Mining companies are striving to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of long-term sustainability in their operations. Weighing In Motion (WIM) is one of the avenues that they can adopt to achieve safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness in their rail weighing requirements.
Changing operating conditions have prompted mining companies to revise the way they manage their businesses from pit to port. Presently, their main focus is on the following areas: cost containment, enhancing efficiency and improving safety. Rightly, in a bid to sustain their operations, mining companies are sparing no effort in seeking avenues that can enable them to accomplish these objectives.
Rail weighing, a vital component of their ore transportation requirements, is one of the avenues worth exploring. This is a point Lee Marsden of a UK company, Weighbridge Services Limited (Train weighing: The only weigh to be sure, Government Europa, 29 January 2019), underlines: “Weighing is a must for control of costs. From avoiding overloading fines and damages to accurate weighing of goods in and out…”
Rethinking rail weighing
However, it is evident that, if mines are to fully benefit from their rail weighing tasks, they have to rethink their approach. This is because the traditional static weighbridge method of weighing, which, it has been established, has a number of inherent limitations (Why weigh-in Motion? ITWeb, 10 March 2017), could turn out to be a hindrance. Clearly, this situation creates room for Weighing In Motion (WIM) as a safer, cost effective and efficient alternative.
Limitations of traditional static weighing
Certainly, through exploring the limitations of traditional weighing method, the benefits of in-motion weighing become more comprehensible. Generally speaking, there are numerous problems associated with traditional static weighbridges. However, in this context, they can be narrowed to two: very time-consuming to carry out routine weighing tasks and difficulty in compliance with safe load limits (which results in frequent overloading).
In rail weighing tasks, time is of the essence. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to obtain the accurate weight of an individual wagon with an average static weighbridge in time. This is because a static weighbridge can only weigh rail wagons when they are stationary or travelling at low speeds (In motion weighing of rail vehicles, Industry buyer, 4 November 2013). And s a result of this limitation, more time is wasted in weighing, an exercise that hinders productivity.
Numerous cases of overloading and uneven weight distribution are often recorded with traditional weighbridges. As it is not easy to keep within safe load limits, trains with imbalanced suspensions, overloaded wheel weights can easily pass through the traditional weighing system.
Huge financial and safety implications of traditional weighbridges
Generally speaking, the scale of the impact of rail weighing is always higher than often envisaged when one considers the attendant financial and safety implications. Issues like rolling stock and infrastructure damage, excessive fines due to non-compliance with load limits, and inefficient and unproductive load management cause production losses, which, together with other liabilities can reduce revenue. Even worse, overloading can derail a wagon resulting in fatalities.
The business case for alternative weighing methods
Without question, abovementioned limitations of traditional weighing should compel mining companies to seek a more efficient, safe, and cost effective alternative that can deliver accurate data of any type or size of wagons as and when needed, without losing valuable operational time. To this end, in-motion weighing systems or weighing in motion (WIM) fit the bill. WIM accurately weighs the trains at high speeds whilst also weighing each individual wheel of the locomotive, wagons or carriages, identifying the types and configurations of trains being weighed, with real-time data output and reporting (Why weigh-in Motion? ITWeb, 10 March 2017).
Also read: Guidance for Efficient and Safe Mining
Advantages of in-motion weighing
Through recording data instantly and accurately, in-motion weighing enables the following (Advantages Of A Weighing In Motion Weighbridge, Tradecor Africa Group, 1 November 2018):
- Reduced costs and increased productivity
Time spent on the weighing process is considerably reduced, leading to high productivity. Less maintenance requirements, as WIM devices have fewer components (Why weigh-in Motion?), would translate to high level of availability and productivity.
- Improved productivity
No time is wasted in the process of stopping and weighing, as the weight is checked within a short time possible. This increases efficiency in the process of weighing.
- Instant identification of overloaded vehicles
Through instant identification of overloaded vehicles, WIM is an effective protection against infringements. WIM enables instant identification.
- Improve efficiencies
WIM eliminates operator errors, improving efficiencies. Furthermore, over and above preventing overloading, the also prevent under-loading maximising payload outputs and efficiencies.
- Comprehensive reporting and full integration
A most important advantage of WIM weighbridges is that they can be fully integrated with other peripheral equipment such as control barriers, traffic lights, CCTV cameras, traffic management, amongst others. This feature improves site safety and meets demands of most challenging applications. . Data is captured and recorded automatically and it’s possible to store it for future retrieval. The data could a comprehensive analysis by product or supplier, vehicle statistics and productivity etc.
Weighing in Motion weighbridges have relatively lower costs in terms in terms of installation, maintenance, as well as power requirements. These attributes, amongst others, bring further cost savings.
From the aforesaid, it can be deduced that WIM is one of the avenues that mining companies can adopt to achieve safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness in their rail weighing requirements, as they are leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of long-term sustainability.
Written by Jimmy Swira