Improving productivity and efficiency

Digitalisation is NOT the only effective option

The digitalisation/automation era has eventually taken hold of the mining sector – it seems to be one of the most prevalent topics being discussed at the moment.

Does it offer everything it promises? Improvements in productivity? Improvements in operational efficiency? Reduced downtime? The simple answer is yes, although there is some complexity to digitalising an operation and understanding the information provided in order to make more informed decisions.

Read  Issue 11 here or subscribe to receive a print copy here

So, while I’m all for embracing this new digital age, I believe there are faster, simpler and equally as effective routes to consider in enhancing the performance of your operation, and here they are…

Stay abreast of new technologies and build closer relationships with your OEM partners in order to understand what is best suited to your needs. This became abundantly evident to me when I was writing the content for our screening and sorting technologies feature.

Having spoken to three top OEMs in this field, I was amazed to discover not only that they have launched new screen panels designed to deliver on all my above mentioned criteria, but also that mining companies need to pay greater attention to selecting equipment or doing test work before placing an order.

“Generally speaking, the mining industry is conservative and is comfortable making decisions based on years of standard practice. But following the ‘norm’ doesn’t work in an industry where the guidelines for success have changed. What worked in the past won’t necessarily work today and in many instances will definitely not produce the desired outcome,” Kwatani COO Kenny Mayhew-Ridgers told me recently.

Onsite at Mogalakwena mine with
Concor’s Zwartfontein contracts manager Donald Sisya

The starting point in making the best decision should be premised on the question: What does my plant need? It should not be about pushing particular technologies. This does, however, require that decision makers need to be well-informed, which means decisions should not be made without access to the correct information.

While Mayhew-Ridgers was referring specifically to screening applications, the same principals apply to any equipment applications.

He put it so succinctly when he said: “It is time for mining houses to consider every option to improve their processes and production performance and review their approaches to selecting the correct machine for the application… and not rely on outdated information that was determined more than 40 years ago in a time when the design technology available to do so was not nearly as advanced or able to offer varying options.”

So while digital technologies should be on your radar now, they are costly to implement and should be built into your costs over a longer period. In the interim, taking the smart approach to available technologies and new equipment, you can start achieving results so much faster.

For more about the latest digital technology offerings in the mining industry, read our October 2019 edition.