Monday, 13 July 2020
Australian METS: Rising to the COVID-19 Challenge
Austmine Limited
/ Categories: Articles & Editorials

Australian METS: Rising to the COVID-19 Challenge

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to affect businesses and industries around the globe.

Although COVID-19 rose quickly on a global scale, the Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector has been able to rapidly adapt to the impact and associated challenges.

Whilst the sector is by no means immune, the prevailing innovation focus and entrepreneurial spirit of the METS sector uniquely positioned companies to adapt their offerings to quickly changing client needs.

Austmine, the leading industry body for the Australian METS sector, explores these factors and more with industry thought leaders George McCullough, Director – Strategy, Interlate; John Pala, Managing Director, Palaris; and Scott Dumaresq, Queensland State Manager, Sentient.

Helping in a Time of Need

The combination of collaboration with entrepreneurial spirit has greatly assisted the METS sector in this time.

John Pala said, “The METS sector has a history of being agile, nimble footed and resilient.”

“Companies come together and work collaboratively for a better outcome for the industry.”

In addition to collaborative efforts, companies are also sharing knowledge and resources.

Interlate has made their centre accessible to industry contacts in need.

George McCullough said, “Interlate has been able to offer a place to mining companies for any stranded employees who were no longer able to travel.”

“Our centre is amenable to providing safe work zones during this pandemic as it has multiple isolated zones, hyper connectivity and regular hospital grade cleaning.”

Digital Connection

Worldwide companies are shifting to new working from home demands in compliance with government health and safety restrictions.

With this shift, there has been an increased need to connect digitally. 

John noted the rapid establishment of online forums for the sector and attributes this to the sector’s agility.

Austmine has increased their digital offerings and launched regular weekly meet-ups in order to help their members be aware of the latest industry developments and opportunities.

Technologically Savvy

With travel restrictions, one of the major challenges for companies has been around remote accessibility.

Many METS companies were already operating in the space, whereas other industries needed to transition.

George said, “Much of the METS sector is technologically savvy, making remote working seamless and easier for the sector.”

The mining industry has been undergoing a digital transformation prior to the pandemic, where miners have been turning to the METS sector for emerging technologies and solutions as a way of increasing efficiency and safety.

As such Australian METS companies are adept at operating and assisting with the Internet of Things, automation, remote access and other digital transformation areas.

Scott Dumaresq said, “Sentient has been working with 3D visualisation for some time.

“Mining companies have been seeking these solutions, and there has been an increase in interest around remote applications.”

“Our interest in remote operation has increased in the current environment and we will continue with this through to the other end.”

George, “At Interlate, we have a technology backbone. Interlate has seen a stronger pull on our services, as technical experts are no longer allowed to travel to sites.”

“Our business is a remote operation business, which means we’ve been able to help people move into that mode.”

METS leaders note that a positive consequence from COVID-19 travel and site restrictions has been a greater appetite for investment in technology and a quicker transition into the digital age.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

In addition to collaboration and existing digital skill sets, the speed of adaptation within the Australian METS sector stems from the entrepreneurial spirit for which it is world-renowned.

Flexibility, innovation and the ability to create a rapid response are entrepreneurial skills which transfer well to reacting to the current pandemic.

John said, “Palaris operates in some remote places internationally, where there aren’t always the greatest telecommunications.”

These communication restrictions required an ingenious yet simple solution.

John explained, “We’re currently utilising work hats and cameras on site, allowing our offices in Sydney, Brisbane or London to assess remotely and send through reports to banks and financial institutions.”

Sentient worked with National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) to create a COVID-19 game for children, ‘Social Distance Dash!’.

Scott said, “Using gamification is a fun way to make health and safety guidelines accessible to children.”

“But, gamification helps adults learn too.”

Sentient already assist companies with VR training, online inductions and other e-learning tools.

As e-learning isn’t location specific, it’s a great way to ensure your employees feel valued and connected during this period.

Scott, “Looking after your people at this time is of the utmost importance. I’ve seen companies making use of down time by implementing e-learning.”

“The more information and resources companies have available online means their employees are staying engaged and focused.”

Moving Forward

New challenges will arise as COVID-19 progresses, but this isn’t a daunting prospect.

George said, “There is a feeling of optimism, which stems from the importance of the mining industry in Australia.”

“There is a bit more assurance being connected to an essential industry.”

“We’ve been lucky in our ability to continue to deliver good service."

The Australian mining industry remains fundamental to the economic stability of our nation and the quality of life of millions of people around the world.

The METS sector will continue to rise to the challenges our future may hold, and provide the innovations, ideas and unique solutions to ensure that mining remains strong and sustainable.

For more information about Austmine and the capabilities of our member organisations, contact membership@austmine.com.au.

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