The future of mining technology: How digital services are transforming operations
Industry 4.0, the concept behind the rapid technological changes of the 21st century, has transformed the way that mines operate through every step of the mining process. From management to administration, history tells us that each of these technical advancements and their implementation across mine sites have resulted in better practices and improved industrial growth.
But when it comes to digital uptake, there is still a significant gap between tier 1 operators and the rest of the industry.
What’s holding small operations back?
A recent analysis on the implementation of digital technologies in mining studied 158 active surface and underground mines and found limited uptake across the board. But while large-scale operations were found to apply digital technologies on a case-by-case basis, operations with lower production rates simply aren’t implementing available digital services to the same extent.
The report found that adoption appears to be dependent on a range of factors, including production scale of mining operations, existing infrastructure, availability of trained staff, R&D capacities, and how willing the company is to lead in technology diffusion.
According to mining technology and change management experts Haultrax, bridging this digital gap should be a key priority for operators, regardless of size.
“Many tier two and junior miners haven’t digitalised their business as much as the tier one mining houses such as Rio Tinto or BHP have” says Haultrax managing director Shyamal Sharma. “They just do not have the same tech resources, so there are a lot of people missing out on this really robust and simple technology to digitalise their business and make it more efficient.
“We have found that the most common barriers to digital uptake are an outdated understanding of these systems or a previous bad experience. The focus for us, then, is on breaking down those barriers and educating our clients on new and improved ways of implementing digital systems. In our current digital world, a lot can be achieved with little financial outlay.”
Regular, repeatable, predictable
With its suite of digital solutions and consultancy services, Haultrax works with customers in the surface mining industry to help them utilise digital services that will transform their mining operations.
The Haultrax Fleet Management System (FMS), for example, comprises FleetOps, a productivity reporting system which provides accurate production and cycle data without the need for operator input, and FleetControl, a truck dispatching solution which gives users a central view of every team member and asset.
These solutions allow users to systemise production operations through a digitalised workflow, making data more trustworthy and reliable, as well as giving them the ability to ditch the tally sheets and clipboards.
“Pre-digitalisation, one of the biggest challenges was the administration headache,” explains Shyamal. “There was always a risk that mistakes will be made, especially with monotonous tasks or for personnel on long shifts, so the accuracy of information was often missing. There’s also the additional data entry that someone has to collect, and all the sheets that need to be put into an excel file, and manually entered data is often only available to decision makers at the end of or in the next shift.”
This risk of human error and lack of transparency over every phase of an operation, as well as the number of time-consuming tasks involved, mean that paper-based processes cannot always ensure accuracy. The result is a lack of data for informed decision making, and time and resources not being used efficiently, all of which can negatively impact an operation’s bottom line.
According to Shyamal: “Regular, repeatable and predictable is what leads to consistent outcomes, which in turn leads to an increased ability to plan around what is going to happen in that cycle. FleetOps and FleetControl provide that consistency.”
Keeping it simple
There are a lot of fleet management and mining productivity systems on the market, and the number of new technologies available can be overwhelming when it comes to data. That’s why Haultrax’s FleetOps and FleetControl solution keep it simple for operators.
With a strong background in implementation and change management, Haultrax ensures the correct technology is selected, deployed, and implemented to deliver 100% of its value.