Short Interval Control: Optimizing Shift Time and Use of Assets in Underground Mines
We hear the term Short Interval Control (SIC) being used a lot in the mining industry, but what does it really mean?
How can it help increase production and achieve improvement in unit cost?
Better described as a factory-floor process, short interval control (SIC) is all about improving production during a shift. In underground mining, SIC attempts to make operations seamless and more efficient in terms of shift time and use of assets.
Incomplete tasks during shifts in underground mines is a much-discussed topic that usually ends with a debate or discussion between middle and senior management. However, nothing can actually be done once a shift has ended. Before the advent of technology, mine managers and CEOs were used to collecting the data on paper (including info on delays and unfinished tasks); then they recorded the information on various databases. But the validity and accuracy of the information was often incomplete, and very little analysis was done to improve the process.
Delays and interruptions that might happen during a shift are often dealt with by the workers. Occasionally, issues can also be handled by the supervisors or bosses on shift. Radios have proven to be quite efficient in underground mines, but there’s always room for further improvement. Often times, mine managers don’t know if a task was fully completed until the shift has ended.
COMPLEX TASK MANAGEMENT
One of the many challenges faced by underground mines has to do with managing more tasks at the same time and attaining sustainable production rate targets. In general, there can be five or six principal mining activities that have to be managed, including drilling, blasting, development, filling, mucking, and ore transport together with a number of additional support activities like maintenance and logistics. The latter two activities are needed to perform the six mentioned initially.
Since each activity results in a shift demanding people assessment and equipment to perform the activities involved, SIC comes into play. The Short Interval Control concept can help mine managers and operations managers coordinate up to 100 separate tasks in a single shift.
REAL-TIME DATA COLLECTION
Discrete applications such as personnel and equipment location tracking, fixed equipment control and monitoring, as well as ventilation monitoring are all commonplace in today’s modern underground mines and are even becoming cost effective due to RFID tagging and ad hoc wireless networks.
With this data in hand, we are able to create an intelligent mine management system which can provide real-time KPIs that enable production control.
“In essence, short interval control is nothing more than providing a feedback loop on the production tracking against the expected production at short-term intervals so that decisions and intervening actions can be taken to minimize deviation from the expected outcome.”
Short Interval Control has been used in the manufacturing industry for quite some time now. At the core, the concept is nothing more than a system meant to provide feedback by tracking expected production to minimize deviation. For the concept to work, it must be tried and tested against assigned tasks during a shift. Since it is based on information rendered to the CMCR, the person in charge of the control room can take action the moment tasks are assigned and the work performed is not up to par. The end goal is to finish the scheduled work on time while at the same time making use of all available resources.
Bottom line, the SIC concept can be a very useful mining maintenance planning tool. Advanced technology can help make decision-making a lot easier and more cost-effective to Operations managers and Mine Managers in the mining industry. For Short Interval Control to work, seamless communication with everyone involved in the mine is fundamental.
Title: “Short Interval Control in Today’s Underground Mine: A Case Study”
Presented at MINExpo International 2012 ~ Authors:
R. Howes, C. Forrest
C. Forrest is currently Newtrax’s Vice President of APAC region.
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