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DecisionTools Safeguards Precious Metal Refiner

The metallurgical giant Met-Mex Peñoles, the world's largest refiner of silver and Mexico's largest refiner of gold, operates with an acute awareness of the cost of its precious raw materials. The DecisionTools Suite has helped the company conserve materials and reduce processing errors by simulating the most precise manufacturing processes for added value products.

According to Ignacio Quijas, technology manager for Peñoles, “When you are working with silver and gold, pilot projects to test innovations in the manufacturing process are very costly—and risky. Using @RISK to simulate changes in process design allows us to answer some difficult questions without actually running trials of the process.”

To offer some perspective on the exacting standards Peñoles must meet, Ignacio points out that, for instance, a 100-ounce silver bar must weigh at least 100 ounces—however, the price of the bar does not increase if the bar weighs slightly more than the specification. The additional silver is simply passed along free to the customer and is a production cost.

Each step in the manufacturing processes for gold and silver value added products creates room for additional error, and the way Peñoles controls the magnitude of each error is to take physical measurements and to determine the variability in these errors. Ignacio’s models must account for the specifications, tolerances in the manufacturing equipment, different physical operations, random processing errors, and cost analyses that are pinpoint precise. “We are measuring the amount of gold and silver that turns up when we do every operation and can result in loses, ” Ignacio reports.

His primary simulation tool is @RISK, of course, and he is enthusiastic about the new 4.5 version. “The improved functionality gives you so much more vision.” But because of the need for precision in his simulation, Ignacio has also made extensive use of BestFit and TopRank. He likes their capacities for graphic demonstration, which he uses to explain the intricacies of his simulations to colleagues .

“This ability to communicate aspects of the simulation is important,” he says, “because these very detailed models serve the same function as early trial runs.”

Yes, he says, Peñoles does still rely on pilot projects but only after DecisionTools has accounted for every speck of silver and gold that might result in production loses or recycled materials that increases costs.

Go to the Met-Mex Peñoles website.
Download a trial version of @RISK.
More information about @RISK.