In the wake of navigating a post-COVID mining landscape, businesses are making the rapid switch to digital. The mining industry is highly complex and the mining sector is very intricate – with thousands of pieces of equipment and hundreds of personnel, mining site operations can often function like miniature cities.
Every on-site and off-site procedure necessitates specialised knowledge and meticulous planning, coordinating and rollout. Metallurgists must modify processes to account for site conditions, mine site dispatchers are responsible for keeping logistics fleets moving in the proper order, and operational plans for mining sites must constantly be monitored and updated by mining site engineers. It requires both precision and adaptability to know what controls to turn up or turn down, in order to keep your mining site activity running smoothly.
Integrating mining management software, advanced analytics and data-driven reporting can drive value; but only if employees use them to inform site decisions. However, the biggest obstacle to any software initiative is often implementation. Here’s how to get it right!
Mining site operational data – where’s the value?
Imagine the volume of data that mining activity creates at each level of the value chain—extraction, sampling, processing, and transportation—for a sector that has historically relied on legacy technology and prospered on boots-on-the-ground experience.
Although mining management software platforms are in their early adoption stages, they already have begun to improve bottom-line figures on site operations. Sensors, monitors, reporting tools, and smart systems are being integrated into all phases of mining site activity in order to gather a constant stream of data. This data may be culled, compiled, and processed using analytics to derive useful insights that drive fact-based decisions, increase on-site productivity, and generate solid business outcomes.
Productivity gains can have a significant bottom-line financial impact in a capital-intensive sector like mining. Because of this, mining management software can be extremely valuable to leaders, assisting them in site process optimisation, downtime reduction, and on-site decision-making.
At mining locations, enormous amounts of data are continuously gathered, but staff aren’t always able to combine this data and make the most of it. There are two challenges to implementing data-driven project management successfully in mining operations of any size:
- choosing the right information to use in order to make educated decisions
- combining data from multiple platforms, providers, and systems
How can mining operations benefit from data-driven management platforms?
Mining businesses can take advantage of the value, volume, velocity, and variability of data across extraction, intermediate transportation, and ultimate transit to plants by utilising advanced analytics and reporting tools.
Using real-time data and analysis tools, mining companies can keep an eye on operations, monitor sensors, and study site behaviour to identify where processes can be streamlined. Analytics can also be used to foresee and avoid tunnel collapses, anticipate and schedule preventative maintenance shutdowns to minimise site downtime, and find gaps in current mining site operations where output, safety or site efficiency could be increased.
There are further advantages to bringing integrated technology into mining sites, such as:
- Smart collaboration: Simplifying communication across the company with a single data source helps to facilitate the development of new partnership models with operators, OEMs, and service providers.
- Business intelligence: It facilitates quicker decision-making and improves performance by assisting in the detection of areas that are actual cost drivers.
- Improving logistics performance: The mining sector is heavily centred around fast, reliable transportation fleets. Advanced analytics can identify the areas where efficiency needs to be improved.
In order to comprehend the factors that lead to success, we have examined analytics implementations across a number of mining operations in Australia. Here are five key ways that mining site managers can drive the adoption of new site technology:
1. Integrate data and reporting stacks into existing workflow processes
Any mining management software is more likely to be adopted if it is easy to use and intuitive. New systems can feel more like a natural extension of old ones (rather than a sudden change) by adapting the interface to the unique user context, designing tasks and site process checklists to reflect the workflows users would typically perform, and integrating the analytics into existing platforms.
Analytics teams should also ensure that any new system is built to seamlessly integrate with the mine’s existing technology stack. Otherwise, businesses risk having stand-alone models that cannot be scaled or updated and eventually become obsolete.
2. Establish a shared understanding at all levels of site operations
For various business stakeholders, mining software might mean different things. The effectiveness of mining project management depends on clear communication across the board – so support is established through clear messaging and an awareness-raising effort, and all personnel are adequately prepared for the coming system changes through personalised training.
Equally crucial is sharing success stories internally! Good results, morale and uptake increases are distributed throughout the corporation by sharing the day-to-day wins of using any new project management software. Mining business can also make the program change feel more pertinent by including new project management software alongside bigger structural or organisational changes over time.
3. Employ agile project management techniques to build a sense of ownership
When it comes to technology, many miners have historically operated with a “buy, not make” mentality. Local teams are typically given instructions on how to use prebuilt tools, which are purchased by decision-makers located far from the scene of the action. Although enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other systems that deal with standard back-office procedures can benefit from this strategy, mining software and reporting projects often more directly involve input and use from frontline employees and supervisors. Because of this, employees in the field can feel that management undervalues their knowledge when instructions are given from a distance.
Engaging users directly in the development process by using agile practises that give users more agency is one of the most efficient ways to improve adoption of any new mining management system. Working in an agile manner democratises project ownership; instead of leading teams, leaders outline the issue that needs to be resolved, and delegate the decision-making to more local teams. Individuals can more readily and freely offer insights to the solution thanks to this open approach (regardless of their level of seniority and expertise) – and often results in greater inventiveness and faster project agility.
Engaging users directly in the development process (and giving users more agency) by using agile project practises can be one of the most efficient ways to improve adoption of any new mining technology set-up.
4. Predict the on-site skills needed to scale and maintain
Since the learning curve for initial introduction can be rather steep, it might be simple for mining firms who are just starting out on their mining software journeys to concentrate on use cases, tools, and reporting to drive their first phase of decision-making. However, moving from a pilot to production will often mean anticipating scalability, and developing an internal talent pool capable of long-term support for the new mining management software system. As the software platform capability grows, so can the company!
Other mining businesses can jump on board. Software developers, data scientists, data engineers, and other digital talent will be needed by the majority of businesses looking to bring in new mining site management software. It can take time to develop this expertise, especially given the increased demand for digital skill sets. So, starting early can help mining businesses get a head start on hiring and training, giving them the internal resources they need to ensure a seamless handoff at the conclusion of the pilot phase, and maintain their analytics program going forward.
5. Unlock value through comprehensive performance monitoring
Mining business leaders must also make the link between the general business goals for the mining management software, and the precise benchmarks and standards for success at various phases of the project rollout. A different set of performance measures could be used by maintenance, plant and mining site managers, business stakeholders and executive sponsors, leading to different expectations. S it’s always good practice to ensure a common understanding is shared of how performance changes will be measured.
Adoption and effect may suffer in the absence of a unified concept of value, transparent accountability, and clear job prioritisation. Teams may struggle to keep their excitement for a project alive, and executives may find it difficult to defend continuing investment.
Mining project managers should establish a management architecture that breaks down silos, harmonises performance indicators across teams, and allocates responsibility for delivering on them in order to establish a clear line of sight to value. Then, teams and individuals responsible for achieving particular objectives can prioritise work more successfully.
There is a significant analytics opportunity for mining companies. Industry-wide adoption rates are comparatively low, which presents opportunities for focused leaders to gain a competitive edge. Businesses can create the mindset and process changes necessary to sustain double-digit returns on their analytics investments by laying the proper foundation for analytics success, which includes fostering engagement and alignment, making the analytics simple to use, and making it simple to track the value of engaging mining management software.