• Tom Jordan

Our 5 Predictions for 2020 - Part 1

Updated: a day ago

The year has flown by for us here at MTS; we’re reflecting on 2019, and considering what may come in 2020.

At the same time last year we put our predictions forward for 2019 - Let’s see how they held up. If you want to skip straight to the 2020 predictions, click here.

Were our predictions accurate for 2019?

Overall we got most predictions right, with two remaining unchecked - This is not that they didn’t/won’t happen, just not at the speed we anticipated.

Below we dive into each prediction and given some details of what happened in 2019 for each.

How accurate were our predictions for 2019?

1. Digital Transformation - Will Continue to be a Challenge

The mining industry doesn’t move in paradigm shifts and digital transformation has, and will, continue to be challenging for organisations. This is particularly the case for large entities with many operations, people and systems in place. There are some now realising the tactic of running a mix of OEM products (machinery and software) to play each against each other is only potentially hindering themselves more.

2. Autonomous Open Pit Haulage

Great technological advancements and successes are being reaped in this area. Rio Tinto celebrated 1 billion tonnes moved with 80 x Komatsu autonomous trucks in 2018. Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) followed in 2019 celebrating 1 billion tonnes moved with their 137 autonomous Caterpillar trucks. They are pushing ahead with the aim of 175 trucks being autonomous by mid-2020.

Companies like Rio Tinto with their “Mine of the Future“ programme have agreed to buy 20 x Caterpillar 793F trucks fitted with MineStar Command as part of their Autonomous Haulage System (AHS).

Video courtesy of Fortescue Metals Group

Outside of Australia, Anglo American (for Quellaveco in Peru) and Teck (Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 in Chile) announced they will also be purchasing Caterpillars new 793AC trucks fitted with MineStar Command for hauling., with Vale purchasing 37 x 930E autonomous trucks for Carajás mine.

One thing that still remains elusive is a comprehensive manned Vs autonomous white paper which includes benchmark operational performance and asset health metrics in a like-for-like situation. This is something we would be extremely interested in carrying out...

3. Investing in People

There are more and more mines realising that their technology is an enabling tool, but not a silver bullet for their challenges. How they use it is where the real benefits are made, and a lot of that comes down to people. We have worked with several mines in 2019 specifically around training and change management. They have struggled to not only upskill individuals directly working with technology, but also change the perceptions of other departments who interact with it. Some, like BHP are restructuring to help facilitate this change, with the aim of creating a much receptive, collaborative and integrated operational approach to technology.

However, with the huge volumes of data available, it is possible to monitor, manage and communicate results easily to all, in an effort to show continuous improvements using technology.

This will continue as more mines move toward digitisation.

4. Lifting the lid on Underground Mines

The implementation of improved communication and positioning systems underground has started though this has been slower than expected. Mines such as South32’s Cannington are implementing 4G LTE with others adopting systems such as Minetec at BHP Olympic Dam.

What has been interesting with the underground mines we’ve worked with is the machines themselves aren’t always as high tech as surface equipment. This means that the sites have been able to ‘get connected’ but haven’t received the expected rich data for things like condition monitoring.

There is some catching up to do in this area for the OEMs, across the board.

5. Turning Data into Actionable Information and ‘Big Data’ Analytics

Data-driven decision making continues to be pushed across all modern operations. The need to just guess is slowly moving away.

“Big Data” is still seen as the solution although many continue to struggle to achieve targets using much simpler data usage methods.

There are some companies that realise that blindly tackling “Big Data” without a specific, targeted focus can be incredibly costly and yield no tangible results. They are looking for a much more structured approach.

In 2019 we helped several companies map out their targeted big data strategy and were able to deliver the first enabling steps with them. We will continue to work with them in 2020 and hope to share some successes on the effective, tangible use of “Big Data”.

6. SQL Server Columnstore indexes and Real-time operational analytics

Although being released in SQL Server 2012 this remains something which isn’t extensively used. In 2019 we didn’t see the adoption of this, though with the continued desire to increase data analytics, machine learning, AI etc. we are sure this will slowly grow in use.

7. SAP Business Objects and its role for mining customers - Will Diminish

This proved true with many moving more and more away from SBOP. In particular with the demise of Flash due at the end of 2020, SAP Dashboards is being shelved with several other products taking its place. We have found that Microsoft PowerBI seems to be edging forward in the dashboard space particularly with larger companies who are happy to consolidate software. However, with Squirrel dashboards (which we’ve blogged about here), there is still hope for those who need to move away from SBOP Dashboards but don’t want to re-platform entirely.

Read on to hear our predictions for 2020 here.

© 2020 by Mine Tech Services (UK) Limited