Mining Mirror May 2017 - Page 32

Profile Mines of the future would require a complete set of different skills. to manage an operation at half the unit cost than what we are currently doing. Every single aspect in a mining operation provides a manager with a range of important data. If he or she has access to all that data in real time, they will be able to manage the mine more efficiently and cost effectively. Will digitisation play a role in making that step change? We need to ask how digital technologies will enable us to make a step change in performance, for example, where is the waste in the business? And how will a digital intervention eliminate that wastage. Think of it in terms of a hierarchy. If you start at the bottom level, you try to eliminate the variation — it’s the good old-fashioned Six Sigma. You want to get the process under control. So how does the data help you do that? There is no doubt that any mine manager would want complete and accurate data in real time. In a traditional mining operation, a manager would only know what happened yesterday when the [30] MINING MIRROR MAY 2017 nightshift supervisor comes out in the morning and when the next shift has already gone down. However, if the data is produced in real time, the manager can intervene, as they know exactly what happened, what is not happening, and why it has happened. That’s where digitisation starts playing a pivotal role. The other obvious area is in terms of predictive maintenance. For example, the load haul dumper (LHD) can be pulled into the workshop before it breaks in the haulage and before days are lost in production. Once we have the system under control we can look at the next level. We can look at the data from a continuous improvement point of view. So, we need to bring other variables into play. Where are the step change opportunities? If we designed it differently, where would we get a step change? Digital is about real practical interventions to solve real problems and eliminate waste, but you also want to have the data coherent all the way through. So, if a CEO is sitting in his or her office and wants to determine the tonnages from day to day or even from hour to hour, the same information would be received as the supervisor on the ground. That process eliminates a delay in information and enables a CEO or a manager to intervene more expediently. How do you think a mining operation will look in 10 or 20 years from now? It will be exactly like what I have been describing to you. Continuous, autonomous, and there will be a mix of energy sources (electricity, solar, wind, natural gas, and diesel). The mine will be data enabled, remote controlled, and it will employ very smart, productive people. People will be highly skilled. There will definitely be less and less room for semi- or unskilled labour. We need to do something to create a supply of the skills that we need and make sure the people on the outside have access to that opportunity. It is imperative that this more productive mining business will create a multiplier effect into the rest of the economy. A vibrant upstream manufacturing industry is needed. b