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Tyre management in Chile

The mining industry in Chile has been under the media spotlight for some time but perhaps not for the best reasons. However, in the meantime, one Chilean mining support company, Bailac, has continued to grow and drive its business across South America. Bailac’s expertise in tyre maintenance and management in the heavy mining industry stretches back over 85 years, and its success has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. This centres on the company’s use of technology to deliver integrated services for the maintenance of off-the-road (OTR) tyres. By developing tools such as the UMAN® system, geared towards operational safety and prolonging the useful life of the tyres, Bailac has redefined the tyre service industry and forged a profile that has allowed the company to claim to be one of the best OTR maintenance companies in South America.

As industries across the world have striven for greater operating efficiencies and reduced costs, the mining industry has become increasingly sophisticated in its management of OTR tyres. There are hard commercial benefits for mine operators for monitoring tyre pressures. Tyres are a significant cost and small fluctuations in pressure and temperature can have a dramatic effect upon their working life. Benefits include a measurable increase in the useful life of the tyre, increases in the profitability of the mine because of reduced stoppages to shifts due to premature tyre failure and an increased availability of the fleet.

This desire to prolong tyre life has led to the development of UMAN, Bailac’s new tyre management technology. By using internal pressure and temperature sensors, the system prevents tyres from operating outside the ranges of pressure and temperature recommended by the manufacturer, reducing damage to the tyre and maximising its useful life. The continual real-time monitoring of the pressure and temperature of the gas inside the tyre, coupled with alarms situated inside the cab or located remotely, provides warnings when a threshold value is exceeded that could indicate potential damage to the tyre and, consequently, the capacity for continuous operation of the vehicle during the shift in question. The monitoring process is displayed on an easy-to-read display inside the cab of the vehicle. It can also be displayed remotely using a WiFi-enabled PDA mobile device, and on computer screens through Intranet/Internet.

Alberto Bailac, Director of the Chile branch of Bailac San Ltd and the brains behind the UMAN concept, explains: “UMAN was developed to replace the traditional procedure for the control and monitoring of tyres, which is still in use in the vast majority of the mining companies in the world. This technique uses basic tools including manometers, and these give rise to a number of issues. Because it is a manual procedure, it cannot give warnings as soon as a tyre starts to operate in conditions that endanger its structural integrity. Control measurements are carried out daily or every few days, this time frame greatly exceeds the average time for damage to occur, which is around three hours. UMAN has been designed to provide real time monitoring of all tyres on a vehicle, including six-axle vehicles.”

The testament to its efficiency is the number of mining sites that have UMAN installed. In Chile there are nine sites operating UMAN: Compañía Minera Doña Inés de Collahuasi (ANGLO AMERICAN XSTRATA), El Soldado (ANGLO AMERICAN CHILE), Mantoverde (ANGLO AMERICAN CHILE), SQM-Nva. Victoria (SQM), Minera Esperanza (ANTOFAGASTA Minerals), El Teniente (CODELCO – Corporación del Cobre de Chile), Mina Sur (CODELCO), Chuquicamata (CODELCO), Los Colorados ( Pacific Steel Company).

Within these sites, the variety and range of vehicles carrying UMAN is as varied as it is long: 34 Komatsu trucks 930E, two Komatsu loaders W900, two Caterpillar trucks 797B, seven Komatsu trucks 830E, eight Caterpillar trucks 777, nine Caterpillar trucks 785, three Le Torneau loaders L1850, four Caterpillar loaders 994 and five Toro 010 Sanvick Tamrock loaders.

Alberto Bailac continues: “The success of Bailac is down to our customers receiving a service of such a high standard that it enables them to increase their operational safety, prolong the useful life of their tyres and increase the time that their vehicles are available, and this increases the productive capacity of the mining shift in tons per hour. Another element of our value is that our customers can rely on Bailac to identify other tasks that require attention at the mine, which although these may not have a direct relationship with the extraction process, are critical activities that enable it to be carried out more efficiently.”

At the heart of the UMAN system is the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which can facilitate the early detection of faults. The data provides historical analysis of the collected information (behaviour versus distances and loads, selection of tyres, maintenance schedules), and can be used to manage shift patterns and mine operations.

The UMAN TPMS includes the Tire Monitor System (TMS) is manufactured in the UK. TMS delivers a solution for monitoring the internal pressure and temperature of a tyre, and Bailac relies on its quality, efficiency and effectiveness for accurate measurement of pressure and temperature in order to provide a competitive solution for the Chilean and international markets. The relationship that has blossomed between Bailac and TMS is based on mutual understanding and the flexibility to react to the ongoing improvement of the product allowing new functions to support the mining customer. For that reason, in 2010, Bailac and TMS signed a marketing agreement where Bailac became the exclusive distributor of its UMAN products at world level.

Rodolfo Zalavari, Project Engineer for Bailac explains: “Delivering reliable data from the tyres is key to the development and marketing of UMAN. When it came to selecting the technology provider, we found that TMS had the sensors and the kit for storing information on pressure and temperature, but would it work in the mines of Chile? After conducting on-site tests, we were able to verify that TMS could be integrated into UMAN, and was able to deliver measurements under diverse environmental and operational conditions, such as operating in extreme temperatures including snow, operating at sea level and at an altitude of 5000 metres, and operating on tyres covered with steel chains. Fortunately, the R&D period was not very long – TMS was the second supplier of TPMS sensors that we tried, and the results speak for themselves.”

Because the TMS sensor transmitter is mounted on the inner wall of the tyre, one of the main challenges faced was whether the TMS receiver inside the driver’s cab would be able to read the RF signals through the steel mesh in the tyres, or through tyres covered in steel chains. However, after exhaustive tests, the results were successful and the system proven to work.

“Following the successful trials and implementation, Bailac developed a new version of UMAN which was launched in October 2010. From that moment the company began an aggressive plan of consolidation and penetration of the Chilean and international markets, with the expectation that during the remainder of 2010 a total of a further 50 vehicles will be fitted with our system. In 2011 we expect to extend across a significant number of mining sites in Chile, and to consolidate international business, with a plan to penetrate mining markets such as those of Australia, South Africa, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia.” added Zalavari.

The mining companies that rely on UMAN have seen positive changes in their operational management. This includes redirecting the work of maintenance staff to tasks of greater overall value and avoiding the risks of accidents when bringing samples to the site, because these are now carried out in an automatic manner by the system. The workers have an awareness at an early stage of the tyre condition that could endanger their integrity, and the companies see an increase in the performance of the tyres of at least 10%.

Alberto Bailac concludes: “Bailac is fortunate to possess a great deal of knowledge about tyres and about their usage in the heavy mining industry. Thanks to the aptitude and flexibility of TMS, we have been able to develop a series of improvements aimed at the automation of current manual operations that will clearly differentiate UMAN from its competitors. Because of this, in October 2010, TMS developed a new generation of sensors that correspond to the first stage of improvements agreed between the engineering departments of both companies. The future of the Tire Monitor System and UMAN, in our opinion, could progress to the point where it acts not only to gather information, but also take corrective action in real time.”

Bailac has developed a substantial footprint in South America and currently has five repair and retreading plants, strategically located over the length of Chile, as well as a plant in Utah, in the USA. These plants are supported by more than 600 specialists working on-site in the mines, and this has enabled the company to service tyres and tyre-related needs of large mining companies across the regions.

Part of Bailac’s marketing strategy is to cover the majority of the Chilean market with its UMAN solution, not only providing the relevant hardware and software, but also supplying information management services for the operational and administrative areas of each mining company. On an international basis, the company is targeting mining operations in the following countries Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil, Australia, Russia and South Africa.

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