The No One-Size-Fits-All Rule
When it comes to providing wireless mobility for heavy industrial sites, there is no silver bullet.
As an example, in open cut mining, environmental challenges such as geography, mine size, mineral, mining practices, temperature, vibration, chemical challenges, and particularly RF propagation in the environment all impact the selection and performance of any wireless technology. A clear understanding of all those parameters is critical to the successful deployment, performance, lifecycle and costs of a wireless connectivity solution.
The impact of downtime
To perform optimally in an environment as challenging as mining, a wireless network should provide the most complete access to mobile fleet data, when and where that data is needed, with minimal fuss or hassle over maintaining the network itself, and with the absolute lowest downtime over the life of the network possible. The solution should also have the ability to adapt to the changing environment, providing redundancy and scalability as needed.
In these production environments, downtime is often where the true cost of a solution can hide. A clear understanding of the potential causes of downtime, its potential impact on operations and designing the network from the start with those factors in mind will help you implement an optimally performing wireless network that truly delivers on its own ROI by enabling the ROI of the productivity and safety enhancing applications that will utilize the network.
A unique environment
Heavy industry provides multiple unique Radio Frequency (RF) challenges to wireless networking.
- An extremely harsh environment – mines, ports, steel mills and other similar industrial sites are often located in some of the harshest locations in the world, from the Artic, to the Equator and in all places in between. In addition, the constant vibrations, shock, temperature extremes, dust and harsh chemicals of the environment will break most equipment in a matter of days. Selection of the appropriate equipment that can handle the environment is critical to reducing connectivity downtime.
- Mobility requirements – The mobility of the connected equipment in these environments adds a level of complexity. Whether the environment is open cut mining, with constantly changing contention from other equipment, shadowing from even larger machines or terrain, or near-far situations creating new RF challenges, or container yards with their constantly evolving corridors creating a wave-guide like environment and extreme multi-path, a robust and constant connection is required. Use of the right technology and the right design and deployment methodologies for each unique challenge becomes critical. When multiple of those unique challenges are found in the same environment, having the ability to deploy multiple solutions is often the right choice.
- A constantly evolving topology – The topology in a mine, container yard, or other heavy industrial site may radically change in a matter of weeks, if not days or even hours. In mining, deeper pits, higher dumps and stockpiles, fresh pushbacks and dropcuts, equipment repositioning and new environmental and RF challenges that follow ultimately result in most trusted traditional wireless technologies failing to deliver, shortly after deployment and commissioning, on top of their failure to survive.
The importance of the systems’ integrator
Partnering with a systems’ integrator such as 3D-P can help you understand the environmental challenges unique to your mine and ultimately select the technology or technologies that will not only perform but minimize your wireless network’s total cost of ownership through lower downtime, reduced maintenance and overall stability and scalability.
However, before another step is made toward selecting the technology – understanding the impact of current and future applications, as well as the operational uses of those applications is critical to integrating the right solution.