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Leveraging the industrial internet for mining



POWERFUL TOOLS FOR OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Optimization and innovation in mining businesses are continuous, but are challenging when external factors such as low and variable commodity prices play a role. This is because production must scale up and down with demand. This challenge is further compounded because many commodities have reached a point of decreasing grades globally, which increases operating costs. With fewer high grade deposits available to help weather more fickle pricing and demand, mining costs have to be reduced to increase profit margins, or avoid losses.


As per Ernst & Young Productivity in Mining: now comes the hard part – A global survey, many productivity initiatives to date have focused on cost cutting, which have led to some modest, short-term results, but survey participants acknowledged that what needs to be done now is more complex. There is a need to ensure that each part of the business is optimized, not on its own, but as part of a business system.


Mining is not a single process but a sequence of processes managed across the supply chain, from geology studies to commodity shipment. The various processes of mining have their own autonomy, but also have influence on each other as they are part of a chain of tasks. Even if each process runs perfectly, it usually runs in a silo, without its operators knowing how well the overall chain of processes is performing. The existing methods of creating a holistic view of a mining operation usually result in a view of what happened too far in the past to be of real value in the present. As an example, blasting at a mine site may continue to occur even after a new survey has concluded that what was thought to be a high grade area is not.


BUSINESS PLATFORM AND INDUSTRY 4.0

Ultimately, the root of the silo problem is that Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT)systems do not provide the data required by the decision makers. To help solve this, an enabling platform must be employed that collects data from across the operation, delivering it where and when it is needed, in the right context for different mining roles.


By bridging the gap between IT and OT, and drawing on the Industrial Internet (IIoT), the Business Platformenhances the interaction between the different processes of a mining production, and can possibly provide management with higher confidence in operational performance as critical decisions are made using near real-time data. To clarify:


  • Information Technology (IT): the application of computers to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data.

  • Operational Technology (OT):hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events.

  • Industrial Internet of Things Technologies (IIoT): automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies.


Industrial Internet technologies have already provided benefits in the manufacturing industry, applied through “Industry 4.0”. The World Economic Forum’s report entitled Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services states, “With the Industrial Internet, manufacturers are already using new software capabilities to improve operational efficiency through predictive maintenance, and achieving results, such as savings on scheduled repairs (12%), reduced maintenance costs (nearly 30%) and fewer than 14 Industrial Internet of Things breakdowns (almost 70%).”


The foundation of Industry 4.0 comes from the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT connects devices and equipment to an internet, allowing interaction with them to occur in new ways. Today, in mining, this may be automation of a truck or a shovel. Tomorrow, it may lead to the development of a virtual clone of a mining operation that sends automatic updates of schedules and tasks based on production progress.


Note, the first phase of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the breaking down of silos between processes. This occurs before the automation of equipment, tapping into key operational data from sensors and other sources.


BUSINESS PLATFORMS ENABLE OPERATIONAL STABILITY


The availability of near real-time operational data from every process helps facilitate operational stability. This removes silos between processes, improving the understanding of the impact each one has on the other and also improving the detection of problems.


The overall visibility provided by a Business Platform enables reconciliation and reporting through all areas of mining. When a process shows variation, a second benefit is that the mine manager will also be able to more rapidly adapt the other processes. Thus, the cascading effects of an issue are avoided.


A Business Platform for mining can be used to connect data from geological models, mine schedules, activities and equipment to form a clear picture of how well the mine is functioning. The key objective it can support is keeping production on track against plan by accounting for forecasts, actuals and variance.


BUSINESS PLATFORMS ALLOW FOR RAPID RESPONSE TO CHANGES

The causes of an error responsible for a discrepancy can come from so many parameters and mining processes that a deep study is required to make even less-than-timely changes. It would be better, therefore, to “proactively reconcile” through short intervals, and to run “root cause identification”. This will enable more rapid solving of unknown reasons for performance decreases of complex processes of a mine and plant.


Business Platforms deliver a powerful yet easy way of collecting project and task information into one online “big picture” of work, thanks to easy-to-read dashboards, so the staff does not drown in information overload. They also allow for investigations by enabling users to dig down to any level of data granularity from a KPI. A business dashboard should be completely configurable to the needs of each one of its users.


A Business Platform can be used to drive continuous improvement programs, such as Six Sigma, which is a data-driven approach that eliminates defects in a process. It focuses on defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and the control of processes.


CONCLUSION

A Business Platform that draws upon the Industrial Internet connects two worlds that do not traditionally talk to one another enough: Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). By doing so, it allows for rapid response to problems and a holistic understanding of how well an operation is performing. With near real-time data, deep analytics and simplicity, Business Platforms not only provide their users with an accurate picture of how well processes and the site is performing, but also the knowledge to fundamentally improve them.


To know more about the driving your business transformation with a Business Platform, please contact Paramina Earth Technologies, Inc. via paramina_solutions@paramina.com.

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