Features, Innovation, Repair and maintenance, Safety technology

TAKRAF: Safety from the ground up

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TAKRAF explains how safety and efficiency are embedded within the company, from design to execution. 

Bulk material handling systems serve to connect mine and market, so operations understandably go to great lengths to ensure the associated equipment is properly maintained. 

And while it’s important to keep this machinery running effectively, the safety of the workers maintaining it is always paramount. 

TAKRAF Group, a global provider of equipment, systems and services to the mining and associated industries, marries safety with performance to transform maintenance. 

“Based on the understanding that traditional maintenance approaches can often be unsafe or inefficient, we address maintenance requirements and the risks associated right from the start during the engineering of a technology,” TAKRAF Group chief executive officer, Thomas Jabs told Safe to Work.

“We believe, as mining statistics worldwide show, that increasing efficiency and improving safety are two sides of the same coin; a safer mine is, in fact, a more productive one.” 

Safety first

When it comes to material handling, perhaps no piece of equipment is as central to the process as the conveyor. These units can stretch for kilometres, with thousands of idlers required to support the weight of the belt and its load. 

With so many moving parts, it’s critical that sites are able to safely and efficiently maintain a conveyor system in order to avoid costly downtime and hazards such as fires and belt tears.

“Conducting maintenance on belt conveyors – especially on steep slopes, in tunnels or on elevated structures – is a challenge for all parties involved,” Jabs said.

“The belt needs to be lifted and the idlers, with a single part weight of about 50 kg or more, replaced.

“Steep slopes make it almost impossible for the maintenance crew to even reach an area, never mind actually working safely. 

“And the issue of space really becomes critical in tunnels, where space is very limited and the work has to be conducted manually.”

To combat these challenges, TAKRAF introduced its maintenance cart for conveyor systems, making it possible to access any location along the conveyor belt quickly and safely. 

“Our maintenance cart is equipped with a number of clever solutions that enable the safe and efficient replacement of idlers in less than 15 minutes,” Jabs said. “The cart is equipped with a belt-lifting device that safely lifts the belt away from the idler in need of replacement. 

“The handling of idlers is supported by a small service crane, with idlers being attached to the crane by means of a special tool.” 

TAKRAF has employed this system at mine sites around the world, including at a major copper mine in North America. The mine site was struggling with maintenance along its 5km downhill conveyor, which includes a 1km section with a steep 26 per cent decline. 

Utilising TAKRAF’s maintenance cart, the site was able to safely and efficiently access and maintain this challenging section. 

TAKRAF equipment is built with safety at heart from the outset. Where possible, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) designs solutions to remove or isolate the equipment from operation during maintenance.

An excellent example of this ethos is TAKRAF’s unique chute concept, which makes it possible to stay outside of the chute at all times during maintenance. 

“Accidents can occur while replacing a chute liner, resulting from a range of risks like falling material, falling from heights, unstable support, unsafe handling of tools and equipment, working within a confined space, and even internal welding,” Jabs said.

“TAKRAF’s unique concept allows workers to stay outside of the chute at all times during maintenance work.”

A ground-up safety design means the lip liner and wear plates are externally accessible, while it’s also possible to employ ultrasonic measurement of liner thickness and wear from outside the chute to allow for planned maintenance. 

This not only keeps workers safe from the typical risks associated with chute maintenance, Jabs said, but significantly reduces downtime from an eight-hour shift to just 60 minutes. 

Innovative design

Flexibility is another important aspect of TAKRAF’s design. 

“TAKRAF equipment is designed to provide alternative maintenance concepts that foresee multiple conditions in order to align to the safest and most efficient way possible,” Jabs said.

“Our X-TREME class sizer is an excellent example of this philosophy, as it was designed with a high level of maintenance flexibility in mind. 

“For example, the sizer provides for maximum flexibility in machine dismantling, from replacing each tooth (pick) or segment radially in any position to replacing entire rolls or the entire sizer.

“Every component of the X-TREME class sizer has been designed to reduce downtime and ensure that the machine is brought back into production as soon as possible, using our quick-release system.”

TAKRAF is also harnessing the power of digitisation to make its equipment smarter and safer. 

Intelligent machine control systems, data collection, and augmented reality (AR) technologies are helping sites get the most out of their TAKRAF equipment. 

 “By harnessing the power of Industry 4.0, TAKRAF Group is making the benefits of data, automation and connectivity available to its customers to drive profitability, efficiency and, most importantly, safety,” Jabs said.

 “For example, developments such as IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things] devices and sensors that collect real-time data enable remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, while AR is revolutionising maintenance processes by providing immersive experiences that allow workers to receive real-time guidance.”

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A TAKRAF specialist wearing smart glasses that can connect experts in the office with field staff. Image: TAKRAF

TAKRAF is using innovative and safety-conscious design to make material handling safer and more efficient than ever.  

“The way of traditional thinking has us believe that the increased demand for safety leads to more complicated and time-consuming maintenance work,” Jabs said. 

“At TAKRAF Group, we firmly believe that increased safety does not have to come at the cost of maintenance efficiency and can, in fact, improve it.” 

This feature also appears in the May-June issue of Safe to Work.

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