As the world dashes towards greater digitalisation, the mining industry is setting itself up for increased automation and autonomy in its practices.
With decarbonisation a key objective and the desire to reduce downtime, speed up productivity and improve safety on the minds of all mining companies, it’s only inevitable that processes will become more forward-thinking and technological.
While mining companies are all at different stages in their transition towards digital mining, tech expert Rob Bryant believes that a digital mining transition isn’t as simple as examining your assets, diagnosing the flaws and away you go.
There needs to be a larger cultural understanding.
“What we observe in our mining customers as much as any other is the need to take the entire business along on that journey of digital transformation,” explains Bryant, InEight’s executive vice president for the Asia Pacific region.
“One of the common pitfalls organisations fall into is falling in love with technology without understanding the impact of change or even the benefits or motivations in adopting that technology. That will ultimately result in a poor level of adoption and money wasted.”
A company doesn’t have to have digitalised its entire operation to have achieved digital mining. The company might not have even deployed a single digital innovation and still be on its way.
However, it needs to have completed a holistic analysis of the business before taking its first steps.
“They (a mining organisation) need to be, like any other business, aware of having organisational readiness and knowing what it is that they expect digital technology to provide; what they are looking to address as a business need,” Bryant continues.
“If they do that well, there’s the motivation and the support from inside the organisation and from its shareholders to continue the necessary investment and recognise that it’s going to take some time before they start to realise that and where they can measure it.”
While there are many things to consider before taking the digital mining plunge, Bryant believes the mining industry is well placed in its digital transition, largely because of the inherent intricacy of operational frameworks.
“From a project controls point of view, the mining sector’s an interesting one. They’ve typically been ahead of other sectors when it comes to processes and automation and knowing where their projects are at and I think they’ve always had to for a number of reasons,” explains Bryant.
“The safety aspect in what is a very dangerous environment and the need for measured return – mining relies a lot on efficiencies and productivity.
“For that reason, they are always ahead of a lot of other engineering sectors, if we class them in that way – oil and gas and mining are both fairly good at understanding their productivity baselines.”