345 Technology were engaged to help a global mining company monitor and control plant all over the world. We delivered a transformational capability in managing their operation, giving them flexibility and speed that would save the business millions of pounds.
What was the problem?
The client’s challenge was that much of their equipment was located in inhospitable and difficult-to-reach places, making monitoring and maintenance both time-consuming and costly.
In some cases, communications were at the mercy of whether the right satellite was passing overhead in remote locations. In other cases, maintenance tasks might be delayed by oppressive desert conditions. These were situations where the client needed to avoid the need for manual interventions.
Crucially, the client’s inability to do any significant predictive maintenance meant that mining operations would sometimes need to be stopped at unplanned times. Given that a single mine closure can cost millions of pounds per day, it was essential to introduce a predictive maintenance capability so that the client could plan downtime better.
The client needed the ability to reliably manage various tasks remotely:
- Measuring pressure and flow in gas pipelines.
- Adjusting valves to control gas delivery.
- Assessing wear and tear on mining equipment to ensure reliable operation.
- Predicting when maintenance is needed.
What did we do?
Our solution was to design, build and test an IoT platform, allowing the client’s devices all over the world to connect to a cloud-based backbone to exchange data and receive updates.
This meant implementing a secure, reliable means of handling 2-way data exchange, storing all data produced in a data lake so that it could be used for analysis, prediction and troubleshooting.
Finding the right technology
The client was responsible for the choice of devices, so we needed to find technology that supported their needs. We built the solution using the Microsoft Cloud (Azure). This gave us access to a rich toolset that could support everything we needed to do:
- Azure IoT Hub: this is a cloud service that’s built for connecting IoT devices and managing them. This provides the base connectivity and provides an infrastructure platform that has limitless scale, so we were confident that no matter how many devices our client added to the solution we would never run out of capacity.
- Azure Data Lake: this solution allows almost unlimited storage of any kind of data – structured and unstructured – so that it can be mined and processed later.
- Azure Data Factory: this is a cloud-based ETL tool, allowing us to design and build data processes connecting to our online databases.
- Azure SQL Database: an online relational database utilising elastic pools to provide the scale we needed to handle Big Data.
- Azure Service Bus: a scalable cloud-based messaging system to deliver messages to back-end systems.
- Azure Service Fabric: this application framework provided us with a platform for running a modern distributed microservices architecture, allowing us to design an application in small maintainable chunks.
- Azure Machine Learning: building and running AI models to process data.
Having chosen the right technology stack we were in a position to deliver a solution.
Building the solution
The overall solution, hosted centrally in Azure and connecting devices from all over the world, uses the right technology to combine into a single, low-maintenance, highly scalable solution:
What was the result?
Our work on the remote solution meant we delivered a true “zero to one” shift in the client’s capability to manage devices remotely instead of manual checking.
The new predictive maintenance capability meant that the client was able to plan downtime of its mines, to ensure that full closures could be used as opportunities to carry out as much focused maintenance at the same time as possible.
Moreover, the business intelligence offered by predictive maintenance meant that downtimes could now more often be measured in hours rather than days – saving the client millions of pounds.
The right IoT and devices can be transformational for your business, saving you time and money.