By Jamie Vokes
PIRTEK USA Training Manager
The use of hydraulics in mining goes back a long way. The Romans employed an early form of hydraulics during the days of the Empire. Much later, hoses moving high-pressured water were an important technology of the 1800s Gold Rush.
Today, jets drawn from underground water sources help coal miners with excavation. Hydraulics are involved in lifting and transporting the product, providing the force behind mechanical shovels, front-end loaders, crushers, and other mining machines.
That being the case, a ruptured hydraulic hose can bring mining operations to a standstill in minutes.
Thankfully, mining companies are not necessarily at the mercy of time and chance here. A little preventative maintenance can pay dividends in many cases. A modest investment of time beforehand can stave off a costly interruption of work later.
Inspections are critical
The starting point of preventative maintenance is a thorough inspection. That means creating a checklist and scheduling the inspection as a periodic activity. It helps to use hose vendors who leave tags on the hose assemblies identifying the vendor, the components used and the date of assembly. An inspector should look carefully for any small cuts to the hoses’ outside covers. Telltale signs of wear also include any reinforcement wire that shows through. It’s also important to look for kinks in the hoses that could spell trouble down the road. The length of hose isn’t the only item to examine here: The inspector should check the fittings for any oxidation or rust. All joints should be free of moisture, and someone should verify that the clamps haven’t caused any damage to the hose.
Replacement of worn hoses
If any wear is visible on the hoses, there are two options: either wait until a hose fails during the rigors of production – idling the crew and costing the company money – or replace it during downtime and save.
Incidentally, it pays to give hoses some extra protection by covering them with the textile, metal or plastic sleeves designed to extend their lives. Hydraulic equipment is hard-working machinery. Any edge the hose gets can be helpful.
In certain applications, equipment working in and around mining environments may require hydraulic hoses with MSHA certification and approval. The vendor can verify if the hydraulic hose has the required certifications and approvals. In addition, if the hydraulic hose itself is approved, then the MSHA acceptance number is usually clearly marked on the lay line of the hose.
Inspections should include checking to ensure that the fittings are perfectly compatible with the hoses. That doesn’t necessarily mean the fittings and hoses must all be from the same manufacturer, although this is a best practice. When fittings and hoses are of a different make, it helps to check with the manufacturers to determine whether the components have been tested to work together. Manufacturers should have that information available.
Keeping the oil clean
Dirty oil and filters can ruin hoses from the inside out. Pumps and valves undergo colossal forces of erosion while operating in the mining industry, leaving a “sandstorm” of microscopic particles coursing through the fluid. These tiny flakes abrade and compromise a hose, even if it looks fine on the outside. It’s imperative, therefore, to change the oil regularly, along with the filters. This saves time, money and many headaches in the long run.
Preventative maintenance matters
There’s always a temptation to put this off. Preventative maintenance may not seem like an urgent activity. But it can lead to smoother operations and less downtime.
The inspector should examine the hoses and fittings regularly, replace worn hoses, check for incompatibility issues, and keep both the oil and filters clean. This is a sound practice that can make a major difference in operations.
Jamie Vokes has been the franchise training and support manager for PIRTEK USA since January 2003. Before joining PIRTEK USA, Vokes acquired more than 22 years’ experience in the PIRTEK system through his position as European sales manager for PIRTEK Europe. Vokes also holds and maintains his Connector and Conductor Certification with the International Fluid Power Society.
About PIRTEK USA PIRTEK USA provides the fastest hydraulic hose replacement and industrial hose repair service with onsite mobile and service centers throughout the United States. Our ETA 1 hour on-site hose service, available 24/7, is a simple solution that minimizes equipment downtime and eliminates the need for our customers to leave their job site or facility to locate new hydraulic hoses and hydraulic fittings. Call PIRTEK – We’ll Keep You Operating! www.pirtekusa.com