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Taking digital transformation to the next level

Embracing digital technology in the mining sector is no longer a luxury but a compulsory requisite which guarantees enhanced operational performance and strategic decision making.

Deloitte has taken the concept of digital transformation in the industry one step further having recently introduced its Intelligent Mining Solution – which ‘intelligently’ collates digital data from across every spectrum of the business and then presents a visual interpretation of that information which identifies key issues and mitigates risks in real time, says Deloitte human capital consultant Joanne Doyle-Went.

AUTHOR: Editor of Mining Review Africa, Laura Cornish

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 7, 2018

Developed in South Africa, Deloitte’s Intelligent Mining Solution was created out of the necessity to help its clients overcome challenges associated with digital transformation, which for many companies is not realising its full potential owing to a lack of understanding and ability to properly incorporate digitalisation into their business.

“Our solution is based on two key principles,” Doyle-Went outlines:

  1. There are a lot of challenges and key pain points across the mining value chain that can be addressed through a combination of emerging technologies; and
  2. The industry is embracing digital transformation and the requirement to introduce new technologies to realise the required step change in performance but many have legacy technology solutions embedded into the business that they are unable to address.

“The concepts of block chain, the internet of things (IoT) and data availability are great digital business tools but the challenge, until now, has been looking at how to build in/incorporate a layer that allows companies to pull information from their existing legacy systems, introduce new technologies and pull this all together into a digital core which enables organisations to address legacy business challenges.”

This in essence is what the Deloitte Intelligent Mining Solution delivers.

“Our intention is not to discard existing legacy systems but embed new digital technologies into your existing business to drive data interpretation and gain insights which ultimately drives performance.

“Intelligent mining is at its core, the ability to gather, process and utilise information in a way that creates a competitive advantage,” Doyle-Went continues.

The core of the solution lies in collating data points from numerous systems into one “layer” and disseminating the relevant information to the right individual at the right time.

This enables individuals to make informed decisions about adapting the business to cater to circumstantial situations that may alter yearly, monthly, daily or even hourly performance.

Impressively, Deloitte was able to build the system’s digital core in about four months – it was officially launched at the global PDAC conference and exhibition in Toronto, Canada this year and was showcased to the local market shortly afterwards.

“Putting such an intricate system together so quickly played to Deloitte’s strengths thanks to our deep industry knowledge and close relationships with our clients and understanding of their challenges.”

Doyle-Went outlines some of the key aspects of the Deloitte Intelligent Mining Solution:

Integrated digital planning

This solution creates value by obtaining a better understanding of the ore body, and provides more complete, timely and integrated information to improve budget forecasting for optimal resource management.

Market data, procurement, maintenance and workforce planning are integrated with mining and financial plans to provide optimal holistic forecasts.

Short interval control

This component of the system looks at taking control of the business through decision-making in short intervals and using a proactive approach rather than being reactive.

The intelligence built into the solution highlights performance deviations which enables an exception based way of work.

“If you can link absenteeism trends and labour non-compliance to production forecasts and budgets, you are then able to make predictive changes and reorganise the business plan for a particular shaft for example.

“Analysing this data would enable a client to make an informed decision to compensate for challenges around their workforce numbers – such as: should I bring more mine workers on board, or reduce my production quota to meet my labour’s collective capabilities or perhaps divide my labour into strategic areas?

Workforce engagement

This system tool provides real-time performance metrics for each individual employee – from operators to general managers and truly examines the users’ daily journey.

Doyle-Went points out that general performance indicators in the mining sector is typically a negative process and workforce engagement seeks to change this.

Employees can monitor their own performance as well while managers are able to more effectively communicate on their key performance indicators.

“This improves compliance understanding and with the incorporation of a daily incentive which workers have immediate access to, can encourage them to achieve their targets.”

It further extends to drawing up comparisons between teams with further incentives on offer at this level.

“Our system can connect with all employees, regardless of their personal devices in a real time environment.”

Predictive maintenance

This is typically considered an important element of any mining business today and is known if implemented effectively, to save downtime hours and unnecessary cash spend.

“This solution combines a series of IoT devices on key mining equipment – sending real-time operational metrics such as temperature, vibration, load factors, oil analysis and more to predictive monitoring algorithms, flagging imminent failures, for a manage-by- exception way of work.

“Automatic workflows trigger work orders and purchase orders where specific parts are required for the repair,” Doyle-Went outlines.

As additional value add, Deloitte can incorporate augmented reality technology that can visually overlay repair instructions on key equipment to improve service and maintenance quality which provides significant benefits to the mine – from basic training and up-skilling to reducing equipment downtime and the storage of unnecessary spare parts.

Smart devices

The last element of the intelligent solution Doyle-Went discusses is the smart helmet – which through the addition of a small, lightweight device attached to the helmet can detect ambient conditions like temperature and humidity, harmless gases and can track worker location through GPS or RFID in the event of emergencies.

“Again, this information is fed to our data hub in real-time and is providing critical information that can save lives.”

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 7, 2018