Sunday, 8 December 2019
Top 5 Digital Innovation Topics Mining Industry Leaders Are Talking About
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Top 5 Digital Innovation Topics Mining Industry Leaders Are Talking About

This was originally published online by Jennifer Scholze, Purpose Lead for Industries, SAP.

SAP recently spent a week in Perth, Australia with 35 technology and business leaders at the SAP Industry Advisory Council for Mining. Before I share some highlights – first a few points about Perth – a fabulous city!

5 Fun Facts About Perth

  1. Perth is consistently ranked one of the most livable cities in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit for its high living standards, safe environment and prosperous economy.

  2. Perth is also known as the ‘City of Light’. The naming is the result of the fact that when astronaut John Glenn orbited above back in 1962, he could identify Perth because everyone turned on all their lights, making Perth highly visible.

  3. Perth has the largest inner-city park in the world, Kings Park and Botanical Garden is even bigger than New York’s Central Park.

  4. It’s the only place in the world you can find quokkas – and join the growing list of lucky people that get to meet them (me included)!

  5. The 2 million people that live in Perth – and anyone that lives in Australia – are the funniest people in the entire world. Source:  my own experience.

Ok so what did we all do in Perth?  Industry, business and technology leaders from SAP, mining companies and industry partners spend three days talking about a wide range of topics relevant to the future of mining including how to support the industry to mine responsibly and sustainably.  

The first day was at the SAP offices in Perth and day 2 and 3 were hosted at Curtin University, ranked 2nd in the world for Mineral and Mining Engineering.

2019 SAP Industry Advisory Council for Mining. Perth, Australia. Photo credit: SAP

2019 SAP Industry Advisory Council for Mining. Perth, Australia. Photo credit: SAP

The 3 days contained an amazing level of discussion – below we captured highlights of 5 of the most interesting topics discussed.

ESG, Shared Value and Sustainability are on everyone’s minds

The broad topic of shared value and sustainability was a top focus area for all companies including how to address growing expectations from customers, investors, employees, communities and society. What is shared value? According to the Harvard Business Review, “Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or sustainability, but a new way for companies to achieve economic success. Shared value is a management strategy in which companies find business opportunities in social problems and focus on maximizing the competitive value of solving social problems.” The advisory council talked passionately about how we as an industry can apply technology and agreed on a first use case to support a wide range of topics including:

  • Community engagement and collaboration

  • Cultural heritage

  • Localization

  • Electrification

  • Basic health and mental health

  • Education and opportunity for workers and indigenous communities

  • Income generation beyond mining

Safety and Operational Excellence remain critically important

Safety of course was a top concern and area of focus– especially how the use of technology and innovation can help improve safety of all mining operations.

Topics include efficient production and logistics that contribute to lower emissions and energy use and reuse of materials that is part of the “circular economy” and a closed-loop of material circulation. One large miner talked about reducing incidents significantly by scheduling more training directly after vacations. Research and analysis found that a higher percentage of workers forgot safety procedures and steps after extended vacations and a simple process of refreshing the training brought down incidents. Most of the companies are actively working with technologies such as drones, machine learning, sensors and remote assistance wearables in the areas of autonomous vehicles, collision avoidance, remote control and such as smart glasses and helmets that track worker health.

The Circular Economy will change the future of mining

The Circular Economy was noted as one of the key macro topics driving change in the mining industry. What is the Circular Economy? Clearly, the traditional model of “take, make, use, dispose” is no longer valid for the health of planet Earth, and we are at a historic tipping point where the only clear solution is to move toward a zero-waste value network. According to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which works with organizations to build a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design, a circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Today 40% of steel produced is made from scrap metal and 41 mobile phones yields as much gold as 1 ton of ore. Currently, our world is less than 10% circular, according to the Circularity Gap report. This means that 90% of what we produce is going to dumps and oceans – a lot of wasted potential value. The mining council sees this as both a big area of risk and a huge area of opportunity to embrace this circular future and use technology to facilitate business in areas like scrap management, traceability, recycling and tracking environmental and social flows.

How to make use of all that data, and where to get a data scientist!

We spent a lot of time talking about how to more effectively use all the data mining companies are capturing from the mines, assets, environment and supply chain. The processing speed and analytics tools are greatly improved, there are still many challenges to making this data actionable including bad data – and even how to determine if your data is bad. And importantly, every company lamented about how difficult it is currently to find and keep data scientists! I have to admit I had that conversation with my 18-year-old college freshman who is in the middle of trying to decide what career path to jump on!

One mining company talked about their aspirations to use big data in the area of improving plant efficiency. They are working to improve their decision including getting the right data models and algorithms and putting an appliance on site to analyze their current production and advise the metallurgical specialists in ways to improve productivity. Their dream is to figure out a digital signature of the optimal point of how a plant runs.  And if or when that point changes, the experts would be alerted to on what to change to get back to the optimal point.

Spare part visibility and availability for maintenance planning

Another top area of focus is spare parts availability. Mining companies are eager to find digital answers to help increase their asset utilization.  They want to address short term demand impulses, supply fluctuations and changes to customer orders. Spare parts visibility and availability continue to be a pain point for mining companies.

Intelligent machines and Digital Twins are increasingly being considered to help order material for re-stock or spare parts for maintenance automatically. A digital twin establishes a direct connection between the physical product or asset and its designed, manufactured, and deployed digital representation. This relationship can be used to intelligently assess design integrity, operational characteristics, and maintenance projections for each uniquely defined product or asset. Visibility at this level can lead to improved and accelerated product design, more effective maintenance operations.

Other key use cases our mining council members discussed included:

  • Predicting parts demands

  • Master data management/stock management – 1 vote

  • Stock visualization

  • Shortage of inventory level

  • Maintenance planning and scheduling

  • Mobility in warehouse

  • Centralized warehouse

To learn more about how technology is supporting and helping drive change in the the mining industry, read:

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