Mining companies are optimistic about the potential of Industry 4.0 technologies to improve operations, with 94% anticipating that new high-tech equipment will deliver cost savings to their company. However, a lack of expertise on effective maintenance and lubrication could prevent companies maximising the potential of their new equipment investment. In light of this, collaboration will be key to unlocking progress, reveals Shell Lubricants in its latest mining industry report, Exploring Industry 4.0.
This study into lubrication procedures in the mining industry was commissioned by Shell Lubricants and conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence. It polled 350 mining industry staff who purchase, influence the purchase or use lubricants/greases as part of their job across seven countries (USA, China, India, Germany, Russia, Indonesia and the UK) from March to April 2018.
Today, 98% of mining companies surveyed currently use at least one Industry 4.0 technology in their operations. Cloud-based technologies (46%) and sensors (58%) are most prevalent, while half (54%) are currently using autonomous equipment. Companies anticipate a range of operational benefits from these technologies, primarily longer equipment life and a reduction in unplanned downtime. There is also an expectation that they will help lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), for reasons including improved equipment productivity and lower maintenance costs.
Tonya Donaldson, Shell Lubricants Global Marketing Director for Mining said: “For companies to realise the potential TCO savings from new high-tech equipment, proper maintenance and lubrication will be essential. Optimising lubrication can have a significant impact on the bottom line. For example, where wear protection is critical at high-pressure contact points in an off-highway heavy duty vehicle – such as in the engine valve train and gearbox – high quality lubrication is designed to protect the engine by reacting under heat and pressure to form a protective film to reduce wear. This helps to lower the occurrence of unplanned downtime, and as such, can contribute to reduced TCO and improved equipment productivity. This is something that we in Shell Lubricants can help customers achieve.”
Despite the optimism around potential benefits, the survey reveals that mining companies are concerned about the specialist maintenance requirements of new equipment (98%) and believe they will face difficulties upskilling workers to use these new technologies (48%). 38% feel they are currently lacking trusted external experts who could provide support in introducing Industry 4.0 technologies.
Tonya Donaldson continued: “It’s interesting to note that although 100% of those surveyed agreed that introducing these new technologies will have an impact on their choice of lubricants, only 46% feel they will need to place more emphasis on equipment protection and only 40% would focus more on longer oil life. Companies recognise that external support will be important to help improve maintenance practices, and 88% plan to use their lubricants supplier to help them progress.”
“At Shell Lubricants, we pride ourselves on working closely together with customers to help improve their equipment maintenance practices and enhance their competitive advantage, now and in the future. This sharing of expertise will become only more valuable to help companies navigate the changes that lie ahead,”.
Shell today offers technical services, including LubeAnalyst Sensors, a real time oil condition monitoring service that provides real time alerts if further oil analysis is needed to prevent a potential failure, designed to help customers tackle challenging lubrication issues and optimise operations.