while another is burning 5.3, and a third is burning 7, he knows someone needs operator training to bring that back in line,” he says. As fuel consumption is tracked, use of automatic engine shutdown devices, which turn the engine off after it idles for a set time period — typically about 5 minutes, is increasingly common and helps to lower load-haul costs.
Telematics can also issue equipment warnings, such as if the transmission is being misused or abused. “On trucks, it shows if engines are being oversped, and if they are using retarders to slow down the trucks or burning off extension brake pads,” Phillips says. “I tell operators that it costs you nothing to press that retarder pad, but every time you press the brake pedal, it costs you money.”
Radnor, Pa.-based Preferred Sands does not use telematics. Rather, it focuses on activity-based costs to determine the most bang for its buck. According to Bob Carter, senior vice president of operations, the company’s strategy is to collect data on the assortment of equipment at the sites it has acquired, then set standards on equipment types throughout the company.
“We have five active plants, so we have the ability not only to compare our mining costs against the different plants, but to be able to break that down into asset focus,” Carter says.
As cost comparisons are analyzed, factors such as geologic differences are taken into account, and economic analysis is used to drive equipment standardization as much as feasible throughout the company. “A lot of my initial focus was in creating a reliable, repeatable, and process-driven model within my plant operations,” Carter explains. “That, ultimately, drives the utilization and the uptime of your plants.”
Keep haul road grades under 9 percent and maintain clean pathways to allow trucks to travel quickly. The hydraulic suspension system in some newer haul trucks provides greater cushioning of impact to improve operator comfort, allowing haul truck operators to travel at higher speeds. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the truck patterns will be dictated by the slowest moving truck at the site.
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