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The mining industry is a dynamic, exciting and an amazingly diverse sector with more than 120 occupations ranging from skilled trades to high tech professionals.

Mechanical Engineer

Million Nkwanyane a Mechanical Engineer in South Africa tells us all about his job.

By : Millioin Nkwanyane

“It is 05:00 and the alarm clock rings. I wake up, take a shower and brew coffee. By 05:45 I am on the way to work. Being close to work I will arrive just after six, first stop is Shift Boss Office, to get feedback on night’s performance and challenges, there after reading the Legal Log Book to ascertain if there are items that require my attention. This is a gem mine and trackless with a plant capable to treat 2000 tons of ore per day. 

The Shift Boss is happy with equipment performance for the night. His concern is water at the sump, which seems to not  be reducing. The Legal Log Book entries are the normal mining issues, but what catches the eye is the poor legible safety signs at the Electrical Substation in Level 2 cross cut.

All that noted I proceed to my office and plan activities for the day. Today I have a Plant walk around in preparation for next week’s shutdown maintenance, meet with Human Resources Officer to finalize Fitters and Electrician Apprentice intake for next year, and the usual weekly costs update meeting at Finance Department. With that in mind I step out of the offices to do my normal morning walk about.

I walk around the Mobile Equipment Workshop and pass through the Electrical Workshop to ascertain if all is well and greet the early crew members who would be doing housekeeping or chatting amongst themselves. Toolbox Talks will start at 06:30 amongst the various groups; Mechanical fitters, Electrical Fitters, Trackless Artisans and Light Vehicle Artisans. Typically, I will attend one of these per week per section to appraise myself on the safety concerns and solutions being discussed. I will provide guidance as required. Today I am with the Trackless Group and the focus is on ensuring that Equipment Safety Features are checked during daily inspections and Lockout during repairs or maintenance.

At 08:00, the daily planning meeting starts, with the Foreman of the sections as above. Firstly, I review the statistics on Safety performance for each area, the key areas of focus being near misses, planned task observations and review of high risk jobs. There is still a major concern on the low number of near misses, I will request a “refresher briefing’ for the team from Safety Department. I task the Electrical Foreman to inspect and correct the signage issues as indicated on the Mining Legal Log Book. The Maintenance Planner then leads the rest of the sessions, getting updates from the incumbents on activities completed for the past days’ plan, deviations and reasons there offs. The focus for the day being the Long Hole Rig 500 Hrs (power pack) Service and Articulated Dump Truck 2000hr Service. The Plant walk about is scheduled for 14:00 and will be led by the Planner. I request that the list of all PMs scheduled and Back Log be printed so that its reviewed during the walk about. No Abnormal Equipment behavior was noticed in the past 24 hours, the only breakdown was a burst hose from a Face Rig, caused by rubbing. It was fixed on time. All good in that front and our focus for the day will be given to equipment on Preventative maintenance, particularly today is the Long Hole Rig and a 40 ton Articulated Dump Truck. I also request the Mechanical Foreman to investigate the pumping issues at the sump. This meeting lasts slightly more than an hour, but time spent in planning and discussing issues proves valuable in safe and successful execution of tasks, within time.

At 10:00 I send out an email update of maintenance activities to the relevant stakeholders and attend the production meeting update that lasts half an hour. I also review the final production report for the day looking at the KPIs’ relating to equipment in particular. I take a note that the reliability of the Face Rigs is staring to have a negative impact on the Development meters. I note that for Discussion and action plan with the Trackless Foreman and Maintenance Planner.

I meet with the Trackless Foreman to review the maintenance on the two equipment, focusing on oil sample reports, Back Logpast breakdowns and operator comments. Once satisfied that all the anomalies will be taken care of during the PM Service, I advise him that the reliability of Face Rigs is having a detrimental effect on the development meters. We need a firm discussion tomorrow on this issue. I am off to the next task.

I am in the office now, approving documents relating to quotes, payment for work done and review of procedures. I call for the Maintenance Planner and we review information on returned job cards, backlogs and ensure that the CMMS is up to date with all required data. The CMMS update, I have learnt to do daily as it is our tool to make the correct maintenance and cost decisions. Furthermore, I request him to provide failure statistics on the Face Rigs so that we can discuss tomorrow the action plan on the reliability issues. We take lunch at the canteen, just chat about all life issues, it’s a short break from the grind.

As work resumes, I meet with the HR officer and review the shortlist of candidates. We finally agree on 4 mechanical and 6 electrical fitters as per budget and Departmental needs. The incumbents will start beginning of the following month.

I, Mechanical, Maintenance Planner and Electrical Foreman proceed to the plant to review tasks for the next shutdown and allocate criticality and resources. This is the interesting part of the day, walk around hear running equipment, chat with the Operators and review SCADA information. As all the discussions are ongoing the Maintenance Planner is taking note of the discussions and will prepare a summary for discussion the next day.

I attend the cost review meeting, which starts at 15:30 usual high cost items for the month is tires and component costs. I offer the explanations, tires, two new sets were fitted on the ADts and we had an Engine change on a loader, it had covered its life and the blow by was high. Moreover, the oil samples had indicated high iron. As usual there are request of looking for more and better options to manage these costs. Because its mid-month the session is short, lasts about 30 minutes.

After the Costing Session, I head back to the office and request a briefing on the progress on maintenance on the two Machines, from the Trackless Foreman. Most of the work has been done however the Long Hole Rig will take an additional hour as the hoses are being spiral bound. Brake measurements on the truck is within range but we need to consider a brake change for the near future. The Mechanical Foreman brings back the flow rates for the pumps at the sump, comparing with the Performance Curves, they are within 80%, however they did not take current readings, that’s bad. I emphasize again the importance of doing a thorough investigations. These readings are a must and need to be available tomorrow morning. He explains that the culprit was found to be a faulty float switch and was replaced. The Signs at the Substation were cleaned and lightning improved.

The day ends at 16:30 and I head home. The Daughter is at home already and doing homework. I assist with the Mathematics and Science. My wife is back from work and busy on the computer responding to her Sisters’ email. The Son is delayed, has Cricket practise today, arrives at 16:30 whinging about the teacher pushing them hard, I offer comfort and insist that after rest, he must read Life Orientation.” 

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