So, a carefully thought-out strategy with prioritization needs to be arrived at before embarking on a digital mission to transform the site operation.
Applying a digital mining framework to a mining site
Once the broad digital strategies are arrived at and understood, the next step is to undertake an assessment and review of the processes and applications that are currently being used for each mining function in the scope of the digital strategy. This is important to understand the investment that has already been made and if all areas are in focus. Identify how close the current applications and landscape fit with industry best practices for operational functions. This will review the key operational technologies at the mine to determine their existing use, their existing configurations and determine improvement projects and the technology roadmap they need to improve their operations and identify opportunities for cost reduction and increased productivity and safety.
Once this review is done, each digital strategy can be broken down into multiple use cases, with each having a journey of its own (often spanning multiple years) which can be programmed into a roadmap of digital projects to be delivered in an agile manner using a set of integrated platforms. It is likely that a combination of leveraging existing technology investments (enablers for digital) and modern digital technologies would be used with intermediate transitional approaches to usage of full blown integrated digital platforms
Few key considerations:
These are important guidelines to keep in mind while adopting a framework to a site operation:
- Identify operations management site champions for each strategy, not just IT alone. A top-down approach is important to harvest business value. Mining GMs to the COO must own such a program to a great degree.
- Identify quick wins for buy-in from the business and operations to sustain business sponsorship of the program, especially in the first 12 months of the program
- Adopt agile approaches to build block by block rather than prolonged backend design where the full fruits can only come months later
- Adopt an enterprise architecture philosophy to digital design and integration, something that would continuously evolve as the digital technologies are also maturing. Identify dependencies early as they could impact technology choices being made in the short and long term
- Updating the operating model: Change management programs are needed to help through the dramatic changes—for example, learning how and why to use a connected worker interface rather than turning to their familiar, dog-eared manual way of exchanging data
The benefits of a digital program in mining is well documented in the media. There is significant untapped potential for productivity improvement with a global average overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) performance of 27 percent for underground mining, 39 percent for open-pit mining, and 69 percent for crushing and grinding—compared with 88 percent for upstream oil and gas, 90 percent for steel, and 92 percent for oil refining. A 30 percent+ productivity benefits and cost reduction is not unachievable provided the hurdle of integration with existing technologies is overcome and risks of lack of knowledge to exploit new technologies is managed by the mining organization.
How digital innovation can improve mining productivity.