The use of virtual reality is quite prevalent in various industries, including mining. However, Accenture have taken it a step further with its new Extended Reality (XR) digital operational management system.

Technology MD MOLEBOGENG LEKALA outlines this trailblazing system to GERARD PETER.

In a nutshell, Accenture Smart Operations System integrates best-of-breed technology with components of XR, including augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 1, 2020

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It creates a unique user experience and ‘ends distance’ by providing an end-to-end overview of the business and all its units and mines that are widespread across remote locations, via an interactive 3D visualisation dashboard.

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More importantly, it enables hands-on monitoring and management of the entire business’ network capability and operations from one central point, in close to real time, which in turn promises substantial improvements in business processes and ultimately, a notable positive impact on the bottom line.

Key benefits

“The four key business benefits that are realised through this intelligent platform are real-time monitoring, performance optimisation, a ‘smart workforce’ and immersive training. Real-time monitoring is enabled by leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) devices which in turn yields a range of business results,” explains Lekala. “

This, for example, includes instant notifications and detection of faulty network components that enable swift corrective action to decrease downtime, as well as the typical substantial production and final losses as a result thereof.

In addition, it enables proactive change management to facilitate ongoing predictive maintenance management which will reduce future unscheduled downtime and enable the business to sweat its assets.”

The second key building block of the system, namely ‘performance optimisation,’ accelerates performance significantly, through human-centric product visualisations and demonstrations.

This focuses on elements such as throughput uplift that increases tonnages, operational cost reductions, and time-to-value which improves productivity across the entire value chain.

Lekala continues: “The ‘smart workforce’ component of the system leverages elements of extended reality to empower the workforce to utilise innovative technologies to resolve day-to-day issues that are experienced on the ground, such as troubleshooting, fault location and maintenance. In addition, it enables management to gain a clear view of the productivity of the workforce.”

For example, augmented reality can support a technician when looking at any piece of equipment, such as a server, through wearable headsets or mobile devices, and immediately detect issues through easy-to-interpret graphically displayed data.

In addition, the new system Accenture from uses live video feeds which enables the IT expert to supervise and guide the onsite technician throughout the process, verify and check that it is installed correctly, and immediately close the job card upon completion.

“The insights gained from the ‘Smart Workforce’ component, is compounded through the fourth building block of the solution, namely ‘immersive training,’ which enables knowledge capturing and sharing to reduce future errors and defects in processes,” says Lekala.

“Studies show that the extended reality elements of the training system are also proven to increase knowledge retention by 75%, as compared to the market average of anywhere between 5 and 10%.

This is especially important in high risk areas where ongoing safety training is a critical concern. Another benefit that is derived from this online training platform is that it reduces downtime and travel costs for staff to attend training at remote locations.”

Right through from decreasing waste of time and resources, increasing productivity and optimising business processes to maximising profits, this system is poised to not only yield a multitude of tangible and non-tangible business results, but also break new ground in the mining arena.

Proof-of-concept for this solution, which is also completely scalable for future growth and expansion, has been completed and piloting is about to commence, after which implementation will be rolled out through a phased approach.

Accenture has a unique first-of-its-kind inhouse innovation centre that is purposefully dedicated to the ultra-rapid development of applications to future-proof companies for the continuously changing business landscape, through the latest and most progressive new technologies, skills and methods of working.

“This particular solution has been developed in a record period of three weeks, enabling almost unheard of go-to-market speed. This has furthermore enabled the mine to not only disrupt the industry, but to also ignite ecosystem competition,” concludes Lekala.