7 Tips for Adopting a Digital Mining Strategy
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
One of the hardest parts about changing something in any industry can sometimes just be the ability to get moving and make a start. A blank piece of paper can be intimidating!
This is especially the case in the mining industry when emerging disciplines such as mining technology that may be 'outside' of what’s been done before. New technology in mining tends to be disruptive... challenging the old ways of doing things can be met with resistance from multiple angles.
Luckily, we’ve worked with many mining companies who are at different stages of their Industry 4.0 adoption and digital mining technology transformation, so don't worry, we can give you some excellent advice!
In this month's blog, we're going to draw upon our combined decades of experience in mining equipment technology and services, to draw up seven tips for starting out on your own mining technology implementation.
Tips for Successful Mining Technology Adoption
Start Small, Keep Focused
Adapt to Current Priorities
Don’t be Afraid to Innovate and Fail
Develop a Roadmap
Realise the Scales of Economy
Manage by Exceptions (Where Possible)
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 all seen and heard the buzz around Big Data, AI and Predicative Analytics, but MTS has seen time and again a situation where mining companies try to make epic changes, only for the project to lose momentum and fail to deliver anything of sustained value to the organisation.
Starting out small allows for quick wins. Use the stairstep approach and ensure that the right foundations are in place. This keeps the team and stakeholders motivated, validates the investments that are made, and generates interest for continued improvements.
When starting out, we would advise that projects last no longer than 3 months. Any longer than this tends to lead to project fatigue and scope creep... and this can be where things begin to fundamentally 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 rejections, adoptions and results to measure. However, the solution might not quite hit the mark, and you must plan for iterations - sometimes multiple iterations. New priorities will also often emerge which require a more focused project. This approach is critical to driving continuous improvements in the operation.
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.
The ability to adapt works both ways, and by this we mean that retiring or archiving previously delivered solutions may often be required too, as well as implementing new ones. Don't get emotionally attached to a solution that is no longer applicable to your organisation. Remember that having 100 ‘solutions’ deployed risks information overload and actually inhibit people's ability to effectively use them.
It may be that 80 solutions were created for good reason (e.g., a focus on torque converter overheats) but that particular issue no longer exists. Pruning back solutions keeps people engaged on the items which matter, and means new projects receive the attention that is needed to bring success.
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 in any digital transformation strategy. With new technology in mining, using a short ‘sprint’ approach allows for very rapid turn-around of development, deployment and results.
If the solution 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 resources, however, the gains can be significant.
In comparison, to deploy an engineering change in an equipment manufacturer it could take years, costs hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars, and may not yield the desired effect.
4. Develop a Digital Transformation 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 - at the beginning, 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 your mining technology initiatives.
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 mining technology 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. Taking this attitude helps avoid unnecessary time spent trawling through irrelevant data to find the information you need - 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.
7. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Successfully building and executing a digital transformation in mining requires quite a unique set of skills; both in the physical application of the assets, change management consulting 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. Click here to learn about the mining industry solutions & projects we offer.
The points covered in this blog are not exhaustive - obviously, a lot of other things are needed for effective delivery (communication, change management, ROI justification, etc.) plus a variety of tools and methodologies which can be adopted. But hopefully, we have provided you with some useful tips to get started on your digital mining technology journey!
Any questions? Feel free to contact us at email@example.com