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For decades, companies have looked to Fluor, a global engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance company for innovative solutions.

When time-to-market is critical, clients depend on Fluor to deliver projects safely, on time and within budget.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is also driving a fundamental change in how we perform work and collaborate with each other.

This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2021
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This includes the availability of vast amounts of data, sometimes referred to as Big Data, as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI), which describes new tools that systematically extract, analyse and interpret information from data volumes that are too large to be dealt with by conventional software.

“This requires our company to focus and collaborate with our global team of expert engineers and designers who are at the core of new innovation,” says Trevor Anderson, Fluor Mining & Metals’ Sales Director.

Four drivers working in synergy have opened the door to how Big Data can improve outcomes of mining operations: digitalisation, the IoT (internet of things), standardisation of data, and AI tools to utilise such volumes of data to our benefit.

These allow us to collect, analyse, integrate and transfer data between systems more easily and provide the ability to efficiently extract meaning and conclusions from vast amounts of data.

According to Fluor Mining & Metals’ Innovation Lead Carey Hunker, the company’s innovation strategy is based on five pillars: Digital Mine, Digital Project, Project Efficiency, Capital Efficiency and Innovative Mineral Processing Technologies.

“The Digital Mine allows us to design projects to benefit our clients by ensuring that we maximize the value of Big Data within their operations.

“During project development, the Digital Project uses Big Data in the execution of our projects to maximise project outcomes,” says Hunker.

He adds that Fluor has an ever-growing suite of innovation tools and work processes that improve Project Efficiency, frequently by improving synergies and data transfer between the different stages of a project, for example engineering and construction.

During project execution, Fluor implements many tools with a specific focus on their ability to improve Capital Efficiency. Finally, an agnostic integrator, Fluor leads in the implementation of Innovative Mineral Processing Technologies.

The suite of tools used by Fluor has successfully been implemented on large, complex mining and metals projects across the world.

The benefits to clients remain constant: capital efficiency, schedule optimization, project certainty, and of course safety, which is always Fluor’s first priority.

Fluor’s Innovation Tools include:

EPC Project Health Diagnostics (EPHD) – a sophisticated AI platform developed between Fluor and IBM. Using the IBM Watson supercomputing system, EPHD helps projects identify dependencies and provide actionable insights by fusing thousands of data points across the entire life cycle of capital projects.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – which brings significant computational power to determining the optimal locations of site facilities and reducing capital costs by simultaneously considering the complex parameters of site access, gravity flows, exploration data, mineral resources, mine plant, topography and survey data.

OptiPlant – an artificial intelligence tool for plant layout optimisation that supports rapid comparison of options, resulting in a layout that maximises capital efficiency, while maximising constructability and operability.

The optimised layout results in reduced quantities of concrete, steel, piping and other bulk materials and thus lower project cost.

Direct transfer between 3D model and vehicles – Fluor is transitioning to a work process where operators of earthworks vehicles are guided by devices that use both the 3D model and live GPS coordinates.

This results in fewer drawings, a faster design, and analytical tools that can be used to optimise the movements of the vehicles, resulting in faster construction, and lower fuel consumption.

Fluor Site Connect – integrates a network of physical devices for field personnel to connect with project data in new ways.

Site Connect is a tablet that allows anyone in the field to instantly access all project data, and perform various functions without paperwork.

“Many of these tools have been used and proven on major projects executed by Fluor,” says Anderson.

“Not all innovation tools are applicable to every project; some are best used during the development phase, others during execution. To this end, Fluor has developed an instrument called Parametric Project Optimiser to create a simplified model of the project’s cost and schedule.

“This model is then used to test the potential benefit of each innovation tool to evaluate its potential and optimal value on a specific project to ensure the minimal schedule duration, capital efficiency and project certainty for our clients across Africa,” concludes Anderson.

Fluor has enjoyed success in the Mining & Metals and Energy & Chemicals markets in South Africa and continues to provide capital efficiency and project certainty.