• Tom Jordan

7 Tips for Adopting a Digital Mining Strategy

One of the hardest parts to changing something is making a start. This is especially the case when entering areas that may be outside of what’s been done before.

We’ve worked with multiple companies who are at different stages of their Industry 4.0 adoption. Based on what we have experienced we’ve drawn up 7 tips for starting out.

  1. Start Small, Keep Focused

  2. Adapt to Current Priorities

  3. Don’t be Afraid to Innovate and Fail

  4. Develop a Roadmap

  5. Realise the Scales of Economy

  6. Manage by Exceptions (Where Possible)

  7. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

1. Start Small, Keep Focused

When looking to leverage data and technology it’s important to start out small. We’ve seen time and again where companies try to make epic changes only for the project to lose momentum and fail to deliver.

Starting out small allows for quick wins. This keeps the teams and stakeholders motivated, validates investments made and generates interest for continued improvements.

When starting out we would advise projects last no longer than 3 months. Any longer than this tends to lead to project fatigue and/or scope creep and things deteriorate.

Example: Improve PM accuracy by x% by combining data from the maintenance planning systems and asset health telematics for the haul truck fleet & primary loading tools.

2. Adapt to Current Priorities

Another reason to keep projects and scopes tight is that priorities change frequently. Once a series of solutions are created and deployed there will rejection/adoption and results. However, the solution might not quite hit the mark and will need iterating. Also, new priorities will emerge which require a focused project.

Example: Increasing production tonnes may have been the initial focus, whereas now the priority might be around mine plan compliance & material grade control for the process plant.

This approach is critical to drive continuous improvements in the operation.

Adapting can also mean retiring/archiving previously delivered solutions. As mentioned earlier it’s important to remain focused; having 100 ‘solutions’ deployed may now create information overload for people to effectively use. It may be that 80 solutions were created for good reason (e.g. a focus on torque converter overheats) but that issue no longer exists. Pruning back solutions keeps people engaged on the items which matter, and means new projects receive the attention needed.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Innovate and Fail

In some company cultures there can be a culture where failure is unacceptable. It’s obviously important to mitigate risks and avoid failures, but they are inevitable at some point. With digital, by using a short ‘sprint’ approach it allows for very rapid turn-around of solutions, deployment and results. If it fails to achieve what was desired, it’s important to understand why, and either address the gaps if possible, or close the project and move on.

The cost to deliver digital solutions is minor compared to traditional investments both in terms of time and resource. The gains can however be significant.

In comparison, to deploy an engineering change in an equipment manufacturer it could take years, costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and may not yield the desired effect.

4. Develop a Roadmap

Although individual projects should remain focused on specific areas with relatively short time scales it’s also important to develop a roadmap including a timeline of where you want to go. This will then allow you to align projects to this vision, so you don’t end up with multiple solution silos which cannot be used together effectively in the long term.

It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed as starting out there will be a lot of things you simply don’t know yet. It should contain the tangible items which you want to cover as well as how at a high level, along with exclusions. Key target areas should be placed in this roadmap timeline so there is some priority when starting.

5. Realise the Scales of Economy

Electronic data knows no borders or time zones. It can be potentially be transmitted and accessed across the globe. This means that for certain roles it’s not always necessary to house everybody on site as found with traditional services.

Where a company has multiple operations, more centralised control centres could be considered. We have worked with several organisations to help set up Integrated Operation centres (link here) in key locations. They have turned time zone differences to an advantage; operations can be monitored 24 hours a day by leveraging disjointed time zones.

Also, where there is commonality of equipment it’s advantageous to pool the information. This allows for chronic problems to be identified fleet-wide which may otherwise go unseen. It can also be used to set benchmarks and identify areas where best practices can be shared to bring up the poorer performing locations.

6. Manage by Exception (Where Possible)

In this we don’t mean build your roadmap around the edge cases; you simply want to avoid information overload. Just because you have the information doesn’t mean you need to display it all by default. This helps avoid unnecessary time trawling through irrelevant data to find the items in need of attention. i.e. avoid looking for a needle in a haystack.

By prioritising the exceptions or using some sort of triage approach to the data allows people to immediately focus on what’s important.

Trend Exception Tool - Healthy Assets are Not Displayed by Default

7. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Successfully building and executing a digital strategy requires quite a unique set of skills; both in the physical application of the assets, change management as well as the IT side of things. Leveraging internal resources to form a balanced team is crucial, especially as upon roll out it’s likely they will need to involve their peers.

However, it can also be very effective to augment the internal project team with external specialists who have a dedicated narrow scope. We have worked within teams including such people and this has proved very efficient (example here).

There’s obviously a lot of other things needed for effective delivery (communication, change management, ROI justification etc.), as well a variety of tools and methodologies which can be adopted but hopefully the above provides some useful tips to get started.

Any questions? Feel free to contact us here!

#industry40 #miningdigitalstrategy #digitalroadmap #industrialIOT #changemanagement

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