June 13, 2017ByAndrew Snook
Cost per ton and safety are king for aggregate producers.
June 13, 2017 – If there’s any one thing the majority of crushing manufacturers can agree on, it’s that cost per ton is king when it comes to what their customers are looking for in their crushing fleets.
“Everything comes down to cost per ton and what can you do to reduce that for the customer,” explains Stephen Whyte, product manager of fast track and global track products for KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens. “That’s not something new, I just think a lot of the information that helps them make their purchasing decisions is easier to get a hold of than it previously was.”
One of the ways producers are looking to increase their cost per ton as well as other operational efficiencies in their pits and quarries is through increased investment in automation.
“I think at the present when you start focusing in on key points of what dealers, distributors and end users are looking at – and big quarries and mining environments as well – it’s cost per ton and health and safety,” says Wayne van Antwerpen, crusher technology product manager for Terex Materials Processing Systems (Terex MPS), adding that automation will play a key role in the continued advancements of both. “Be it the static, portable or tracked, the biggest thing is automation… you’re going to see it more and more.”
“The trend over the last 10 years, at least, has been that most of the producers we come across are looking for more and more advancement in automation,” adds Mike Schultz, crushing product manager for Superior Industries. “They want the equipment to run independently and alert the end users of any harmful conditions, but otherwise, sit there and run and be automated.”
One factor increasing the demand for automated technologies is an aging workforce, particularly when it comes to maintenance personnel and operators.
“There’s a lot of experience that has retired in the last three to five years and we see that trend continuing, so we’re looking to design things in the equipment that will help with the training needs for new employees coming in,” says Matt Haven, president of Telsmith.
To assist new employees, Telsmith has focused on designing its latest crushers to be less maintenance intensive than they were in the past. The company also incorporated improved data collection into its control systems so maintenance and preventive maintenance is more predictable for staff; and to assist less experienced operators with meeting their targets.
“We built in self-diagnostics so if there is a problem it doesn’t take the electrical engineer to come out and troubleshoot,” Haven explains. “The operator is informed whether one of the sensors are closed or if there’s a cable that doesn’t appear to be communicating right. That’s helped them to make it very simple for the operations people to keep things operating. On the production side, we’ve tried to take the experience of an operator that’s been managing things for years and build that into the control scheme.
“Again, it doesn’t take a super-experienced operator to make sure everything is within specifications. So that intelligence built into the control system gives them some key performance indicators to measure whether everything is operating properly or not.”
Safety top of mindKeeping employees safe is still very much a priority for crushing manufacturers.
Terex’s van Antwerpen says that safety is as top of mind for producers as cost per ton when it comes to what they’re looking for in their crushing equipment, and that increasing automation is a key part of the safety solution.
“When you start really automating things correctly, you start pulling out people… keeping human interaction to your plot as little as possible,” he explains.
“Folks should feel comfortable going in and working on the equipment,” adds Schultz. “Obviously you’re always going to have your lockout and tag out procedures, but we try and design into our machines an ease of access… what we try and do is put ourselves in the spot of the guy holding the wrench or torch and provide them with the easiest access to the machine as possible.”
Hybrid technologiesWhen it comes to introducing hybrid technologies into crushing equipment, this trend is expected to continue growing moving forward.
“I think you see that right throughout the industry,” says Whyte. “If you look at what John Deere, CAT, and Volvo are doing, it’s getting bigger and bigger all the time.”
Whyte says that one factor that is key to the successful introduction of hybrid technologies into the marketplace is reducing the number of new parts a crusher will have.
KPI-JCI recently introduced hybrid technologies into its GT440 horizontal shaft impact crusher and GT205 multi-frequency screen.
“We’re able to keep about 90 per cent of the machine the same as our diesel hydraulic machine, so our dealers are not stocking a lot of new spares,” Whyte says, adding that anyone who has invested in training on his company’s standard crusher can carry that knowledge over to their hybrid model. “Anyone who has had some training on the standard machine can operate this machine.”
Another key to selling hybrid technologies to new or exiting customer is being to show them what they can save on their bottom lines.
“We’ve been developing a lot of ROIs to try and help customers make decisions,” Whyte says. “We can take it over 1,000 hours, or a couple of years, and give them a pretty good estimate on what they’re going to be saving.”
With the way technologies in the industry are constantly evolving, van Antwerpen says that no one manufacturer will always be leading the pack.
“I don’t think one individual OEM will lead all the time, I think they’ll leapfrog each other,” he says.
And with every new technology comes the challenges of proving its worth to an industry not always known for embracing change quickly.
“People are very cautious in our industry,” Haven says. “It always takes a little longer than you think it should, but once people see how it’s of benefit to them they get very excited quickly.”
THE LATEST CRUSHERS FOR AGGREGATE OPERATIONS
Improving cost per ton, enhanced safety features and automation are all top of mind for aggregate producers when it comes to investing in crushing technologies.
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