In late October 2014, a coal mine accident in Turkey caused the death of several mine workers. Each time I come across such an incident in the news, I wonder if better technology, especially full-fledged adoption of mobility, could have helped avert it. To be fair, of late, I find many mining companies embracing the concept of mobility. Better safety is just one of the advantages, but I’ll come back to that a little later. Overall, I believe mobility in mining has far-reaching benefits ranging from better integration of enterprise functions to creating a more responsive organization.
I have identified five drivers for mobile adoption in the mining industry. The first is improved work-life balance. I believe that the mining industry should embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept as other industries have. This can surely help employees who work in stressful, high pressure environments and hardly have time for themselves. With BYOD, employees can access enterprise data outside the confines of their workplace helping them to balance their personal and professional lives.
The second driver is anytime anywhere access to information. I find diversification across geographies more a norm rather than an exception. In a situation where a single company operates in different pockets of the globe, real-time sharing of data and reporting becomes difficult, hampering decision-making. Mobile technology is the solution. I know of quite a few mining companies with mobile dashboards that serve as ideal platforms for communication, collaboration and operation tracking.
Demand for instant collaboration is another driver. Say there is an unexpected disruption in a mine’s production activity. They will need an expert team to get there pronto to address the problem. They will also need to get across to logistics to alert them about changes in the ore transportation schedule. All this could take a long time resulting in huge costs and losses to the company. Thanks to mobile technology, these issues can be resolved through remote chats, audio and video conferences and sharing of documents, images and data over mobile devices. I recall times in the not-so-distant past when an approval for a decision would take ages due to the absence of the approving authority. Now, due to mobile technology, approvals and permissions can be granted real-time remotely, even without the physical presence of the authorized team member.
Now let me come back to the safety factor mentioned earlier. With increasing regulatory focus on health, safety and Environment (HSE), technology companies are coming out with new generation mobile solutions. Many of the clients I interact with already provide RFID-based wristbands packed with employee data needed in case of a medical emergency. I am of the opinion that we’ll have fewer accidents if more miners introduce GIS fencing of blast zones and other unsafe areas with mobile alert systems.
Finally, I think mobile technology can enhance overall productivity and bring about improvement in business processes. I find that many miners have minimized ore theft and loss by integrating weighbridge with backend systems and adoption of RFID, GPS and GPRS technologies. As far as leveraging mobile technology to manage assets and stockpiles and track production goes however, I believe there is scope for improvement.
Can you think of other advantages from application of mobility in mining? Are there any other mobile-related technologies that could improve productivity and enhance safety?
Please share your thoughts in the section below.