Comprehensive tyre management, with preventative maintenance playing a central role, should be a standard practice, not optional, in mining operations.
Tyre management should always be an integral part of an integrated fleet management program, for purposes of maximising fleet utilisation in mining. When this critical area in fleet management is absent from the primary fleet management strategy, frequent cases of unplanned tyre related downtime occurs, which unnecessarily contributes to fleet downtime.
Considering the strong correlation between tyre condition and fleet productivity, sound tyre management should be highly prioritised. As with machine maintenance, tyre management must be meticulously planned and implemented, and there should be no compromise, says John Martin, VP Southern Africa, Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group, stressing that key elements of basic tyre maintenance, have to be prioritised .
Costly common mistakes
For any mining company that has elected to revise its approach to tyre management, the first step should be to make a couple of strategic decisions that will ultimately impact on site operational performance, as well as the cost management of mining fleet tyres.
Martin singles out two common mistakes in tyre management, based on tyre-related problems mine operators experience with their fleet of vehicles on sites worldwide.
- Focus on maximising tyre performance
Firstly, mine operators often focus their attention purely on trying to maximise tyre performance in a singular dimension. The lowest priced tyre is not necessarily the best cost performer. More often than not, this approach has a negative impact on equipment downtime and operational efficiency.
- ‘Fairly low-level’ expectation on planned tyre maintenance
The second strategically important decision relates to what most often comes across as a ‘fairly low-level’ expectation that tyre maintenance work can actually be planned. Erroneously, with this kind of mindset, tyres are often considered as a “run to failure” component, thereby never realizing the renewed potential of a second life through a repair or even a tyre retreading program.
Key elements in mining-specific tyre management
Contrary to a popular misconception, Martin clarifies that mining specific tyre management does not necessarily need many components to be manageable. Alternatively, he suggests that it can be consolidated into two main manageable parts.
- Mean Time Between Service (MTBS)
The first step is bringing a well-known maintenance concept of Mean Time Between Service (MTBS), to tyre management as a core Key Performance Indicator (KPI). This is a standard maintenance measure which is equally relevant in a holistic approach to tyre management. “MTBS has the specific advantage of combining two core elements of tyre management: tyre performance and work planning,” states Martin. “Improving tyre performance and extending tyre life involves the identification of the right tyre for the application and ensuring the tyre is run within the correct pressure and temperature parameters. In the same vein, it is fundamental to plan tyre work by combining it, wherever possible, with other planned maintenance tasks, to reduce the number of tyre related downtime events. Get both elements right, and that is reflected in a much-improved MTBS.”
- Making the most of available data
The second part is to make the most of the data available today to understand better what operational factors are causing variations in tyre performance. In this way, decision makers can be empowered to make smarter decisions, in real time, and ultimately to determine which combination of tyre brands, compounds and tread patterns to deploy, based on those insights.
A standard practice, not an option
Tyre failures result in fleet downtime, which inevitably results in loss of productivity. Production downtime is the last thing a mine operator wants to experience, as it undermines efforts to sustain optimum levels of production.Frequent cases of tyre related failures only serves to dilute these objectives. Given that, a comprehensive tyre management strategy should therefore be standard practice, not optional, in all mining operations.
Thus far, Martin says that Kal Tire has noted a substantial change of approach in tyre management on mine sites, where preventative maintenance is being prioritised, on many operations globally. “From information extracted from our TOMS system, we are seeing a change in approach, where some sites are managing to schedule upwards of 50% of their preventative maintenance tyre work. We are very confident that we will continue seeing higher percentages of planned tyre maintenance work in the coming years, as we continue to expand on the roll out of our predictive planning tool.”
Technology reshaping sound tyre management
Technology can enable sound tyre management if utilised effectively. Primarily, this is a case of maximising the interoperability between the various technologies and systems currently available.
Illustrating how Kal Tire helps mine operators make the most of technology, Martin says: “With TOMS, Kal Tire’s propriety Tire and Operations Management System, we combine weather data, truck operational data from Dispatch, TPMS sensor data, and all tire event data, into a readable and manageable format. This integrated technology enables us to build a fuller picture of what is happening operationally, and so consider tyre management strategies firmly within the operational context.”
“Furthermore, thanks to a common data model and common data language, we are able to benchmark on a global scale and compare global operations and best practices, in a way that simply wasn’t possible previously,” he adds.
Technical developments will continue to fundamentally reshape how industry conducts tyre management, with automation and robotics taking a centre stage in this evolution.
Kal Tire foresees increasing utilisation of automation. In actual fact, already, automated inspection stations, supported by powerful AI capability, are starting to play a role in augmenting today’s visual inspections, adding a useful set of consistent external tyre readings, to the internal tire sensors we have currently.
Moreover, robotics will in future play a more significant part too to help with what is currently a very physically strenuous job of changing large OTR tyres and rims.
On the niche of robots, Martin observes, “We are starting to see robotics appear in tyre repair and retreading facilities, as well as gravity assisted tooling on mine site environments. Both will help make the tyre industry safer, more productive and cost effective.”
At the same time, and increasingly so, as the mining industry looks to autonomous mining solutions, the combination of data management and ongoing technological developments are playing a pivotal role. These elements permit tyre service managers, such as Kal Tire, to move forward in lockstep with our mining clients to participate in this move to autonomous mining, while furthermore satisfying their ongoing continuous improvement requirements and expectations.
Data as the enabler of sound tyre management
Data gathered in real-time or near real time has become integral to a comprehensive tyre management strategy.
The scope of capabilities of the latest generation of mining TPMS systems, with integrated GPS sensors, accelerometers and increased level of telematics is incredible. Not only is this allowing managers to be alerted in real time if tyres are operating outside of pre-determined parameters, but also to know exactly where, when and what happened in each incident. This feature allows Kal Tire to be far more proactive in working with customers to address specific mine design and operational issues that may negatively impact fleet productivity from the resulting tyre issues.
In general, TPMS systems – specifically when they are integrated into tyre management platforms – are a critical tool in a successful tyre management strategy.
Near real-time data on mine operations will give mine operators an increasing ability to predict tyre failure in the coming years, based on aggregating data in significant detail of the life that each tyre has lived, Martin predicts.
“As more miners, manufacturers and service providers such as Kal Tire, work on this problem, the modeling gets smarter, more relevant and more accurate at being able to correctly respond to answer the question, ‘Is it time?’”
“Near real-time data will furthermore give mine operator the ability to know, with increasing accuracy, as to when is the best time to remove tires at their end of life, without sacrificing unnecessary hours or km of performance. This will enable tyre management to move from a “run to failure” model, to one based on predictive and prescriptive maintenance concepts,” he explains.