Introduction to Manual vs Digital Series

We’re back with the Mine Digitization and Automation series. For the past several installments, we’ve discussed the progression through the five levels of our Strategic Roadmap, and it’s time to take a closer look at what moving through these levels might look like from a process perspective for your planners, managers, and crews.

Introduction to Manual vs Digital Series

But let’s start with a story first. 

Once, several years ago, an implementation team was working at a North American site of one of the largest mining companies in the world. (We only say this to reassure other mines that may still be at the manual stage of data collection that they aren’t necessarily that far behind!) A frontline supervisor entered the lineup room with a superintendent and said that because of an investigation, he was required to find some instructions that had been given to a specific operator, on a specific date, on one of the cards. The filing system? Cardboard boxes. The implementation team volunteered to roll up their sleeves and began trying to find this proverbial needle in a haystack, but after several hours of mounting tension and painstaking examination of thousands of cards, they had no luck. We cannot say how the story ended, but we do know that safety regulators do not have a reputation for patience. 

Some might think, “Yes, but we’ve always handed out lineout cards. It’s what our people are used to, besides, and our filing system is better – we toss them into a filing cabinet!” 

In truth, we all know there is a better way to communicate tasks and manage information than to have a shift boss hand write instructions on a card they’ll have tossed back at them en masse 12 to 14 hours later, because we know the shift boss starts to fill in that information well before, sometimes hours, in the planning before the shift begins. And few will argue that reviewing the plan on an Excel sheet only to write it out on a card for each crew member, or entering shift-end data by hand, communicated by operators over a radio, is efficient. 

But change can be hard, and sometimes people will hold onto ponderous, less-accurate and efficient processes for all the reasons change management is required – fear, concern, anxiety, comfort, perceived stability. 

For the next few installments, we’re going to offer a comparison between manual vs digital; how the process changes, who is affected, and what results can be expected in the following three areas:
– Shift planning
– Allocation
– Data collection

Through real composite stories that we’ll present as a sort-of “day in the life”, we will make the case that when we systemize or digitize, and everything is integrated and in one place, you will quickly realize the benefits not only in active shift length and less variance to plan, but also to the well-being and satisfaction of your workers and frontline managers. 

The first installment starts next week with Shift Planning, so make sure you join us as the Mine Digitization and Automation series continues.  


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