Last time in our Mine Digitization and Automation series, we loosely defined what we meant by Digital Transformation as, generally speaking, the integration of digital technology into some or all aspects of your business. It is often software, but it can also mean new, digitally enhanced equipment, for example, with proximity alarms, etc., and even autonomous machinery.
With that introduction, we hope to have provided some food for thought as to what advantages might come for your business by embracing digital technology. There are a number of reasons mining companies and/or individual sites may decide to digitize, but in our many conversations, one of the considerations is as plain as can be: survival. This can be literal, for both the miners, and the mine.
Why does digital transformation in mining matter? Is Digital Transformation in mining a must? What does it mean in the big picture?
These are good questions, and while we’re happy to have the discussion and provide our own point of view, the truth is that YOU will first have to establish your own version of what digital transformation means, and that will depend heavily on where you find yourself on the digital curve today. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what your priorities are for your operation based on a number of factors that are individual to your business. No two mines are completely alike, even within the same company, or the same region. There can be significant differences even when only kilometres apart.
What we can do is highlight several advantages our own clients have experienced through embarking on a digital transformation journey, such as:
Enhanced employee safety. Planned work is safer work, period. When workers know the status of the heading and can easily locate the equipment they need to do the work they’ve been lined out to do, there’s far lower likelihood of rushing and using work arounds.
Increased productivity and efficiency. Being able to identify issues and bottlenecks means they can be avoided or mitigated through planning.
More effective use of resources and extended life of machinery. Having the ability to digitally track planned maintenance or historical machinery issues can play a big role in avoiding breakdowns and stressing mechanical and maintenance crews, as well as avoiding unnecessary downtime.
A new breadth of knowledge through the availability of data collection. Enhanced and accurate tracking of trends, volumes, grades – anything you can or would want to measure – can play a key role in planning and forecasting.
The creation of new communication channels and sharing of more information. Communication is vital to safety and productivity by ensuring departments are working together, not coming into role conflict in areas in which they are scheduled to work, and generally being transparent and accountable.
The concept of teamwork being championed across the workforce. Data and planning can be made visible, providing one source of truth, and allowing teams to see exactly what each unit or crew is doing within the plan to ensure overall success.
Which ones would you like to see? Or, perhaps a better question is, “Which ones can you do without?” The answer is…none of them. But you don’t need to boil the ocean. In fact, before you even get started there is pre-work to be done around ensuring readiness and prioritization, and whatever the direction you intend to take, you will want to ensure that the vendor has experts available to guide you through this process of discovery.
Keep reading, and we will do our best to answer your questions if you are ready to embark on your digital transformation journey.