A northern Ontario mining company needed to update its unreliable communications network. Impact Technical Products arranged for a needs analysis, network redesign, solution, and implementation plan using mission-critical RUGGEDCOM products designed for harsh environments. The process included building and configuring a custom solution, testing it in RUGGEDCOM’s labs, and training the mining company’s staff in its operation.
The communications network of a northern Ontario mining company had become unwieldy over several years with the addition of various products meant to provide quick fixes. Over time, those fixes created problems, including unreliability.
In search of a solution, the client bought two RUGGEDCOM boxes from Impact, and tested them for six months. While they liked the RUGGEDCOM product, the client realized that they had simply introduced another quick fix without analyzing the root causes of their problems. They returned to Impact with a request for assistance to deploy a mission-critical communications network for the harsh mining environment.
The Impact team started the process of solution-building by introducing the company to professional engineering consultants who provided analysis and recommendations on how to move forward. “At the end of a week, the client had a network redesign and a list of issues that needed to be addressed in the short- and long-term,” says Impact president and CEO, Dino Mannarino. “They also came up with a list of materials needed to upgrade the network in phases.” Impact took the product order to RUGGEDCOM to build, configure, test and install. Senior mining staff came to the factory to review the network in the lab and train on it. The product was then packed up, labelled and shipped to the mine, where engineers completed the initial installation and integration onsite.
For the client—the mining company—the solution has brought many improvements and efficiencies. These include:
For the manufacturer (RUGGEDCOM):
Impact continues to provide ongoing support and assistance to the mining company.
Mission Critical Network
Along with Siemens RuggedCom, an Ontario based company, Impact Technical Products helped re-build a mission critical, harsh environment industrial network for an Ontario based gold mine.
While the Impact team was working a mining trade show in Northern Ontario they were approached by the new IT manager of a gold mine.
He had been working at the mine just long enough to understand that they were:
The IT manager asked “How tough are your Siemens RuggedCom network switches and routers anyway? We have been using a variety of brands and frankly, they don’t survive our environment.”
We talked about the Siemens RuggedCom harsh rating which includes a temperature rating of -40 to +85 degree temperature rating and we explained how that is most reliable because the temperature is not reliant on cooling fans that eventually not only stop working, but also attract dirt and contaminants.
We discussed that the Siemens RuggedCom product is shielded by a heavy metal construction that protects from HMI/RFI disturbances, thus allowing the product to be used where required in the plant.
As well, we highlighted the Class 1 Div 2 rating that makes the product resistant to environmental contaminates.
What about vibration? the IT manager asked. The Siemens RuggedCom product is tested in H.A.L.T. test chamber on a vibration bed that induces forces from 6 axis, while the temperature is fluctuated 80 degrees per minute.
THE STARTING POINT
The IT Manager agreed to try a couple of switches and place them in the most challenging areas of their plant to evaluate for themselves, in their own harsh environment.
After six months of evaluation, the IT Manager invited us along with our Field Application Engineer to visit the plant. “well…your product is still working out there and we’ve seen no problems…we’d like to get your assistance to help stabilize our current network and also allow us a plan for our future needs.”
We toured the facility and did an audit of their network and came away with a plan to redesign their current network. Our engineer created a design and logically created a topology that provided reliability and redundancy. If they were going to load mission critical or human safety functions to their network, data had to flow consistently with zero packet loss.
A few weeks later the design was completed and a bill of materials was suggested. The IT Manager worried about how to best cut-over from their existing network to the new Siemens RuggedCom network. We suggested that the switches and routers could be built and the network could be set-up at the factory in Vaughan, Ontario prior to delivery to the site. The product was built and devices configured the network were connected together according to the engineer’s design. The IT Manager and his key team member came and did a factory acceptance review of the network. When satisfied they approved it and the network was disconnected boxed and tagged. The product was shipped to the mine and during a scheduled plant shut-down the factory engineers arrived to complete the integration and set-up on site.
That done, we enrolled the IT team for full switch and router training courses at the plant. We pointed out the devices come with a full 5-year warranty that includes over the telephone support and free firmware upgrades. However, the IT Manager felt they needed a priority service to work with a factory engineer remotely, as required. He reasoned that since they are a 24/7 operation 8 hours away from Toronto, they needed a higher level of support.
That initial part of the network has been running for over 4 years. Since then, much has changed and much has been added. Along the way, our engineers have travelled up to the site several times to ensure the network stayed true to the design and any additions would retain the goal of reliability and redundancy. Since then, the network has grown to over 250 nodes on the surface but also to every level underground to a depth of 5700 ft.
The network monitors and controls many critical functions, a few of which include:
…and the network continues to grow. The latest challenge is to remotely manage automated guided vehicles (AGV) underground. Since the beginning we have supplied and added a variety of products to this network:
With so many Siemens RuggedCom devices in the network it became necessary to add network management software. We provided the RNMS software which, when installed, auto-populates the network devices and draws connections. The software permits the IT Manager a very granular view of each SNMP device, a look at the health of each device, gauge network traffic flow, and up-lift firmware upgrades all from his office on a single pane of glass on his computer.
The solution we provided was planned and designed properly to remove the intermittent issues and add redundancy. The proper product was specified to meet the challenges of the harsh environment. The initial installation was factory tested and fully integrated to achieve a crisp cut-over. As adds and changes were made, we continuously reviewed the design to ensure the guiding principles were observed. The solution was scalable to meet present day and future needs. Smart people were dispatched along the way to help integrate the smart products. Training provided the customer self-sufficiency, very important considering their remote location. Management software was installed to provide real-time visibility remotely without having to take a 4-hour round trip underground….and so it continues. As the network grows and changes, we’ll be there every step of the way.