Mining Technology reached out to Xore’s CEO Mikael Normark again to discuss how to make the most of your analysis equipment. The topics are applicable to all types of equipment, not just onstream analysers.
What should a buyer look for in a product?
Everyone knows how to read the datasheet; you look for answers to the simple questions; “how many samples?” or “how many elements can it analyse in one measurement?” But just like when buying a car, you also know that finding out the horsepower or top speed does not really tell you how it drives on the road. You need to look a bit deeper than the technical specification – and you need to look at yourself. Is the thing you want the same thing as you need? They are not always the same thing.
Examples of things to find out are how the equipment works in a bit more detail. What critical parts are there? Will some common problems make the equipment stop completely or will it continue working but with limited capacity? How much time is the equipment actually working and how much dead time is there between the efforts? These things will have a big impact on the service life of the equipment, and if the question is not asked you might miss out on important improvements.
How long is the service life? And how much will it cost over the life cycle? I am actually surprised that these questions are not asked more often in requests for quotes. I think it comes down to assuming that products are largely the same in this respect, but that is not always the case.
Another thing that is rarely asked for is a reference client, not in the sense of who has bought the product before but literally asking for a person who can take 15-30 minutes to answer and email or take a phone call.
Are there any “hidden” factors to be aware of?
Some products have intricate mechanical solutions for fairly simple tasks. While this may feel like a necessary option to have, you should also ask why it is there. We often get asked why we do not have an automatic window changer, and why the window is not changed between measurements. The reason is that we have eliminated the root cause of the problem – contamination between samples – and with a well-designed product the window only needs to be changed once a week, or even longer. It does not make sense to design a mechanical solution when any staff on-site can be trained to do the task, and it only takes three minutes to do it, once a week. Economically speaking fewer consumables used saves on lifetime cost and a less complicated product is better value for your money when you are buying. And there is one less thing that has the potential to stop the product from doing its job.
Some products are wasting time, it can be the time it takes to switch samples, or the time needed to calculate results. Say that a piece of equipment takes 20 seconds to collect the raw data, and then it takes 30 seconds to switch to the next sample. This means that the product is only doing its “real job” less than half the time! Usually, those products do not come at half the price though. This is why we have the Boxray 24 analyser, with only 2-3 seconds to switch between samples it has the highest availability of all onstream analysers on the market.
How do you make sure the equipment performs consistently over time?
Maintenance is, of course, a key factor; we are now back to identifying the critical points in a product and checking them regularly. Have a qualified technician come and check the equipment and ask that your staff receive a bit of training at the same time.
Training is good from many perspectives, naturally finding problems and fixing them will go a lot quicker with staff that are updated on the equipment. But also, being comfortable around the equipment often leads to a stronger sense of responsibility and in the end that problems are identified while they are still small and fixed before they become big. I would say that this is perhaps the most important thing, and it is true for all types of equipment no matter how complicated or simple they are.
Some products require calibration and grabbing calibration samples regularly is a big help. It does not necessarily need to be often but do this consistently and you will over time gather a good database to use. If there are some specific operating conditions that are tricky, grab an extra calibration sample then.
When should a buyer upgrade or buy new?
Boxray analysers are very upgradable, the oldest one we replaced was 29 years old – still in operation. Of course, a lot was changed between 1986 to 2015, but it is proof that upgrading can be a good option. A product that is easy to swap parts on means that you probably will be able to use it for a long time – if there are parts available.
If you look inside the product, is it made from proprietary circuit boards or components from well-known brands? Proprietary hardware can only be sourced from the manufacturer, and it may be discontinued for reasons that have little to do with the product itself.
In the Boxray analysers, you will find many standardized parts from brands available globally, we can upgrade them as better versions become available and the client will find it easy to source spare parts wherever they are. We work based on the idea that no one should be left behind even if we continuously improve the product.
Eventually, things will get worn out. In our type of products, it is often due to mechanical factors like abrasion and corrosion, but it typically takes 20 years or more to reach that point. Because of our more evolutionary approach to product development, an old analyser can be replaced by a new one and the user will not be overwhelmed by it. All functions are in the same places and under the hood are newer but still familiar components. This makes for an easy transition with a very short starting stretch.
Go to Xore’s company page to download a checklist on how to keep your equipment performing consistently over time.