Digital technologies help mining companies become competitive by providing tools and enabling processes that make operations safer, sustainable and smarter. These solutions can help eliminate fatalities and injuries by enabling remote monitoring, process and worker safety, and enabling autonomy by moving the worker away from hazardous locations, according to Honeywell.
In Honeywell’s report “The Future of Mining Is Safer, Smarter and Sustainable,” the company maintains that realising value from technology requires moving away from point solutions or proof-of-concepts. Many companies have started with proof-of-concepts in specific parts of the business to identify value that can be created in their business. Often, this is not scalable across the business and leads to expensive projects to enable adoption of these technologies.
Implementing digital technologies is often seen as an expensive and time-consuming process. When miners look for technology that can be implemented, the products are often not open and extensible. They also do not come with configurable pre-built knowledge that allows companies to eliminate the need for customisations for their own operations.
User adoption is also seen as a challenge and getting a miner’s workforce to realise value from these new technologies is difficult.
Additionally, from a technology viewpoint, there are three main problems standing in the way:
- Siloed operating systems must be integrated. Generally, mines have several industry-specific solutions at each site. This makes it difficult to achieve efficiencies through an integrated view across the mining company.
- Enterprise complexity must be overcome. Technology footprint at each mining company has evolved over time. Custom systems requiring constant upkeep to stay modern have been implemented. The need to continuously implement custom projects delays return on investment.
- Manual control must be replaced with higher autonomy. Human decision-making can’t keep up with the pace of business. Having manual processes and controls also results in lost opportunity to realise value.
Those mining companies that have gone digital are using the technologies to optimise their assets for enhancing operating efficiency, improving mining decisions to improve margins, and simulating scenarios to improve business performance. They are also reducing operational risk by moving people away from hazardous zones in mining facilities. Additionally, mining companies are revisiting their workforce and diversity strategies, seeking to engage with society, and finding ways to create value beyond compliance.
One of the keys to maximising returns from digital technologies lies in the ability of mining companies to quickly choose the right technologies that can scale across the enterprise and make the necessary changes in their operations.
With many choices available in market today, each mining company has its own set of unique requirements based on where they operate. Several technology providers offer industry-specific solutions while there are others bringing in data and analytics capabilities to deliver additional value to the mining industry. Some focus on a platform for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) services while others highlight added functionality like machine learning, advanced queries and bespoke visualisation.
Having rich domain expertise, superior software capabilities and the ability to quickly scale up across the enterprise while transforming each process will meet the challenges of executives in the industry who are seeking to achieve a fast return on their investment.