The Key Requirements for a Successful Mining Technology Implementation
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Over the past 8 years, I've been fortunate to have been involved with numerous technology installations at mines across the Americas, Africa and Europe. Some of these implementations I have project managed; and others I have been an SME for Machine Health at later stages. Complexity has varied from full fleet management systems to relatively easier-to-manage installs of high precision equipment on loading tools.
Despite the variety in these projects, a number of common factors have always provided a good indicator as to whether the installation would bring immediate and measurable benefits to the mine. i.e. how soon after the install would the site start to get a return on their investment. With this in mind, I list below what are in my opinion the most important ingredients for a successful project outcome:
- A clear set of deliverables stated in a properly defined Project Charter ensures that all stakeholders know what is to be delivered, by who and when. This avoids disappointment, delay and confusion about what the project will deliver.
- Something that is quite regularly overlooked is effective Benchmark Reporting to measure the impact of the mining technology installation. For example if a mine had chosen to install a Fleet Management System (FMS) with the intention of improving the productivity of a truck fleet it is important for them to know what the installation accomplished. For an FMS implementation, example benchmark KPIs could include tonnes/hour, queuing time, first & last hour loads, empty haul vs. loaded haul and tonnes/fuel burnt. All of these KPIs would be expected to change post 'Go Live' and thus would be a good 'before and after' snapshot. The benchmarking brings two benefits: Firstly , as mentioned to give the mine a level of comfort about their investment and secondly to set a benchmark for future enhancements. i.e. turning on further functionality once the system is embedded in the site. Wherever possible, the agreed upon KPIs should be included in the project charter and where appropriate the results distributed onsite.
- Buy-in from the all mine personnel is vital. Often during an implementation focus goes on the senior management; with operators, pit bosses and others left unsure about what is going on. Their engagement, interest and understanding however is critical to the success of the project - one truck operator consistently not following his or her assignment or a geologist not uploading ore blocks in time can really have a knock on effect for immediate results. Adequate change management classes with an emphasis on how the new tool will bring benefits are a simple and cost effective method of bringing everyone onboard before the system goes live.
- The radio network provides backbone infrastructure for a mining technology system. Without full coverage, 24/7 availability and a reliable onsite support team, the system will not function correctly. The result will be incorrect or missing data, sending of dubious assignments to trucks and ultimately a loss of confidence in the solution. Before the start of the project therefore, the network should be in place, validated and the site fully equipped to confidently keep it running. Flags should be raised immediately if something is wrong rather then pushing ahead with the project.
- Often on a project, delays and cost overruns are caused by either incorrect or poor quality hardware installations. A mine's confidence and thus satisfaction can be really hit hard if parts start to fail right from the start. Ensuring that the team fitting the hardware are fully trained and supported is key to preventing this from becoming a problem. As a final check, all hardware and software configurations should be fully validated and signed off by a team lead once the install is complete.
- It is critical that all processes required to make the system run are agreed upon, documented and fully validated. Examples could include a procedure for reporting and dealing with system outages, method for uploading geology ore control files, training of new operators. Wherever possible, automated BI reports should be written (i.e. via SAP Business Objects) to highlight process failures that could occur on an ongoing basis i.e. missing data by shift, missed assignments by operator.
- Support from the vendor is critical especially during the early days post 'Go Live'. The mine should ensure that the project charter contains details of follow up visits, calls and a clear commitment from the vendor to help them through the first few critical months.
- Small Steps are much more effective then trying to get everything done in one big project. Often a new piece of technology gets adapted much more easily if it is installed, the basic functionality turned on and then further down the line advanced functionality enabled. Although reducing scope of the initial roll-out may frustrate stakeholders who have supported the spending of big dollars on the install, the benefits from smaller more manageable projects can be significant - and quicker to accomplish.
Whilst there are other issues, some of them hard to mitigate such as adverse weather and shipping delays, experience tells me that if the above major factors are tackled right from the start, there is little reason why a project cannot be delivered with great success.
Mine Tech Services specialises in helping mines implement technology successfully the first time around. For further information on how we can help with a new installation please contact us here.