Atlas Copco Industrial Technique’s smart, zero-emission bolting solutions optimise mine and plant sustainability

Mines and general industry are transforming to automated, zero-carbon, battery-driven machines, equipment and tools in a bid to achieve their economic and environmental goals.  Atlas Copco Industrial Technique’s range of smart, high quality bolt tighteninghardware and software solutions contribute to the sustainability of these sectors across South Africa by optimising productivity and efficiencies, increasing personnel safety and shrinking carbon footprints.  

The scope of supply includes the bolting tool plus two smart batteries and a smart charger; while one battery is operational the other can be charged from the grid or a renewable energy source. Supporting the tools are fully customisable software packages that offer on-screen operator instructions, weekly or monthly reporting, as well as more complex offerings such as remote viewing and automatic torque setting selection.

Productivity, which is as much about machines and equipment reliability as it is about an efficient workforce, is fundamental to plant and mine sustainability. Looking first at machinery, Regional General Manager at Industrial Technique, Cornelius Coetzee, says that mobile capital equipment operating in the stringent plant and mine environments require regular maintenance or repairs.  “When these machines and equipment, some of which are operation critical, have to be moved off site, productivity takes a dive.”

It is subsequently vital that the necessary maintenance or repair work is completed as fast as possible. “The loosening and tightening of bolts during the disassembly and reassembly process may sound like a somewhat insignificant process but, if not carried out correctly using high quality bolting tools, an enormous amount of valuable time can be wasted,” warns Coetzee. He further notes that using traditional tools, the tightening process often has to be repeated up to five times to get it right. “Taking into account that a large machine like a crusher for instance, may have over 50 bolts, repeating each bolt tightening process even more than once will, at best, take double the time.”

By switching to a smart bolting tool solution, customers will benefit from improved efficiency, accuracy and safety.  Coetzee explains that Industrial Technique’s range of bolting tools is calibrated in their local in-house laboratory in accordance with OEM specifications using reference equipment that meets South African (SANAS) and global standards. “What this means is that each bolt can be tightened accurately with only a single pull of the trigger as opposed to multiple attempts.”

“By even just halving the time means that two machines can effectively be assembled in the same time it would have taken to complete a single unit. Mines and plants can get back into operation in half the time, doubling their productivity! Imagine the potential savings in time and cost as well as the boost in production if these calculations are extrapolated over a week or a month.”

For complete peace of mind, these smart tools alert the operator to issues such as under- and over-tightening. Loose bolts can potentially lead to machine or equipment failure with the added threat to worker safety. Coetzee also points out that over-tightening comes with its own set of problems. “Stripped threads will be more difficult to remove during the next disassembly process while undetected shredded bolts present a safety risk as they can literally cause the wheels to come off. Simply put, our tools enable the customer to do the right thing and to do the right thing right.”

“Because we know our tool and process is correct in accordance with OEM specs, we can take our smart solution a step further by offering full traceability,” continues Coetzee. Enter Industrial Technique’s software solutions that work in parallel with their hardware. Explaining why traceability is so important, Coetzee says that failure of a large piece of equipment underground costs a mine plenty in terms of lost production. It can take a week for equipment to get to the surface and when the mine is not moving, it’s not making money. Reparation for lost production will be sought from the accountable party. “We are able to provide a report that proves OEM compliant tool and process accuracy, exonerating the OEM or contractor from any liability.”

The fully customisable bolting tool software system makes it possible, from Industrial Technique’s Gauteng facility, to view and identify machinery located anywhere in the country and see how many bolts need loosening and/or tightening.

The software ranges from simple to complex solutions. “For example, all the settings required for the next machine can be changed automatically by merely scanning a bar code,” says Coetzee, comparing this functionality to changing a vehicle into sport mode.” This next generation software system also offers sequential process solutions whereby bolts are tightened in the correct sequence with the operator simply following instructions on a screen.

Training on these user-friendly tools is also productivity-friendly as only once off on-the-job training is required; this skill can then be applied to any machine. Industrial Technique’s ‘easy start’ programme trains operators on the optimal use of the tools. The training team also spends time on the job site, addressing operator expectations and ensuring that they are comfortable with the tools, helping to reduce fatigue, for enhanced worker safety and productivity.

Industrial Technique specialists will consult with customers to understand their processes before making the necessary recommendations that can help to improve their productivity and efficiencies.  Qualified field service technicians deliver the full spectrum of general repairs, annual service and maintenance. Skilled service teams are also permanently located on sites where there are large tool populations or critical equipment that requires immediate repair. 

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