Digitization in mining is focused at making mining better than before. And “better” really means lower operating costs, more actual yield in compliance with plans, improved standards of safety, and a higher regulatory compliance.
What digitization also delivers is automation of common manual tasks, some of which are very slow.
In other words, unlike what is happening in most mines across the world, a digitized mine allows your people to focus fully on their core mining job rather than learning to operate the technology that is powering the mining operation.
Digitization works to identify and eliminate inefficiency such that your mine is always able to perform at it’s best. Common problems such as inaccurate task allocations, misplaced equipment, inaccurate data, delayed communication and more, are taken care of by a central system in a digitized mine.
Although I find that there are non-digitized systems which can take care of these common problems, where digitization really shines is in its ability to provide the right information to the right people at the right time (actually, in real-time) – without anyone even making an effort.
This may sound very simple, but in an industry that is centuries old, and which is facing some of the most difficult economic challenges, digitization in mining is proving to be an indispensable tool to keeping costs low, profits high, and decisions strategic.
So, now that you get a fair idea of what digitization in mining can do, let’s dive deeper into understanding how it actually benefits your mine at a mid to low level.
Digitization helps keep your mine safe
Until today, most safety problems were discovered during inspections or after inspection reports were sent to the Command Centre or the Operations Centre. But with digitization, inspectors and operations control can predict, model and prevent failures from occurring in a mine.
This can happen in two ways.
One – your assets are fitted with sensors (Internet of Things or IoT) and they become “smart assets” that continuously send data to your control center. This will allow your operations control to know and manage asset performance, predict and prevent failures.
Two – When paper based inspection forms are shifted to mobile based inspection forms. Using mobile based inspections forms result in better precision and accurate data, and more importantly, this data is available real time to your operations center.
Shifting from paper inspections to mobile inspections can help keep your mine safe Shifting from paper inspections to mobile inspections can help keep your mine safe
Digitization helps your team anticipate and deal with failures
Shifting paper based inspections to mobile based inspections allow the capture and recording of data in real-time. This data is sent into your operations database.
From here, intelligent systems analyze patterns of equipment behavior, workplace inspections, and safety systems to help you identify potential dangers and potential failures. This data is crucial in helping teams anticipate and deal with failures.
One of the most important components of digitization in mining is digital data. Equipment and workplaces are fitted with smart sensors (Internet of Technology or IoT) which capture and record data at constant intervals. Workplace sensors help measure safety of the workplace in real-time.
Using sensors on equipment, the operations control center can measure equipment performance, anticipate failures, and replace parts just in time. This also helps various teams manage production much better during down times.
Digitization helps optimize scheduling and material flow
Mining companies have utilized software to create schedules and have them distributed via radio or paper to miners. Material flow is still being managed using data captured from miner call-in at periodic intervals, the end of the shift or the end of the day.
In a time when miners are facing troublesome economic conditions, what miners really need now is a robust platform that allows them to control and manage material flow on the fly. Although the call-in technique has served the purpose quite well, there have been reports of inconsistencies in data that is reported.
Digitization in mining utilizes tablet like interfaces in equipment where operators can view their daily targets, and measure their performance. These interfaces can measure and deliver accurate data in real-time to the operations control center. Daily targets and production control can be changed on the fly, and operators get notified instantly.
This real-time transfer of data can keep the supervisors, managers and the leadership up to date with production information, and they don’t have to wait until the end of next day to get a production report of the previous day.
Digitization example: A tablet mounted to a loader to help the operator capture accurate data, and consequently, help the supervisor optimize production Digitization example: A tablet mounted to a loader to help the operator capture accurate data, and consequently, help the supervisor optimize production
Digitization helps track and maintain mining performance in real-time
As discussed above, digitization allows daily schedules to be transmitted real-time to miner interfaces such as tablets and phones. Miners and operators are always aware of progress against their daily targets, and help the operations control center achieve better mining performance.
How? The data that is captured from miner and operator interfaces (tablets and phones) is displayed at the operations center in real-time. This allows better understanding of mining performance, and helps leaders track and maintain mining performance with laser precision in-line with business goals.
Data collected from your equipment and mine can be put through powerful analytics software to give you actionable insights Data collected from your equipment and mine can be put through powerful analytics software to give you actionable insights
Data from digitization helps develop targeted strategies
Productivity and operational excellence are two crucial elements to being competitive in the mining industry, and this has not changed in many centuries. Digitization offers endless possibilities and helps re-think the entire mining process.
Earlier, enhancing operational excellence meant to cut operating costs, but this is no longer true with the advent of mobile technology. Digitization is bringing change that is offering breakthrough levels of productivity improvements.
When data across the entire mining lifecycle is integrated with powerful analytics, this helps leaders and the management define targeted strategies to gain advantages in various markets.