Monday, 10 August 2020
Thought Provoking Discussions at Austmine's Mining Innovation Roadshow

Thought Provoking Discussions at Austmine's Mining Innovation Roadshow

The Austmine Mining Innovation Roadshow in Brisbane took place on the 4th October 2017 and featured some of Australia’s most innovative leaders. 
One of the highlights of the day were the facilitated discussion groups. Although each group had a different topic there were four key themes that were raised in each:

• A holistic view of the value chain is needed
• Diversity of the workforce can lead innovation
• Working positively with IP restrictions in collaborations is critical
• An innovation culture is key

Digital innovation and the potential for delivering IoT. Facilitated by Will Vandenberg, General Manager, The Simulation Group. 

Data was a hot topic, and discussions centred around how everyone is collecting data, but are not actively using it across the whole value chain. The group discussed how continuous data is needed and that the infrastructure and processes for bringing the data to a central place where it will be analysed is vital.  

Data ownership and IP was discussed around how true collaboration cannot be actioned when IP isn’t shared. This group discussion also noted that there is too much noise in the data, due to a lack of planning around what needs to be measured, with no clear outcomes from the data.

In looking to the future for digital and IoT innovation the group discussed changing our point of view, from reactive to predictive.  To be successful as an industry, we need to incorporate digital innovation capabilities into the mine site. It can sometimes appear that the scope of where we need to go as an industry is astronomical; however, this discussion group suggested that we start breaking up the solutions and picking off the low hanging fruit to get started. Focus on the achievable 80% of tasks and solve the remaining 20% of tasks tomorrow. 

Building innovation into the mining value chain. Facilitated by  Ian Dover, General Manager, METS Ignited

This discussion group broke their topic into three sections for further conversations. 

Analytics: Data silos are the biggest inhibitor for innovation throughout the value chain. A greater awareness of required analytics and data collection would assist in understanding the whole picture. To do this there needs to be a consistent language to ensure that no data is lost in translation.

Culture: Micro KPIs drive micro thinking. We need to look at changing the KPIs to ensure that the ability to fail and try new things is encouraged and not inhibited.  This will lead to end to end vision about projects across the whole value chain

Maturity of business case development: The group challenged suppliers to bring new options that can be integrated into existing solutions. Suppliers also need to look at more than the basic cost per tonne. 

Creating innovative business models and partnerships. Facilitated by Anthony Holzwart, Business Facilitator, Austmine

This group started off by looking at how business models are very different between miners and METS and how this has an impact on innovation. Cycles are one of the major differences: a miner can afford to look at a project over the course of the mine lifecycle, whereas cash flow is an essential aspect of an SME’s survival.  This could be mitigated through investment from the mining company, which could also negate any IP sharing issues. However, this issue isn’t unique to the mining industry and we should look at how other sectors, such as agriculture, manage this difference.

This group also discussed IP and had a heated debate about how any innovation collaborations can become bogged down due to IP. A more open-minded approach to IP is needed. However, IP does bring up the issue of risk. The group felt that in some ways the mining industry has a “whipped dog mentality” where it comes to risk. The constant reinforcement of the mindset that the mining industry doesn’t take risks may be leading to continuous inaction in this area. 

They finished with a simple comment – “We need agility thinking and innovation champions”

Creating strategies for people and culture to implement innovation. Facilitated by Joe Ippolito, Business Advisor, Austmine

The conversation started with a comment by a major mining company about how there is the tendency to adhere to the ‘one system’ which requires compliance, instead of encouraging active innovation. This opened the conversation to discuss the challenge for SME’s face in getting their innovative products/ services into established supply chain due to issues of risk/threats to status quo.
The group then went onto discuss how to implement innovation strategies and create the right culture. Some suggestions were:

Having an allotted time for innovation such as “Friday afternoon brainstorming hour”

  • Looking at ways to capture ideas and process improvements
  • Reviewing KPIs to ensure that any new implementations are focused on long term and not short term
  • Creating an allowance for when things fail, for with innovative ideas, not everything works the first time. 
  • Leadership is critical in innovation, but assigning champions can build awareness and can encourage passion in a team. 
  • Management needs to be able to ask for forgiveness not approval. However, this needs to be balanced to ensure there is commercial outcomes to be gained.
  • Look at changing the Buyer/ Seller relationship. METS companies need to be more flexible on how they deal with customers and be prepared to embrace innovative business models.

Workforce diversity leading innovation – Facilitated by Peita Duffy, Commercial Manager, Hastings Deering

This group discussed how diversity is not just about gender – but encompasses everything from race, age and culture. They discussed the lack of female representation in key management positions within our industry. However, they noted that there maybe also needs to be a change in culture at the broader society level as the perceptions of masculine only roles in the mining industry isn’t necessarily perpetuated by the industry itself but externally. 

The group talked about unconscious bias, why people are chosen for particular tasks and what are leaders doing to encourage diversity to combat this. Awareness levels of unconscious biased need to be addressed and discussed as much as safety and environmental issues – we need to start putting some money and time in to ensure that we don’t lose out due to a lack of thought sharing.  

Borrowing from different industries to create innovation in mining. Facilitated by Mark Read, Director, Austmine
Our industry can view data as inhibitor, as we don’t have consistently good visibility when looking at our data. However, there are many industries who have similar issues around data complexity and infrastructure, who manage their data better, such as agriculture or oil and gas. 

This group surmised that part of the problem is a mindset issue. It was agreed that there a is a cultural block in education across the industry; in other words, mining doesn’t learn from itself – both within an organisation and across the industry. 
This group once again discussed IP and how issues around ownership can be an inhibitor for working with other industries.  Finally, this group tried to determine if there is another industry that we could model ourselves on. The short answer was no. There are a number of industries that we should pull small pieces from to ensure that what we integrate is relevant. 

These conversations and themes will be continued at our next Mining Innovation Roadshow in Sydney, 16th March 2018. Early bird tickets are on sale now!



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