DESPITE all the technology available in the mining sector, the industry still operates in many ways the same way it did 10 years ago, particularly in Australia. In order to overcome the current downturn and grow into the future mining needs to be more innovation hungry and forward thinking, according to Schneider Electric director Pacific - Software, James Balzary.
In an interview with The ASIA Miner during the Austmine 2015 conference in Brisbane, he said, “Often Australian mining equipment, technology and services (METS) enterprises do push the boundaries with innovation but most followers are offshore, not in Australia. A lot of the major mining enterprises offshore, even state-owned companies, are more forward thinking and hungry for innovation than Australian miners.
“Many Australian-based entities operating in South East Asia are actually spending on efficiency drives and productivity measures. Indonesia is looking to increase value adding of the raw materials through processing and smelting, and Australian METS companies have a role to play in this process.
“Australia needs to do a better job of socializing what we are doing in isolated pockets here, such as in the Pilbara. I’m passionate about exporting that innovation and fostering Australian mining technology but sometimes markets like Indonesia are not looked at with enough appetite by Australian companies.”
During an address at the conference he stated: “We view Australian miners and METS as batting above the average in terms of innovation, but according to a Boston Consulting global index that takes into account all industries, Australia rates 14th in innovation, suggesting we need to look at how we’re innovating to really deliver improvement.”
He spoke about production challenges the mining industry encounters, particularly the silos entrenched in most production environments. “A large part of this is the cultural mindset: Ask a general manager to take a hit on their KPI for the good of the overall business value chain and they will say no! You need aligned KPIs across the entire value chain to deliver these needed improvements.”
He told The ASIA Miner, “The industry is moving towards an integrated solutions focus and niche players will always proliferate and add enormous value. At the bigger end of town companies are prepared to compromise on innovation because they don’t want to be bleeding. They leverage the benefits of a more standard approach rather than pushing the boundaries of innovation.
“Schneider works with organizations who also innovate. At the bigger end of town this is predominantly in terms of bigger themes - consistent platforms, standardization of disparate operations across multiple sites, and drawing efficiencies and consistencies across sites. We deploy the same types of concepts into smaller operations where the cost of entry and barriers are often lower in terms of innovation. With our scale we can rev the engine up quickly and disperse capabilities faster and more efficiently.”