Field service solutions that leverage technology are increasingly being adopted by the mining industry to keep equipment running smoothly and reduce maintenance and downtime costs. Time is money in this environment, where machines often run 24/7 under strenuous conditions.

Rupert Janse van Rensburg, Probe IMT service manager for the Mpumalanga Province, says that excellent field service – backed by the right technology – can save both.

Probe IMT’s national Field Services Division offers a fully integrated management solution to mines, incorporating on-site technical testing and the implementation of equipment monitoring systems. Qualified service technicians are available either through a man-on-site service or a mobile field service on-call for breakdowns. These trained teams install and maintain specific solutions including collision avoidance systems from Wabtec, BMS systems, and OEM harness solutions.

The technicians can take care of everything: from batteries, starters, alternators, lockout systems, the repair or replacement of wiring harnesses, air-conditioning repairs, and all auto-electrical maintenance.

When breakdowns happen, specialised Probe IMT technicians focus on fault-finding, diagnosis and fixing of problematic machines. Janse van Rensburg says that while mines may have their own technicians to keep the machines running day-to-day, often these technicians will only work on one type of machine and will not necessarily have the skills to fix complex issues. Being out in the field, Probe IMT technicians are consistently gaining experience on a wide range of equipment, which enhances their problem-solving skills. “If your technician is less specialised without the correct data, you can end up with a six-hour job – or you can halve the time with the proper skill backed by technology. We have invested in technology and training, including digital diagnosis tools, that enable our technicians to quickly identify and repair faults.”

Digital diagnosis

Probe IMT employs a range of digital technologies that enhance productivity and operational efficiency in the mining industry, including for field service software solutions. The Probe IMT team uses Opus, a fully integrated solution. “Opus is an excellent user-friendly system when it comes to checking all the elements. It enables us to track better and to understand the history,” says Francina Schoombee, Probe IMT service manager for the North West Province. “Our technicians can load images in one place to quickly show engineers and managers why a component may be failing. The technology facilitates recording issues and sharing them quickly with customers who may not be on site, helping with rapid decision-making.”

Predictive maintenance

Janse van Rensburg says that having a digitised overview of equipment and its service history through Opus helps the team effectively manage predictive maintenance. “Improved failure anticipation can help prevent unplanned interruptions and machine failures. Through implementing Opus, we can track maintenance and breakdowns on a day-to-day basis from our clients. It is an effective solution that helps us leverage real benefits.”

Much like a motor vehicle plan, when it comes to service frequency, OEMs provide recommendations for equipment, explains Janse van Rensburg. However, depending on the customer’s maintenance philosophy, they don’t necessarily stick to these recommendations. “We believe it is vital to take a long-term view when it comes to repairs and maintenance. Machines need the correct time for maintenance, which keeps costs down in the long run. We’re very hands-on and will be able to inform our clients when it will be better to pull the machine off for a day and conduct preventative maintenance.”

Trusted teams and solutions

Schoombee says that while technology is a vital aspect, building trust is another. “It’s our responsibility to build relationships based on trust with our clients, working together to find the most productive solutions. We strive to ensure our customers experience minimum downtime and are back on the road without any further delays. Clients need to know you’re always a phone call away and can be there quickly.”

Probe IMT first offered man-on-site solutions in the North West Province, but has quickly grown to having field service vehicles in the field with skilled technicians who respond to breakdowns and specific issues. “We started in September 2022 and now have over 24 clients for this branch, so we’re very satisfied with the progress. Once a challenging problem has been solved for a customer, more customers start to trust you.”

Based on skill and experience, the team is able to recommend efficient and cost-saving solutions. “Our products are chosen carefully, with a wider view of what will function well on a mine in the long run,” says Schoombee. “We use quality parts and brands and strive to do everything 100% first time. Our customers can see the benefits of our solutions. It’s not just about immediate cost but the long-term quality and lifespan, backed by the correct service and technology, which ensures our clients get the best return on investment.”

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