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Fenner Strives for Mine Safety Improvements with iBelt Offering

Article published in International Mining

Fenner Dunlop says it is revolutionising safety within the mining industry with its intelligent conveying products and services.

Performing manual inspections is a major challenge that mine sites face on a daily basis, and they can have serious implications to the safety of personnel on site.

This is one of the reasons the company is finding customers are particularly interested in its mobile inspections and thickness testing solutions

through iBelt’s BeltGauge and DigitalHub technology, according to Steve Fidoe, Senior Diagnostics Service Coordinator.

“Some of our customers in the Pilbara have over 100 conveyor systems on site, which would traditionally mean a larger workforce required to complete the belt thickness reports,” he said.

“By investing in BeltGauge, our customers are able to reduce the number of people required on site – less people means less risk and less time spent on site.”

BeltGauge is available in a fixed or mobile unit. The fixed unit provides 24/7 autonomous monitoring, removing the need for any technicians on site performing hazardous tasks. While the mobile unit doesn’t eliminate technicians from site, it does reduce risk of damage to equipment, the conveyor system and, most importantly, the person performing the scan, Fenner Dunlop said.

The mobile BeltGauge is designed to be easily transported, installed and moved to the next conveyor. It was designed from the ground up, taking into consideration the learnings of Fenner Dunlop’s first-generation BeltGauge unit, known as OTT, and the experience of its technicians.

While the core hardware has not changed much, the new BeltGauge units are more ergonomic and flexible in design, according to the company.

“The previous OTT units were long and weighed approximately 30 kg,” Fidoe said. “This came with vehicle load restraints and potential manual handling hazards, not to mention days lost just getting the equipment to site.

“As you can imagine, equipment that is 3 m long is difficult to manoeuvre; clipping together the mobile BeltGauge is a much more streamlined approach.”

The mobile BeltGauge unit is made from a range of plastic composites that clip together, meaning no hazardous tooling is required, such as spanners, hammers, or power tools. The reduction in weight and size also means that freight and manual handling are no longer a safety issue. When compared with the OTT, the mobile BeltGauge design has reduced the weight by over 50%, according to the company.

Fidoe explained: “Mobile BeltGauge allows us to be reactive for our customers. It can be transported as airport carry-on with technicians on site and ready to perform work within one day. Once on site, the job can be completed in as little as two hours.”

Dampier Ports Digi Inspection 800x600

Recent developments allow mobile BeltGauge to be suitable for all applications, according to Fidoe.

“In the past it has been nearly impossible to obtain thickness readings safely for certain applications, such as elevated systems with narrow gangways or short-cycle stacker systems where angles are constantly changing and there is limited space for installs,” Fidoe said.

Mobile BeltGauge, meanwhile, can be assembled at the conveyor system with technicians able to obtain readings from challenging positions.

Our team can position the unit safely under belts without the risk of equipment overhanging walkways,” Fidoe said.

“We were able to prove to customers that mobile BeltGauge removes technicians from hazards and allows thickness testing to be completed on a live system safely.”

Mt Pleasant Digi Inspections 800x600

Fenner Dunlop has also designed a fixed BeltGauge unit as the permanent option for sites wanting 24/7 autonomous monitoring.

“The fixed unit is a tool that allows sites to effectively utilise their condition monitoring teams – it doesn’t replace condition monitoring on site, but instead acts as an additional asset making teams more accurate, more efficient and able to take decisive action in the lead up to shutdowns,” Fidoe said.

“On one site alone, BeltGauge identified at least eight conveyors that were suffering significant wear, which the site was consequently able to address prior to it becoming a major issue.”

Another element of iBelt’s intelligent conveying technology is DigitalHub, which assists technicians to conduct digital inspections via a mobile app. Digital inspections have been rolled out at a number of sites across Australia, allowing sites to improve planning efficiency, Fenner Dunlop said.

“Mobile inspections through our DigitalHub app are more comprehensive than similar products in our industry,” Fidoe said. “Technicians are guided to capture critical data, events and photos, with issue alerts triggered before an inspection is even finished.

“Customers can be looking at the data in the DigitalHub portal while the technician is performing the next scan or inspection.”

Fenner Dunlop Chief Operating Officer, Steve Abbott, concluded: “Our outlook is that these things go hand in hand – when you make something safer, you allow sites to become more efficient. The customer has remained at the forefront of iBelt technology developments.

“Ultimately, the iBelt range of intelligent conveying products and services provide customers with a maintenance strategy that can be customised to suit unique customer needs.”