How Intelligent is Your Mine?
Blog by: Wilhelm Swart – Chief Operational technology (OT) Officer – 4Sight
Mines: The Ultimate Testing Ground
Working as an executive in Operational Technologies allows me to interact daily with people who share my passions. And, given years of working in the mining sector, I have found that mining often presents itself as the ultimate testing ground for new technologies. The reason is that mines are hugely complex operations. Using the phrase “Pit-to-Port” to describe the scope of operations. In today’s environment, you would have to include the hundreds of technicians and engineers who are monitoring and controlling mining operations from thousands of kilometers away.
How Smart Can a Mine Really Be?
Smart Mines and Intelligent Mines are phrases that have been bandied about for years. But truly intelligent mining operations have only recently shown what they are capable of. The results show that the future of intelligent mining is bright. But that in turn raises a critical question. How would you go about assessing if a mine is indeed intelligent? My team and I have asked ourselves this question many times. And I propose the following three questions as a broad set of criteria against which you can measure your mining operation.
Data Gathering and Generating Information
An intelligent mining operation is capturing data from all parts, of all processes, and all facilities. In short, this means that you are measuring and monitoring everything that can provide useful input data. But that is only half the story. The other half of the story relates to the fact that most of us struggle to work with very large data sets. Therefore, the information gathered must then be exposed to intelligent systems that will turn your data into useful information.
Integrating Data: Pieces of the Puzzle
Data stored in a multitude of stand-alone systems won’t help you gain insight. The data needs to be integrated into one big picture. A picture that shows how processes influence each other. Once you have a holistic view, then you have the information you need for real insights. These insights are the nuggets of gold your executive team needs to make well-informed decisions.
Decision Support: From Adversary to Partner
An intelligent mine will also actively build and encourage decision support systems. The quality of your decisions depends on the quality of information generated which is determined by the quality of your data. Your teams need to understand that AI Systems and Machine Learning are not there to replace them. They must realise that these systems are their partners, enabling them to make better decisions and ultimately perform better at their jobs.
Predictive Maintenance: The Hallmark of Intelligence
Predictive maintenance is one of the hallmarks of a smart mine. It’s like looking into the future and fixing a problem before it happens. Most executives today have realised that predictive maintenance is a key area where intelligent systems can yield fast results. For most process owners, the ultimate objective will always be to eliminate all unplanned downtime. To alleviate the pressure of unplanned downtime, many operations invest in redundancy by having unused equipment standing around. “Just in case” equipment can become very expensive and cause businesses to suffer. Predictive maintenance can help mining operations to reduce their need for redundant equipment by increasing the availability of current machinery. Predictive maintenance is not there to eliminate maintenance jobs, but rather to allow maintenance and repair teams to prioritize tasks. Ultimately allowing them to achieve KPI’s.
Smart mines also need smart executives. I have found that the most successful executives not only drive digital solutions, but also pay attention to change management. They do this by addressing fears over job security. People are justifiably concerned that their jobs will be replaced by AI. Industry insiders understand that the ultimate goal of AI is not to replace people but to allow people to do their jobs better. Smart Enough? At 4 Sight Operational Technologies Division, we specialise in helping you make optimise your operations through intelligent technologies. Call us today and let us help you make your mine even smarter!