Most dredging contractors and sand plant owners think that they have a grasp of the dredge downtime by simply communicating with the operators and staff. Often in my travels I have seen a “downtime” form attached to a clipboard for manual entry of events. This manual form is a good start, but where does it go from there? If you are using an event entry form, you at least seem interested in the actual reasons for downtime. So let’s continue and see if we can improve on this method.
The Problem with Manual Entry
The problems with manual entry of production, downtime and events are 3-fold. First, the description of events will be inconsistent from each Operator. The person writing the event narrative will always put themselves in a good light. Second, short time events may not be captured. It takes time to fill in the form, so often this is done later and all events aren’t captured. Third, is the fact that it is almost an impossible task to tally all of the events data when it becomes necessary to decipher what your most offensive downtime issues have been over a selected period of time.
Why You Need Automation
Much like your company has software to analyze all your finances based on selected criteria, your dredges should have automated software to collect and report downtime and production. Software downtime collection systems consist at a minimum of one computer (could be laptop) that connects to one or more dredge transmitters to determine a downtime event has occurred. Often your dredge will already have some type of PLC (programmable logic controller), which can easily be interfaced into the computer for downtime and production recording. In fact, your dredge may already have a computer for a positioning system that can be used as your downtime and production system as well.
Kruse Integration uses off-the-shelf, non-proprietary Microsoft SQL database and built in tools to accomplish the automation of the downtime and production data collection. Through the dredge instrumentation, the code recognizes when the dredge is down and not producing. This launches a popup on the computer monitor, which allows the Operator to simply select from a dropdown box, the dredge equipment and then the reason for the occurrence. This selection can be done anytime during or after the downtime since the database has already collected the start and end of downtime. All of the dredge equipment and reasons would have been entered prior by a supervisor through the user-friendly web browser interface.
The Advantages of Database Reporting
The advantages of relational database collection and reporting over manual entry would be recognized immediately. Since all events and production would be stored with beginning and end time stamps (as well as stored with the Operator on board if desired), it is easy to develop meaningful reports that would be beneficial to preventive maintenance, capital investments, production goals, incentive programs, equipment upgrades, operating costs and safety. Imagine selecting a time frame from the reports page to view the most occurring downtimes; in order, and displaying them along with reasons in a bar chart. You would immediately see surprising data that you would not have expected. This will tell you where to focus efforts to improve production and efficiency. Since your data would be stored in a relational database, your reports can give you information on each operators’ efficiency, production based on location or project and so on.
The Kruse Integration Advantage
Kruse Integration has been developing downtime and production reports for many industries such as pharmaceutical, chemical, alternative energy, security, automotive, aggregate, steel, beverage just to name a few. These industries rely on this type of data daily to make decisions. The dredging contract industry will see the same benefits. It is worth noting that these database collection and reporting systems are not expensive for their value. One example is that a downtime and production data collection / reporting system was installed on a 32” cutter suction dredge that was producing 3800 CYH and following the reporting system, they were producing 5200 CYH. Management paid incentive on production and also claimed that downtime was minimized due to the dredge staff being aware of the data collection.
Another advantage of using the computer for data collection is remote access to the data and reports. Provided the dredge has a cell or hotspot Internet, management can log in and create reports from the on-board data through any web browser. This allows them real-time and historic view to any data necessary.
My final comments on this matter is this:
Cost for not investing in reporting…
Unanticipated equipment wear
Poor timing on dredge equipment upgrades
Under utilization of capital equipment
Little grasp of preventive maintenance
No personnel accountability
No sense of return on investment
– Remote monitoring and remote booster pump control
– Budgetary reliable rugged mobile controllers for dredges in developing countries
– Dredge Instrumentation and justifications
– Dredge simulators
– Dredge contractors are thinking out of the box
– User-friendly dredge controls and graphical interface