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SOFTWARE management was becoming an issue at BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s Saraji opencut coking coal mine in Queensland.
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BMA's Saraji open cut mine in Queensland.

Staff Reporter

Traditionally the mine had carried out all programmable logic controller and supervisory control and data acquisition project maintenance manually.

This meant that after a new change had been made and downloaded to the equipment somebody, hopefully, would also save the new copy in the right place.

Alas, this did not always happen making it difficult to track changes and to keep correct copies of these projects.

The challenge was to give Saraji an automated system that:

  • Increased plant uptime;
  • Improved engineering processes;
  • Reduced engineering and maintenance costs;
  • Improved safety, security and regulatory compliance;
  • Protected key information assets;
  • Increased flexibility;
  • Centralised storage of PLC and SCADA projects; and
  • Provided PLC and SCADA project version control.

Enter Automation IT, which worked alongside Saraji site engineers to design, install and commission GE Fanuc Proficy Change Management software – along with an AIT custom front end – at the mine.

AIT, based in Springwood about 12km south of Brisbane, designed a system to solve Saraji’s maintenance and engineering software management issue, including the integration of several custom additions to the mine’s change management system, such as a custom report tool and specific site navigation between PLC and SCADA projects.

Saraji has put its CM server in a central office to give users the ability to work on projects on the server directly or from the draglines. This layout also gives users the ability to diagnose problems from the server without having to take long drives out to the draglines.

Version control ensures that only one person at a time can make changes to the system. It also archives the versions when changes are made. It is possible to revert to previous versions or set an earlier version as the “master”. If unauthorised changes are made directly to a PLC it is easy to restore a previous version.

Access control is used to set privilege levels applicable to users for all server settings, PLC and SCADA projects and files.

At Saraji users were separated into groups to define which runtime operations can be performed on each type of PLC and problems such as downloading an incorrect program to the PLC were eliminated.

Repetitive tasks associated with maintaining industrial projects were automated with a tool called the scheduler. At Saraji scheduled tasks included monthly backups of all PLC and SCADA projects and PLC compares, where a comparison report between the latest version of a dragline project and the logic actually in the dragline PLC is compiled in a graphical format. Differences are automatically emailed to the system administrator as well as a log file describing any problems with scheduled tasks.

The system also boasts an audit trail tool that helps track actions performed within the automation and control system. Reports used at Saraji are: CM server log in/log out; projects managed by Proficy Change Management; and server status and scheduler additions.

AIT’s custom report tool provides access to records stored in the database. Other features include past search results, obtain copies of backed up projects, clear/backup audit trail databases and access to scheduled compare results. The AIT report tool is available inside the CM environment but can also be run independently of it.

AIT also made the CM system easy to use for site electricians working on PLC and SCADA systems. Essentially, anyone who can surf the web has the skills to use the system.

Besides its work with BMA, AIT performs all facets of control system design and engineering for the mining industry and several others. It has a proven track record with PLC and SCADA projects and is currently focused on the implementation of MES systems to improve plant efficiencies.

AIT holds current system integration agreements with Allen Bradley (Rockwell), Citect (Gold CIP), GE Fanuc and Schneider Electric (Modicon). The company also employs Hirschmann certified engineers.

Published in the May 2007 Australia’s Mining Monthly