A mobile plant shutdown is a critical period in many industrial settings, especially in Australia’s mining sector. It’s very important because the long-term viability and revenue earning potential of the mining operations can hinge on mobile plant shutdowns being carried out precisely, quickly, and safely by the company’s maintenance and repair workers.
So what exactly is a mobile plant shutdown? Essentially, it refers to the practice of ceasing the operation of a mobile plant for a scheduled and pre-planned amount of time. A mobile plant is a piece of human-operated mobile machinery used in mining, which can be as small as a car or as large as a building—one that can move with its own power. Mobile plants include earthmoving machines, excavators, pressure vessels, boilers, cranes, hoists, and many other machinery.
This chunk of time is then used to perform critical check-ups, maintenance work, and repair work on the mobile plant while it’s deactivated, from its external chassis and frame to its inner components, engines, and other moving parts. By undergoing a period of shutdown, the mobile plant is kept in good working order, allowing it to continue carrying out its daily tasks. Perhaps, a good analogy would be to see it as being akin to an annual medical check-up for a person.
In this article, we’ll delve a little bit more deeply into why mobile plant shutdowns are an essential part of mining operations. Let’s discuss the benefits in detail.
It helps prevent future breakdowns
A plant breakdown is similar to a mobile plant shutdown in that it involves the stoppage of the plant’s operations. However, shutdowns are usually scheduled ahead of time for the express purpose of doing repair and maintenance work, while breakdowns happen unexpectedly, usually as a result of some unexpected circumstance such as the controls being damaged or an internal component being worn down to the point of failure.
Depending on the cause, a breakdown may last for hours or even days, especially if the cause itself is unclear at the outset, requiring mechanics and maintenance workers to investigate further. There’s also the fact that it may take a mobile plant a significant amount of time to truly “stop” and cease operations.
Scheduling and planning for the proper shutdown of a mobile plant can help prevent it from breaking down unexpectedly in the future. By taking advantage of the mobile plant’s deactivation, employees and staff are free to check all vital components and moving parts for any signs of possible breakage, malfunction, or failure. If such problems are discovered beforehand, they can be quickly remedied before they compromise the integrity and condition of the plant. Any repairs that are needed can also be made at this time. As such, the incidence of future breakdowns can be minimised significantly.
It helps make the mobile plant safer for its operators
Besides the mobile plants’ actual parts being checked for flaws or potential failure points, the tools and equipment that the mine’s workforce use in the operation of the plants can also be checked during shutdown. Vital equipment such as protective gear, adjuster tools, and controls should be examined for usability and replaced as necessary.
Another set of components that need to be checked are the safety and warning features used by the mobile plants. These include safety chevrons, warning lights, guard rails, safety covers, movement handles, and so on. Fixtures such as operator chairs, controls, and hand/foot rests may be evaluated and repaired as well.
All in all, this results in a more hazard-free work environment, one that workers who have decided to take up one of the many mining jobs in WA can work more safely in.
It helps keep the mobile plant within industry regulations
Any mobile plant in operation needs to be kept within all important safety and environmental regulations. Violating these regulations may expose the mining company to costly fines and fees, as well as lawsuits and legal liabilities. A planned mobile plant shutdown gives the mining business an opportunity to check for any regulation violations and to resolve them immediately before they become an issue in the future or are spotted by government inspectors.
It allows for necessary upgrades to be implemented
While this may not be all that time-critical, especially if the plant is able to continue operating within acceptable limits even without the upgrades, this could result in inefficient operation and loss of productivity over time.
A mobile plant shutdown can give the maintenance staff enough time to install the necessary upgrades onto the machine, allowing it to continue performing on a level that is on a par with current industry standards.
It helps keep the mobile plants clean
Lastly, a mobile plant shutdown allows for the maintenance staff to give the entire machine a good and thorough cleaning. While mining mobile plants usually get really dirty due to the nature of the materials they handle, allowing filth and detritus to build up on and inside the plants not only results in unattractive machines, it can also cause damage to the plants. Moving parts can, after all, fail due to dirt clogging up tubes or kludging up gears.
Shutting down a mining mobile plant may seem counter-intuitive, as the downtime essentially results in reduced productivity—and therefore reduced revenue earning—on the mining company’s part. However, the fact that it allows for critical maintenance and repair work to be performed on these machines ensures that the plants will be in good working order for as long as possible, helping the business save money costs over the long term.
Moreover, it bestows the above-listed benefits to both the mining company and its workers, which results in a net gain for everyone involved. As such, both the administrative staff and the labour force of a mobile plant should focus all their efforts to performing important maintenance efficiently during a mobile plant shutdown, lest they cancel out these benefits.