Rio Tinto iron ore train in the Pilbara, WA: Photo courtesy Rio Tinto
Optimising medium-term planning for Rio Tinto
CSIRO is working with Rio Tinto in Western Australia’s Pilbara region to maximise throughput of their rail system by using simulations to help balance train scheduling with maintenance and other system constraints.
26 April 2012 | Updated 2 November 2012
Rio Tinto manages over 1400 kms of rail lines in the Pilbara region in Western Australia, exporting over 225 million tonnes of iron ore every year from this region alone - worth billions of dollars to the Australian economy.
In order to keep up with demand for their minerals, companies like Rio Tinto need to ensure their supply chain runs at maximum efficiency.
To do this they use medium term plans (from two weeks to two years) to maximise throughput and identify bottlenecks in their supply chain, but also for scheduling crews, production and maintenance of their track and trains.
Medium term plans need to take into account various factors which can affect the minerals supply chain. These are called 'system constraints' and can include:
- maintenance schedules and production requirements
- capacity of the rail fleet and dumping
- management of the iron ore stockpiles at every site.
Iron ore supply chains also need to deal with grade quality of the ore they are exporting.
This introduces extra complexities for optimisation modelling as the quality of ore depends on the blending ratio from different sources.
What CSIRO did
CSIRO’s team has developed an optimisation tool in collaboration with Rio Tinto for medium term planning.
The tool has helped simplify and reduce the time and effort required for planning by giving them the capability to easily simulate different scenarios.
CSIRO has created state-of-the-art models and algorithms which are assisting Rio Tinto in finding the optimal number of trains services needed to maximise throughput while observing system constraints such as:
- port and rail maintenance requirements
- production plans at multiple mines
- fleet capacities
- ore grade and type at ports and mines
- shipping capacities at the ports.
CSIRO’s modelling and simulation tools have already greatly reduced the planning times for Rio Tinto from 5-6 hours down to 1 hour.
The company is now able to generate simulation models to enable scenario planning to better consider maintenance requirements.
CSIRO’s work has also formed the base model for the company’s short to medium term maintenance planning and has the potential to significantly improve throughput of the Pilbara supply chain.
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