Digitalisation and smart mines, Features, Repair and maintenance, Work health and safety

Smart cleaners creating good vibrations


Flexco Elevate is making conveyor maintenance approachable, efficient and safe. 

Conveyor systems are the backbone of mining operations, and that’s why proper upkeep is critical. 

Conveyor belt tears and other possible malfunctions can lead to costly damages and delays, not to mention create safety hazards for workers. But given these machines typically function independently, it can be hard to know when something goes awry without keeping a constant eye out. 

That’s exactly why Flexco created Flexco Elevate, which monitors the performance of the conveyor cleaner and acts as a belt-health-detection device. 

Flexco digital product manager for Elevate Travis Vliem compared Elevate to a ‘check engine’ light for conveyor systems. 

“In addition to monitoring cleaner performance, Elevate detects major vibrations and similar stressors in the conveyor system that can lead to failures,” he told Safe to Work.  

“We have had incidents where our customers have avoided 70m belt tears because Elevate was able to warn them early that something was wrong.” 

Elevate is a fully self-contained device that attaches to belt cleaners. In other words, power, sensor array, and communication capabilities are all contained within a single package. 

And over-the-air software updates make Elevate an investment that continually evolves. 

“We have machine-learning analytics on our models, so they can be tuned to the specifics of the conveyor and the specifics of the cleaner,” Vliem said.

“You’ll be transmitting data as soon as it’s installed.”

Conveyor performance data is transmitted in real-time to a dashboard that can be accessed on any mobile phone, computer or tablet, which means people can monitor the system from the comfort of an office. 

Elevate monitors the performance of the conveyor cleaner and acts as a belt-health-detection device. Image: Flexco

“Remote monitoring means that workers don’t have to walk the length of the conveyor on a hot day or open up a head chute when an inspection may not even be needed,” Vliem said. 

“Elevate allows them to save that trip and focus their efforts on places where there are known issues.”

Conveyor systems can be quite long, so sparing workers unnecessary inspections helps protect them from the effects of heat and fatigue, while also reducing the risks of trips, slips and falls. 

Optimising workers’ time in such a way in turn helps to minimise time spent around conveyor belts, which can be hazardous. 

“Elevate saves time, improves operational efficiency and minimises risk,” Vliem said. 

And by ensuring the conveyor cleaner is running effectively, Elevate is helping prevent the accumulation of harmful carryback material. 

“On the return side of the conveyor – whether that be the idlers, return rollers, or the structure itself – carryback accumulates like little ant hills,” Vliem said. “In a worst-case scenario, a worker is going to have to enter that confined space and shovel out the material.

“Mine sites know that if you can avoid having someone with a shovel in their hands slinging dirt, you should try do that no matter what.”

On top of its safety benefits, Elevate is also making maintenance more approachable than ever. 

“As conveyors become more advanced and sophisticated, the workforce is having to match that in stride,” Vliem said. “The older generations are the experts in conveyors, and as they move into retirement we’re finding that the new generations don’t quite have the same skillset. Elevate also allows for easier learning, as well as better monitoring for those who haven’t had as much exposure to conveyors.

“The data gives them that leg up, empowering them to make decisions.” 

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

Send this to a friend