• Joe Atkinson

Business Intelligence in the Mining Industry

Updated: Nov 13


Business Intelligence (BI) is the process of extracting data and presenting it in a manner that is useful for an organisation to gain insight and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement. A good BI platform can make the difference between mine planning knowing or not knowing how effectively they are producing or what they are hauling.


BI is the key to reducing operational costs whilst increasing mining production because it allows the mine to harness data and streamline operations in the short-term through to the long-term.


Business intelligence in the mining industry is without doubt present and actively being used to a certain extent, however in terms of the effectiveness and frequency of usage, broadly speaking we are generally much further behind the other major extractive industry - oil and gas.





Why?


There are many factors at play here. The mining industry increasingly operates in areas of the world that are incredibly remote and lacking in basic infrastructure, which means that getting a good internet connection can be difficult. This makes harnessing modern cloud-based BI solutions for mining industry analytics pretty tough.


The difficulties of maintaining a good internet connection in remote areas mean that hosting a BI platform internally at the mine itself is a more common solution. Indeed, many mining fleet management systems are installed along with a BI solution such as SAP BusinessObjects which is installed locally. The drawback to this approach is that significant IT infrastructure must be bought, installed, and maintained for as long as the solution remains in place - adding to the overheads for any site (we believe these overheads are well-worth it in the long run!).


Furthermore, mines that operate in a remote region often have difficulty finding and retaining employees with the right skill set to implement, maintain and demonstrate the value of a (potentially) expensive BI solution - these types of roles have traditionally always been taken by expats, who are generally costly in terms of salary and transit to and from the site.


We are now seeing more and more traditionally expat mining roles being transferred to nationals, as visa requirements in many countries are being toughened to protect internal labour markets and upskill local workforces. This is often done for the right reasons, however, we feel that specialist roles, such as those within the still-emerging mining technology and mining industry analytics sectors, often suffer as a result.


BI in Mine Planning


We think the single greatest reason for the mining industry’s slow entry into the world of BI is related to the huge push within the mining industry and its equipment manufacturers to ‘get connected’ through increased uptake and usage of mining technology.


Although BI itself has been around for many years, it is only relatively recently that mines have started gathering the vast quantities of data through development and implementation of mining technology that can be used for mining reporting and data visualisations that are included in the on-site decision-making process.


Thanks to advancements in mining fleet management systems from a range of OEM’s over the past decade, most mines are now sitting on huge stores of data that can help them improve safety, make better mine planning decisions, take better care of their equipment and get more tonnes to the mill.


Customised Mining Reporting and Mining Dashboards


Business Intelligence, typically delivered through enterprise platforms such as SAP Business Objects, can manifest in many different forms including:


  • Scheduled PDF mining reports via Business Objects 'Publications' tool.

  • Web portals for self service (e.g., SAP Business Objects' BI Launchpad).

  • Mining dashboards using SAP BusinessObjects, Tableau, MS PowerBI.

  • Tablet-based reporting for iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows etc.

  • SAP Business Objects Explorer spaces for more detailed ad-hoc queries.


Whilst most large open-pit mines running a fleet management system do already utilise the ‘standard’ OEM BI solutions, significant quantities of valuable data is still not being tapped to its full potential.


This can in part be down to a lack of interoperability between systems, with lots of data currently sitting in disconnected silos, but we strongly feel that efforts to undertake business intelligence in the mining industry are often undermined through lack of awareness of BI best practises and general BI knowledge on sites.



An example of a production focused mining dashboard based on fleet management system data.


Below are some examples of new and quite diverse mining reports and mining dashboards that we have delivered for customers around the world:

  • Unlocked Assignment KPI dashboard - Designed for the Mine Dispatch Team to understand how effectively they are guiding the fleet management system.

  • Production Data Quality reporting - Designed to highlight to the FMS admin team if there is a problem with data quality during the shift.

  • Operator Abuse Trending Dashboard - Designed to display if operators are harming equipment, with the intent of extending component life.

  • Service Accuracy Trending reporting - Designed to show how accurately the site is meeting its planned maintenance targets.

  • Current Shift Crew and Operator Performance - Designed for onsite short interval control, where the operations team can take corrective action and quickly view progress, on demand.

  • Month to Date Production vs. Plan Scheduled Reporting - Designed for Mine Planning and Engineering to understand how monthly production is progressing versus the plan.

Mining Industry Analytics


We have worked with mines around the world to improve their use of BI to harness their mining technology and data. We believe that we can help you get a better handle on your mines BI preparedness with the following:

  • A site study to identify areas of the operation that could be improved; and how your data could be utilised to benchmark and improve the situation.

  • Creating site-specific, customised reporting for different Fleet Management Systems, Machine Health Solutions and High Precision Ore Control Systems using your existing BI installation.

  • Performing an audit of your data quality - Are you capturing load and haul cycles accurately? Is there any missing data? Is your onboard and office software configured properly?

  • Implementation of full 'Mine to Mill Reporting' that integrates all of your sources into a single data warehouse.


To learn more about our mining consultancy services and mining industry solutions & projects, please contact us here.

© 2020 by Mine Tech Services (UK) Limited