Wednesday, 5 August 2020
Austmine Live Webinar Review – Innovation vs. Reinvention
Austmine Limited

Austmine Live Webinar Review – Innovation vs. Reinvention

Last Wednesday, Austmine hosted our quarterly innovation and collaboration webinar, bringing together the brightest minds from leading Australian METS to discuss the topic of ‘Innovation vs. Reinvention.’ This webinar sought to unpack what is needed from innovation and how we can better harness ideas to ensure that the mining and METS sector remains competitive and sustainable into the future. Our expert panel gave their perspectives on how the industry can create, commercialise and implement performance improving processes and products from the abundance of ideas that Australian METS possess, and whether these will come from game-changing big new innovations, re-inventing existing equipment or simply utilising existing technologies more efficiently.

The panel of Australian METS consisted of:

  • Pieter Prinsloo, Automation Manager, Sandvik
  • Kwan Lee, Business Development Manager, Sandvik
  • Shane O'Sullivan, Principal - Operations Excellence and Robotic Process Automation Lead, PwC

The first topic up for discussion was that of defining the concept of innovation, which was distinguished from that of invention. Our panellists agree innovation incorporates all aspects of the business model, such as marketing and organisational structure, rather than just development of a new product. Christian Larsen used ‘Doblin’s Ten Types of Innovation Model’ to frame innovation, recognising that it can arise in the internal workings of an organisation, product or service features and communications to customers. The example of Uber was used, as the service wasn’t anything new, but its profit model and customer experience was vastly different, creating an innovation.

There was a general consensus that innovation does not have to be inherently large, as small incremental improvements or enhanced utilisation are also important in improving performance. Shane O’Sullivan presented the idea of coordinating incremental innovation, connected innovation and disruptive innovation to provide the optimum innovation environment. He went on to note that these could be “categorised by rapid uptake of new processes, an embracement of change and a flow of ideas from every organisational level”. Including connected innovation in the process is of utmost importance, as it ensures that disruptive innovations are commercially viable and central to the businesses core functions.

The discussion then moved to the need for mining and METS to form industry clusters, with the geographical distance between mines and cities making a central conglomeration of companies a difficult prospect. Christian was very passionate about the need to establish industry clusters, such as Silicon Valley in the USA, to encourage rapid information share and collaboration between suppliers, competitors and buyers. Andrew Rau addressed this from a university perspective, highlighting the importance of research institutes to be core elements in this industry network as their knowledge can be harnessed to improve product development, and in turn, they can better understand the commercialisation and performance objectives of their business partners.  

Kwan and Pieter discussed the relationship between METS and miners in supporting each other in the utilisation of existing equipment, technology and processes. Kwan stated that METS must ”deliver on the intended design and specification and make a simple robust solution to satisfy the customer’s needs”. However, he noted that the onus should be on miners to "stretch the capabilities of the product or solution and help to define the product development roadmap”. Two-way communication between miners and METS has been less than ideal historically and changing this will be instrumental in the sustainability of the sector.

Conversation also centred around specific programs and initiatives aimed at improving the innovativeness of the sector. Paul Beesley was optimistic about the direction of the industry, advocating schemes such as “centres of excellence, hack-a-thons, government sponsored cooperative research centres and open forums” that have been increasingly undertaken in recent years.

Paul then turned his attention to what companies can do internally to foster innovation, citing RPM’s strategy of “giving staff time outside of normal development activities to pursue ideas and see where they may have application”. Peter Seligman also focused on internal activities, stating that “whilst a CEO’s intention may be to support innovation, people making decisions at mines are not measured on innovation.” This creates an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it attitude” that must be addressed by internalising the incentive to innovate through making it a performance measurement.

The topic of innovation is very broad and was difficult to capture in the allotted time of the webinar. However, the panel provided important insights into internalising and commercialising innovation and gave a unified response to the webinar theme of ‘innovation vs. reinvention’ by espousing the benefits of a coordinated approach to business that includes both of these concepts as central elements.  

Austmine is pursuing innovation through a range of means, including our Austmine 2017 International Conference and Exhibition, which has the theme of ‘Mining’s Innovation Imperative.’ Austmine are also set to launch the second round of the Innovation Mentoring Program that couples experienced industry leaders with the next generators of innovators. The first round was highly successful, with both mentors and mentees gaining valuable knowledge from the program. If you would like to register your interest for the program, please contact Megan Edwards.


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