Companies that specialize in production – the might of the Industrial Age – are perhaps best suited to benefit from the digital technology that has driven the Information Age. They already possess large, automated systems that by their very nature produce data. Yet, a surprising statistic by McKinsey & Company shows that less than 1 percent of all data generated by devices within the industrial space is actually being used.
While connected smart devices can improve virtually every aspect of business performance, there’s still some hesitation among mining operators to take the next step toward the Internet of Things journey for fear that it requires a costly, large-scale overhaul of control and automation infrastructure.
But for a majority of mining operations, a wealth of data is already being produced by their existing infrastructure. The challenge, however, is to implement systems that manage that data and transform it into actionable information.
Connecting Your Mining Operation
All mining companies should be seeking operational improvements to help maximize yield recoveries and boost operating efficiency. And, yes, investing in connected or “smart” systems should be top-of-mind to help bridge any productivity gaps.
However, unless plant equipment is exceptionally outdated, control and automation devices can deliver an array of advantages to a management structure across a connected mine – adding significant value to an operation.
Connecting Your Mining Operation
By tapping into information solutions that cover both the enterprise and production layers of operations, mining managers gain greater predictability, make better capital investment decisions, and even implement effective cost-cutting initiatives. On top of this, greater connectivity and information sharing produces value through better operational intelligence, reduced safety risks, and remote and autonomous operations support.
INCO Engineering, for example, a Prague-based company that designs and builds modern mining hoists and systems for vertical and inclined transport in mines, leverages connected information solutions for remote-monitoring operations. In fact, its remote-monitoring center in the Czech Republic helps improve response time in mines by alerting operators and supervisors of developing issues.
This real-time reporting is critical for mining companies. It can reduce maintenance costs while improving productivity.
Where Do Mining Operators Start?
But in order to help mining companies realize the dormant advantages of their equipment, we must move beyond misconception that transitioning to a connected mine is an intimidating task.
For many, a minewide or plantwide infrastructure seems a multifaceted capital commitment. So, where do mining operators start? Furthermore, how does one begin to implement an advanced, intelligent device communication architecture? And finally, does the return on investment in the medium term justify such an overhaul of plant processes that might be working right now?
On the other hand, if less than 1 percent of data generated by devices within the industry is actually being used, chances are that the challenge is not about new equipment as much as it is about enhanced utilization of existing equipment through smart engineering.
The challenge is about implementing a system that efficiently aggregates data to create a level of analytics and functional information, as well as deploying solutions that disseminate accurate, transparent, real-time information on equipment and process statuses to the proper machines or personnel.
Predictive Maintenance and Accurate Information
Predictive maintenance is one example of how real-time information can support better decisions. Through predictive maintenance, mining operators have the ability to mitigate negative impacts and allow better predictability at an enterprise level. This helps to avoid shortfalls in production or allowing contingency plans to be made – including short-term stockpiling.
For executives, this means that performance and target guidance can be closer to actual profitability for the period. It allows financial guidance to be more flexible, both to market factors and to internal business mechanisms.
But predictive maintenance is not the only advantage gained through aggregated data and connected operations.
Sound, capital-investment decisions around where to spend, how much to spend, and how to rank this spend are based on accurate information received directly from mining operations.
In fact, without accurate, indisputable, empirical information derived from a company’s processes, more guesswork, more subjectivity and anecdotal input must be involved in making critical decisions.
For a diversified miner with operations across a range of minerals and multiple geographies, it becomes critical to not only know where to invest capital, but how to rank capital in order to prioritize investments.
Minewide control architectures that quantify the status of an operation are the most accurate basis upon which to make sound capital investment decisions.
Accessing Information to Grow Your Business
Aggregating and analyzing accurate data can point to where operators can cut costs in a system. It limits guesswork and helps ensure companies don’t cut operations in ways that hinder productivity.
This information also helps determine how much operations should cut, for how long and how to rank cost-cutting avenues.
These analytics are also critical in helping miners become leaner by trimming inefficient or wasteful processes and expenditures, and gaining maximum value from their assets.
The mining industry is full of sophisticated control equipment that, with the right engineering, could be powering business decisions to reduce downtime and costs while boosting production. It’s time to unleash that power.