Gathering the building blocks of smart factories

smart factories

Weir Minerals’ state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities are embracing Industry 4.0 technologies to ensure robust mining equipment is delivered to mine sites across the globe quickly and efficiently.

As supply chain demand for high-quality commodities grows, mine sites require equally high-quality plants and equipment to ensure their processed output is up to the required standard.

It is crucial for minerals processing facilities to include trusted, best-in-class equipment to avoid unnecessary downtime which could hamper production, compromise delivery and impact profits.

Weir Minerals is at the forefront of providing engineered integrated solutions that mining companies have relied on for decades.

The company offers an extensive range of products from material extraction to tailings and fluid management to give customers a complete end-to-end solution. These products have gained a strong international presence, including Enduron HPGR, Cavex hydrocyclones and the industry leading Warman centrifugal slurry pumps which have been exported across the globe for more than 80 years.

All of Weir Minerals’ products are created using cutting-edge materials and proprietary alloys that ensure they remain robust and reliable for years to come.

Operating and manufacturing in many countries across the globe, Weir Minerals has several local manufacturing facilities within Australia to meet the lead times necessary for our local customer.

In Sydney, Weir Minerals operates a foundry, machine shop and elastomer shop as part of its service for the local mining industry. It also has a purpose-built assembly shop to prepare, assemble and dispatch a range of our OE products.

As the industry streamlines its operation with Industry 4.0 technologies such as automation and remote monitoring, Weir Minerals is no exception.

Weir Minerals’ Director of Operations Randeep Mahajan says the company is integrating smart technology at its factories to enhance the production process.

“Smart factory allows us to see in real time how our plant is performing and take immediate actions where required to rectify any deviations from plan,” Mahajan tells Australian Mining.

“We’ve just commissioned an $8 million capital upgrade installing a heavy bay fast shuttle (HBFS) system in the foundry in Sydney which will deliver our larger product range that the market demands in a more timely and efficient manner.”

smart factories

Weir Minerals has transitioned to smart factories to benefit its safety, productivity throughput and efficiency while also modernising its approach.

The company’s Heavy Bay Fast Shuttle allows semi-autonomous manufacturing processes to be undertaken at the Sydney factory.

By creating a semi-automated operation, the factory’s capacity and production is improved through maximisation of space and increased product flow.

The shuttle will be connected to the Weir Minerals smart factory network to deliver data on the manufacturing process in real time, leaning into the fundamental capabilities of Industry 4.0.

Weir Minerals’ programmable logic controllers and control systems have been modified to include process controls and high-speed digital cameras to monitor the manufacturing process.

“Utilising RFID tracking and quality control imaging we are now able to track material progress in real time, implement machine learning protocols in the HBFS and take immediate action on any possible quality issues,” Mahajan says.

“To expand on the benefits of RFID’s, once a product has passed through our HBFS system, the movements of controls and equipment paths carried out by operators through manual manipulation are recorded. When the product returns through the HBFS at a later date, operations can be performed without operator intervention due to the previous recorded operations being synched to the RFID information.”

“In terms of managing and improving our cost and waste, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is the metric used throughout the facility to ensure all losses are proactively managed, our smart factory systems are complimenting and automating our OEE reporting”.

The basis of Industry 4.0 is to connect all facets of an operation, used data to make informed decisions and to improve productivity and management of an operation.

“The employee reaction to our use of smart technology has been great. The teams quickly recognised the benefits and embraced them. The list of ideas on how further use of smart technology can benefit our facility grows exponentially every week,” Mahajan says.

Automated technology in the factory will result in shorter lead times for customers.

Plans are already in place to implement a manufacturing execution system to blend the businesses ERP system and shop floor executions into one streamlined system. Mahajan says the company is fully committed to the industry 4.0 journey and will continue to embrace it as the business continues to commit to delivering the best quality mining products to market in a timely manner.

“The true value add Industry 4.0, is where processes are monitored to such an extent that variation and error proofing are foreseen before they occur,” he says. “Through the aid of technology, we can deliver a clear competitive advantage to our customers.”

Warman, Cavex and Enduron are all registered trademarks of Weir Minerals.

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