Train Loading Stations are often considered a bottleneck, as these facilities are typically operated manually, resulting in variable performance, wagon over/under loading and poor reliability.
Companies are often faced with heavy fines and in some cases, substantial costs to obtain additional trains to meet required throughputs. However, with minimal investment, MRA’s TLO automation solution is providing clients with a state of the art and unrivalled return on investment.
MRA draws on its vast experience with TLO control systems to assist its clients with their automation requirements. With more than 15 years of specialist industry experience and working closely with clients to meet their needs, MRA has broken ground in the following key areas:
- TLO PLC control systems and electrical design.
- Inception of TLO Train Speed Indication (TSI) methods using Photo Electric (PE) cell technology
- More recently employed advanced TLO control methods using laser scanner based techniques
MRA recognises that interest in TLO automation primarily stems from concerns over poor reliability and efficiency. Typically, wagons are loaded at TLOs with the following objectives in mind:
- Ensure wagon loading profiles are uniform and symmetric to meet bogie loading requirements
- Reduce weight variations in order to optimise the amount of coal loaded per train
- Limit the amount of operator intervention required during train loading
- Maintain a safe work environment by reducing risk to operators
Without TLO automation, operators are only able to load wagons based on the available tools at their disposal. Under more ideal conditions, batched systems and track weigh bridges can aid operators in their loading procedures but ultimately, loading still comes down to the individual’s discretion.
Factoring in fatigue, time of day and environmental conditions, accurate loading presents difficulties - even under the best conditions.
In response to these issues, MRA’s solution addresses key concerns and a range of additional features including:
- Predictive modelling and advanced filtering methods to compensate for aberrations in raw data.
- Use of multi-echo laser measurements which enables increased accuracy and detection, as opposed to conventional dual-echo laser technology.
- Feed-back control.
- Environmental compensation through scanning methods and adaptive software, particularly for rain, fog, dusty conditions and low-visibility environments.
- Synchronisation of laser units for an enhanced effect.
- Real-time output of data using an Ethernet (TCP/IP) interface.
- Smart technology with self-diagnostics and alarming.
- Minor installation, calibration and ongoing maintenance requirements.
- Ability to integrate with choke fed or clam shell systems.
MRA’s solution delivers an intelligent and intuitive system that removes the guesswork for operators. The concept of running the system is familiar and seamless, not unlike using the cruise control on a motor vehicle. The operator simply initialises the system before commencing train loading and switching the system into automatic mode. At this point, the operator performs a supervisory role (whether from the TLO or a central control room) during loading to monitor the system.
Case Study Results
German Creek has recorded real time results which indicate a return on investment of less than four (4) months for TLO automation after the MRA automation solution was enabled. The following details highlight the system’s performance:
- Prior to the upgrade, the subjected TLO was consistently achieving average payloads in the order of 9100 to 9300t per train.
- Post upgrade, the subjected TLO is now averaging close to 10,000t per train with March 2014 results to date as follows:
- 30 trains loaded;
- 14 above 10,000t; and
- Average payload – 9,972t.
- Average increase of ~700t per train (monthly average) – based on 40 trains per month – equates to an approximate efficiency gain of $49,000.00 per month.