As covered in previous blogs, the performance of a mine’s wireless network typically decreases with time. This is caused by a number of factors, but one of the most common is a lack of dedicated personnel. It’s often someone’s part-time job to ‘keep the network up and running’.
Initially this may be fine, but over the course of time leads to a network with a design that creeps from the original intentions, and whose performance is unsustainable.
The good news is that maintaining performance of your wireless network doesn’t necessarily require hiring and managing a full time on-site team.
Instead, and depending on the criticality of your network, the 5 following tips will help you ensure uptime of your network without the need to in-source full time network administration personnel.
Through this blog, we will discuss a recent and interesting emergency call from one of our customers at a large surface mine, highlighting the importance of proactive monitoring of your wireless network and implementation of a proper process around configuration management.
This customer, which is a large, well-connected and technologically advanced mine, had started noticing sudden network performance degradation, which appeared out of the blue on what had been an otherwise high-performing network.
Experience has shown time and time again that – despite the best of intentions – our customers’ wireless networks are often neglected after deployment. The combination of multiple teams relying on it for access to their critical data (dispatch, maintenance, high precision GPS, operator safety, etc.) and a lack of accountability as to whom is responsible for its performance and maintenance often results in a network with performance and reliability that degrades over time.
Compounding that, as applications are added in response to the needs of the mine’s teams, and as utilization of the network increases in response, performance degradation begins to happen at an exponential rate. Wireless networks become slow and unresponsive, time to resolve issues increases, and the value that the network adds begins to drop steeply as the cost (and pain) of maintaining it grows.
If this describes your experiences with your wireless network, the good news is that you’re not alone -and a proper understanding of your pain points will ensure you can now engage the support you need.
Let’s review some of the typical pain points we see in the field.
Mining influencers, conferences, magazines all talk about the need for miners to digitalize at the risk of losing market share to competition. This statement can be overwhelming and individual circumstances should be applied to it.
Miners might raise some of the following questions: 1) what does digitalization really mean?, 2) how does it apply to my operations?, 3) how to I plan or evolve my mine’s technology roadmap around digitalization?
We look here at how to start the digitalization process for smaller operators from a connectivity perspective.
Cost, onsite support and inability to justify short-term ROI have all contributed to the incapability of many smaller operators to invest in the deployment of near real-time applications on-board their mobile equipment.
Add the cost of the application- whether be dispatch, asset health, etc. – to the cost of deploying and maintaining a full scale wireless network, and many are unable to justify the ROI on their project, and remain stuck in the manual collection of their data.
We will examine the traditional limitations faced by smaller operators in this quest towards the Digital Mine, before discussing over the next few weeks how each of those limitations can be tackled, quickly and cost-effectively.
As previously discussed, a hybrid LTE/InstaMesh client solution presents a number of benefits to mines considering LTE. Often the mines investigating LTE solutions are larger mines, or those considering moving to autonomous operations.
LTE does however present a number of benefits to small operations too, and can even be an avenue towards starting their digitization process, when combined with appropriate planning and technology partnership.
For those readers that have never worked underground, trust me when I say “It’s Hard”. It is hard to work there, it is hard operating systems there, it is hard to install technologies there and it is hard to maintain systems there. Difficulty aside, communications systems for underground are vital for one primary purpose and that is safety, and although important, everything else is secondary.
In this blog, I am adding some context to the technology discussion around solving the challenges that are emerging in interoperability between legacy and emerging communications solutions to create the experience of a simplified solution without sacrificing the essential reliability and performance required for your safety and production applications.
Originally, my thoughts were to discuss solving the problems associated with last mile connectivity but upon reflection, while last mile connectivity is the end result, what we are talking about is really addressing the problems of integration between different communications technologies and why choosing the wrong migration or solution path can lead you further away from a simplified, maintainable and interoperable outcome.
As covered during our blog last week, LTE still faces a few challenges in some mining environments. However, the promises of predictability, connectivity and speed cannot be overlooked.
What if the performance of LTE in mining could be enhanced by a meshing solution for complete coverage? At 3D-P, we have developed a new hybrid LTE/InstaMesh® client solution that brings extended coverage, seamless roaming and L2 support through true peer-to-peer meshing capability.
LTE provides undeniable benefits to the unique network challenges encountered both in open pit and underground mining. With its promises of predictability, connectivity, capacity and speed, and a significant reduction in the price of LTE infrastructure over the last couple of years, there is no question why more mines are exploring this technology.
Implementation of an LTE network has however been challenging for a number of mines, which some of had to deploy a second network to compensate for the challenges of the technology.
Service Level Agreements (SLA) are traditionally seen as an insurance policy. It’s great when you need it but its value tends to be questioned after a few years, if it’s not fully leveraged.
The situation has become worse over the last few years, coming out of the mining downturn, as many miners decided to take the ‘risk’ of not renewing their SLA in order to reduce their operational costs. The direct savings might have been obvious but the indirect costs of not renewing have often been overlooked.