Standardised mining process control system minimises risk

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Standardised mining process control system minimises riskRockwell Automation is helping mining companies to lower risks associated with process automation software with its highly standardised and lifecycle-managed PlantPAx Mining Solution.

Rockwell’s PlantPAx Mining Solution is a complete process control system developed by the Global Solutions division of Rockwell Automation to provide fully OEM-managed software for mining industry processing plants, shafts, smelters and other systems with multiple interfacing automation technologies.

The system is applicable across an entire mining plant, and is based on predefined standards leveraging PlantPAx process control solutions. Hein Hiestermann, Business Manager, Global Solutions South Africa says: “Our pre-defined standards, or banks of highly modularised component controls, are feature rich with over 20 years of development, and are based on engagement with the global mining industry. This allows us to offer a comprehensive software solution with backward compatibility and excellent reliability,”

Along with an increased delivery capability from Rockwell Automation, the key benefit to mines using a standardised system is risk mitigation. First, if each new system has to be “programmed from scratch”, it limits the amount of engineering time available to confirm the client receives a feature-rich system with excellent reliability. By installing a pre-defined system, less time is spent on programming, and more time on understanding the actual application.

Standardisation, secondly, allows Rockwell Automation to assist with the outcome of the system by implementing a well-documented, tried and tested application.

When implementing the system, engineers simply select which control modules to incorporate. From here, advanced simulation allows for comprehensive testing, scenario sketching, and even for live operator training. Rockwell Automation then creates a documentation set that includes commissioning sheets that are ready for the final commissioning of the installation.

Hiestermann says: “We are able to inform our clients upfront of what they will achieve with the solution, and they can measure performance against initial requirements. It allows auditing of all software, which helps improve change management as plant managers can easily verify what changes have been made, and whether they agree with those changes. It also allows context-rich reporting on the process.”

Backward-compatible software upgrades

The PlantPax Mining Solution addresses another risk: obsolescence. Since Rockwell Automation lifecycle manages each standard module, all changes and improvements are thoroughly tested before being incorporated into the software standards library, thereby confirming that upgrades to operating systems, ControlLogix hardware or SCADA systems are fully compatible with existing systems. Hiestermann says: “This allows us to thoroughly test and provide optimal compatibility of software upgrades and reconfigurations in the future.”

The commonality of the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture Logix System on which the system is built further allows for backward compatibility and easier software migration in a plant’s future. Hiestermann claims: “Rockwell Automation’s platform offers the best backward compatibility in the industry.”

Mining companies used to be more focused on best-of-breed installations, which often resulted in a lack of integration throughout the plant which, in turn, affected overall performance. The PlantPAx Mining Solution helps improve plant reliability by removing the need for third-party software integration. Hiestermann notes: “Rigid software standardisation means that Rockwell Automation control modules are, by nature, integrated with each other – so our engineers require significantly less time and resources having to write integration tags, which often result in misaligned operating processes and create unnecessary downtime or maintenance.”

Reducing maintenance requirements addresses the growing industry concern of skills shortages, but Rockwell Automation’s level of standardisation means that software engineers are able to apply their skills across the entire process landscape.

Hiestermann says: “Standardisation means that we can multitask engineers and increase their delivery capability, while reducing the total number of experts required for efficient and effective maintenance.” This could contribute to drastically lowering the total cost of ownership of the PlantPAx Mining Solution.

He adds: “We continue to expand the mining solution’s capabilities with on-going development. If a unique mine process application requires us to develop a new or even slightly customised control standard, we will add it to our library as a new standard, which is then also lifecycle managed. If need be, this standard will be encrypted in order to remain the intellectual property of the client, and will not be applied in other installations.”

The PlantPAx Mining Solution can be further supported by Rockwell Automation’s global Customer Service and Maintenance (CSM) organisation for comprehensive call-centre diagnostics and support. The system’s high degree of standardisation helps consultants to quickly identify the software application and provide immediate and accurate advice.

Hiestermann concludes: “PlantPAx Mining Solution users experience Rockwell Automation and Global Solutions to be incredibly involved with their business, as we have garnered extensive domain experience over many years’ involvement with mining processes. This way, we are able to maximise delivery capability by building relationships with our clients.”

For more information about the PlantPAx Mining Solution process control system from Rockwell, go to the website at

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