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RME Unearths Multi-Million Dollar Customer Cost Savings Following Creation of a Simulation-based Project Approach

APPLICATION: Optimise Maintenance Operations

VERTICAL: Mineral Processing

SECTOR: Mining 

BENEFIT: Lanner solution enables mineral processing equipment leader to boost productivity and improve service through optimisation of mill relining process

“As part of a strategy to continually refine and enhance processes and techniques, we selected Lanner’s WITNESS simulation software platform to underpin our mill relining optimisation consultancy work with our customers.

Our MILL RELINE DIRECTOR toolset is built around a configurable WITNESS model. A video capture and reduction process extracts real world data from video footage, creates time frequency distributions of actual mill reline tasks and stores this data in an ever growing database.

RME’s graphical configuration tool utilises an interactive 3D model of the mill to facilitate the setup of hundreds of variables and distributions into multiple ‘what if’ scenarios. This enables us to study actual performance and potential improvements to the Reline Process.

Multiple replications of each scenario are simulated in WITNESS using the MILL RELINE DIRECTOR model to produce a statistically accurate result. A Standard Reporting framework distils the simulation output data int o easily interpreted information.

By using a configurable WITNESS model as part of our MILL RELINE DIRECTOR toolset, we have delivered substantial cost savings and productivity gains to our many mineral processing customers around the world – whether they are looking at designing a new grinding plant or refining the process within an existing facility.”
Peter Rubie, General Manager and Chief Engineer, Russell Mineral Equipment

A Complex Industry

The mineral processing industry currently faces a number of challenges, from volatile commodity prices, increasing costs and skills shortages to extreme weather and environmental conditions. In order to increase profitability, operating costs must be controlled and potential efficiency improvements continually evaluated. This means that across the whole mineral processing supply chain, from extraction through processing to transportation, there are business questions which are ideally addressed through simulation. An asset-intensive sector, mineral processing equipment is expensive and to keep it operating optimally, maintenance is crucial. One of the key maintenance activities undertaken at a mineral processing site is relining of grinding mills. This process requires lengthy shutdowns of the grinding mills, costing vast sums of money through lost productivity.

A grinding mill is like a huge concrete mixer containing large steel balls which tumbles lumps of ore and breaks them down into smaller particles, a process necessary before separating the valuable minerals from the host rock. Heavy liners are attached to the inside of each mill to protect it from damage. The liners wear fast and require replacing on a regular basis. Undertaken twice a year on average, a typical reline process can take between 50 and 100 hours, with each hour of lost production costing between $50,000 and $200,000 in revenue. Reducing the time required to reline by one day can recover millions of dollars in revenue lost through inefficient processes and under-used or inappropriate equipment.

Driving Process Innovation

As part of their commitment to improve the performance of their customers’ mineral processing concentrators, Russell Mineral Equipment (RME) invested in the optimisation of the overall relining process as part of their service offering. By looking beyond just the equipment they supply and taking a holistic view of their customers’ relining process, RME are able to demonstrate how the relining activities could be best organised and complimented with appropriate products and services, resulting in greatly enhanced productivity and significant cost reductions for customers.

All RME customers are slightly different to one another, however the relining process commonly uses similar sophisticated and rapid transport systems to extract worn liners and install new ones, including advanced 7 or 8 axis placement machines and various bolt removal and fixing devices. The execution is constrained by the limited points of entry into the mill and the configuration of the working platforms around it.

Operators attempting to optimise the relining process are faced with a major challenge due to the high degree of variability for each element of the process. While estimations are the most common means of reline planning, they cannot evaluate, demonstrate or predict the effects on reline time of the introduction of new technology, additional labor, additional equipment, site modifications, or the natural variations inherent in a complex process.

RME’s Engineers have often been asked to predict the effect on relining times, of changing mill liner and reline variables. Aware of the optimisation challenge faced by mineral concentrator operators, RME investigated methods of modelling the reline process and observed how modern manufacturing environments used predictive simulation to optimise productivity and resources. By integrating WITNESS into their approach and MILL RELINE DIRECTOR product, RME are able to extend their simulation capability to their customers, thereby allowing customers to build a solid business case for investing in appropriate relining products and services while optimising relining processes at the same time.

Striking Gold

A model developed in WITNESS is used to analyse the current reline operation at a customer site, providing statistically accurate, configurable, and dynamic simulation of their mill relining process. The data used in the evaluations is crucial to the validity and confi dence to be had in the results and recommendations. RME addressed this by developing a database of numerous mill relining projects and using this as the basis for future predictions. All new projects are adding continually to this knowledge base.

To manage the unique constraints for each mill, new data is obtained through the use of customised, long memory, rugged video cameras which capture the entire relining process. This footage is then analysed to identify individual process steps and the time required for each individual reline activity. RME then use these data points to construct statistical distributions that are used to create a ‘Reference Reline’, a virtual snapshot of a customer’s reline situation, and is the basis for evaluating options for each customer.

Using the constraints of the local environment, each customer’s budget and RME’s vast experience in mill relining, RME develop a series of alternative scenarios which are simulated and analysed. Each alternative scenario is then compared to the Reference Reline to assess the effectiveness of the proposed changes, the impact on overall reline time, equipment utilisation and individual reline activity efficiency.

The model itself contains several hundred elements, each imparted with behavioural data drawn out of many hours of actual reline video footage. RME analysed the footage second by second to produce around 50,000 discrete reline activities along with associated meta-data for inclusion within the reline model. These outputs were then evaluated to ensure that the behaviour of the reline model was consistent with real world observations and reline practices.

“MILL RELINE DIRECTOR is a hugely valuable solution to provide to our customers – whether they are looking to optimise an existing process or design a new facility.
“For individual relining facilities at existing operations, RME starts with either video capture and other plant data, or completion of a detailed Data Sheet. For mills using the Data Sheet approach, typical values derived from a database of actual relines are used. And for new facilities, the model quantifies good plant design in order to inform and quantify investment decisions, as it provides reliable ‘real world’ times for typical equipment, processes and solutions, thus enabling mills to optimise practices from the outset.”
Geoff O’Shannassy, MILL RELINE DIRECTOR Engineer, RME.

A Valuable Commodity

“In the creation of this solution we now have a service which stands to immensely enhance our customers’ experience and decision-making processes. Irrespective of prior experience in grinding mill relining equipment and practices, mill owners and operators now have a robust, accurate and tangible methodology to substantially lower their operating costs and increase mill uptime and productivity.

Through improvements to the relining process alone, MILL RELINE DIRECTOR has been able to quantify that mineral concentrator operators can improve their overall concentrator performance, adding millions of dollars per y ear in revenue to their operation. In an industry where operating costs are under continuous scrutiny, few can afford to ignore this kind of benefit.

“By using a configurable WITNESS model as part of our MILL RELINE DIRECTOR toolset, we have delivered substantial cost savings.”

Peter Rubie, General Manager and Chief Engineer, Russell Mineral Equipment

“In the creation of this solution we now have a service which stands to immensely enhance our customers’ experience and decision-making processes.”
Geoff O’Shannassy, MILL RELINE DIRECTOR Engineer, RME

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Russell Mineral Equipment (RME) is the leading designer and manufacturer of Mill Relining Systems in the world. RME was founded in 1985 by John Russell and is unwavering in its commitment to design advancement and highest standards of quality.

Based in Queensland, Australia, RME has developed a range of innovative products and services that are now referred to collectively as the RME Mill Relining System. RME has grown from being an exporter of goods out of Australia, to an internationally focused business, delivering products and services via a network of subsidiary companies located in key regions.

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