When you're churning out around 70 million tonnes of iron ore a year, maintenance hangups are not on the agenda. For Hamersley Iron, which produces 60 per cent of Australia's iron ore for global iron and steel industries, maintenance is part of its goal for world-class practices.
In its intent to be an industry leader in cost, productivity and safety performance, Hamersley, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, focuses on maintenance and regards operational information as fundamental. It uses SAP's Plant Maintenance module to manage information and while it produced benefits in back-office standardisation, the costs and difficultly of capturing reliable data turned out to be an operational bottleneck.
To break up the blockage, Hamersley opted for a 'point-of-work' data management solution and a platform for mobile solutions. With handhelds from PalmOne, the miner implemented mDrover, a mobile maintenance solution from Australian developer, Yambay.
Andrew Stamp, director of enterprise applications at Yambay, said there are around 60 to 120 users now with an expected total of 400 over the next couple of years.
The mDrover configuration lets operator-maintainers see the information needed to complete their work while enabling the collection of a broad range of feedback against jobs and fault reports, and returns this data to the back-end system. A holistic implementation process was adopted that involved updates to both master data and business processes.
“The handhelds from PalmOne have also survived the harsh operating environment well; often being carried in toolboxes across the site."
In the two-year period following the first mobile-maintenance implementation the business achieved an 8 per cent reduction in annual maintenance costs and record production levels. Hamersley Iron’s maintenance manager, Neil Smith says, “The mDrover application on handhelds has been central in our migration to greater planned maintenance.”
Stamp said the PalmOne handhelds were chosen for their size, long battery life, ease of data input and screen visibility in daylight. We also wanted the product to be lightweight, so a metal case surrounds the product to reduce the risk of damage.
While stamp refused to comment on the "commercially sensitive" question of cost, he said deployment of a product like this normally costs between $2000 and $4000 per user including hardware, software and implementation costs.
With the cutback in paperwork, Hamersley saved about one full-time equivalent per 10-person maintenance work crew.
Stamp said there had been good acceptance of the solution. "The guys that use them are the operators, but acceptance was driven by the frontline managers, who had to convince everyone of its benefits.
“We had to make sure that the software was easy to use, so at the end of an operator’s shift, the operator didn’t have to spend an extra half an hour writing up notes. The information would simply be stored in the product throughout the day."