Rock Products

APR 2019

Rock Products is the aggregates industry's leading source for market analysis and technology solutions, delivering critical content focusing on aggregates-processing equipment; operational efficiencies; management best practices; comprehensive market

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Page 28 of 79 ROCK products • April 2019 • 27 fleet utilization saves on fuel, reduces equipment wear and tear and cuts down unnecessary fixed equipment costs. 3. Safeguard Workers' Health, Safety and Productivity Aggregates sites present a myriad of prominent dangers to workers – from extreme dust, silica and noise exposure to heat-stress pit wall failures and equipment mishaps. In this context, IoT wearables can pick up real-time data about workers' vital metrics like pulse and location, while onsite environmental sensors simultaneously capture infor- mation on their work surroundings. Based on this, managers can watch out for signs of worker fatigue, dehydration, and prolonged exposure to harsh conditions. By encouraging workers to take a recovery break when needed, overexertion can be avoided which in turn, improves productivity and reduces the risk of injuries, accidents and chronic diseases. Likewise, reducing on-site checks and circumventing equipment failures with remote monitoring and predictive maintenance lessens the chance of equipment mishaps. Capturing data from tilt sensors, landslide gauges and crack meters, IIoT networks additionally monitor the stability and integrity of pit walls. Alerts are then issued when potential collapses are detected to prevent fatal incidents and to ensure worker safety. 4. Control Blasting Impacts With ground vibration, air overpressure, toxic fumes and dust, the potential impact of blasting on the environment, neighboring residences and animals is significant. Having IIoT sensor networks in place, companies can monitor air quality, along with ground and air vibrations throughout the blast lifecycle to effectively control and mitigate nega- tive consequences. Specifically, alarms are instantly triggered if the amount of atmospheric particulate matters at neighboring residences surpasses the permissible threshold. What's more, ongoing analysis of this data allows for improvements in future blast designs to minimize environmental and health impact. Such data will also come in handy for public education and public relations with local governments and citizens. 5. Streamline Energy Usage Energy consumption accounts for a significant proportion of operational costs in the aggregate sector. IIoT power usage data on plant, process and unit levels render pow- erful visibility into energy flows and consumption patterns in production. Inefficiencies and waste sources can be diag- nosed for proactive responses to streamline power usage. For example, with pumping being among the most energy-in- tensive activities, measuring run time and electrical power uptake of pumps allows for early identification of unusual consumption behaviors. Combined with other operational parameters, such behaviors hint at structural issues that require inspection and maintenance to ensure efficient pumping. 6. Enhance Production Planning with Silo Level Monitoring In the aggregates industry, silos are used for multiple storage and production purposes. Real-time monitoring of the fill level of these silos is vital for effective production planning and inventory management. For example, the level and usage rate of bulk explosive silos can be remotely monitored at a central back office. Once the silo capacity falls under the limits, ordering and replenishment can be instantly executed. As such, connected silos help avoid any production delays caused by insufficient inputs while eliminating manual tasks. The Last-Mile Data Communications Challenge Data is the lifeblood of any IIoT solutions and architecture. However, acquiring and harnessing operational data at brownfield aggregates sites do not come without challenges. Responsible for automating and managing a majority of pro- duction tasks, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are concentrated with ample equipment and process sensor data. The problem is, many legacy PLCs, especially those with pro- prietary protocols, are designed for communications within local, closed-loop process only. As a result, they lack the ability to exchange data with external systems and analytics platforms like a cloud for IIoT applications. Adding up to the communications challenge, many quarries and aggregate sites are located in remote areas with difficult topography and great physical obstructions. Often, PLCs are placed kilometers away from the administration building, making wired connectivity an unfeasible option. Connectivity remains a critical issue even for next-generation PLCs that are equipped with Ethernet capabilities. An alternative to extracting data from legacy PLCs is retrofit- ting brownfield systems with IoT wireless sensor networks. However, traditional wireless solutions often fall short when operating in the hostile conditions at geographically dis- persed aggregate sites. Mesh networks are constrained by their limited coverage, weak penetration capability, and complex network setup and management. Similarly, Wi-Fi, cellular and satellite solutions are too expensive and power-hungry for battery-operated sensors. Likewise, many quarries are located at remote areas

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