Disruptive Technologies,
Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation

How can they all work for Mining Companies? 

We all know that technology can play an important part in the success of a company, and sometimes all those buzz words and latest trends cloud our understanding of thetechnology roadmap.

So, in mining how can some of these technology advances really drive more business value for companies in our industry – whether in exploration, start-up or a well-advanced mining operator or contractor?

And explained in simple terms!

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Mining Truck
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The challenge we now face

Just as we are coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transformation we have all gone through globally in our working culture and business models, the next
challenge is already upon us with rising costs and inflationary pressures.

We are entering a new era – not only in terms of how technology can change the way business is done, but in the demands that operating environments will place on mining organizations. According to a recent study from Ernst and Young, new and increasing stressors for the industry include:

simpler user experience
user interruption
On the path to evergreen
simpler integration

Higher costs as labour, material and fuel are affected by cyclical inflationary trends, plus net new costs for technology and license to operate.

Cyclical hiring and layoffs have caused some skilled workers to leave the industry entirely, placing a premium on workforce availability in an increasingly competitive hiring market.

To quickly scale based on demand, mines are adding leased equipment to their owned fleet presenting demanding asset management challenges across a complex landscape.

ESG (environmental, social & governance) has come to fruition through investors and stakeholders alike demanding a shift in attention from the bottom line of financial statements to the broader and more ethical inclusions of culture, environment, and management of mining organisations.

To tackle these latest challenges, the determining factor will be how you can drive digital transformation in your business through established technologies like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise asset management (EAM) via the inclusion of disruptive technologies ranging from IoT to AI to AR and powerful new OI tools, through to the latest Industry 4.0 initiatives.

Disruptive Technologies in Mining
How can it help?

In a recent study completed by Vanson Bourse, 70% of mining executives said
IoT would give them a “significant edge against their competitors” and a further
41% of respondents said, “they would use IoT to automate business processes” and
concluded by saying that 44% would “identify cost savings and efficiency
opportunities through IoT.”

Autonomous mining vehicles are already upon us, so why haven’t we fully adopted
IoT? Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most important technologies of the 21st
century and networks physical objects (or things) embedded with sensors,
software and technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging
data over the internet. Furthermore, thelatest Industry 4.0 initiatives being used
in smart manufacturing can also be used in mining.

Industrial IoT is one of those, and in our business, we are seeing clients gain
massive advantages using the latest EAM software with connected assets driving
preventive and predictive maintenance. Some clients are seeing major cost
recovery in spare parts just by using IoT to assist in the semi automation of
maintenance inspections and being able to flag when a particular part in a routine
maintenance will be required onsite at the mine.


Improving safety
Predictive Maintenance
Energy and cost benefits

As we know, failure is a bottleneck to production that could impact operations for days. Having your conveyors, crushers and screens as the #1 priority for IoT sensoring brings you capacity assurance.

By considering another disruptive technology such as AI (artificial intelligence), we will see in time AI affecting every area of a business. Right now, the leading enterprise software vendors are using AI algorithms to address maintenance inventory. This allows mining operations to automate reorder points based not on past performance, but on forward-looking predictive business analytics.

One software vendor that InfoConsulting has partnered with over many years is IFS, and in their Gartner ® leading ERP and EAM solution called IFS Cloud. Maintenance and service crews for more than a decade have benefitted from advanced AI scheduling capabilities of the Planning & Scheduling Optimization (PSO) which can automate maintenance and work schedules in real time based on configurable business criteria.

PSO is built around a Dynamic Scheduling Engine (DSE). The DSE seeks to find the best solution by automatically adapting to specific problems. Usually, it chooses a combination of between two and six AI algorithms from a possible 35, since combinations generally work better than a single algorithm alone.

As a result of the DSE, IFS customers have seen their maintenance operations reliably meet service level agreements (SLAs) and increase the availability of assets by 20 percent, which also enabled them to complete more work without hiring additional staff.

Why the need for Industry 4.0/Mining 4.0?

As previously explained those disruptive technologies such as IoT, AI and also data analytics forms the basis to an Industry 4.0 evolution – one now being called Mining 4.0.

3-5X cost for urgent repairs and corrective work requests
Vs planned maintenance

30-50% of mining operations costs are spent on
maintaining plant, fleet and equipment

Industry 4.0/Mining 4.0 and proactive maintenance benefits have the potential to transform your mining operations, and the first step needs to begin with condition monitoring.

In addition to managing and minimising the impact of failures, mitigating downtime and reducing maintenance costs, condition monitoring systems also help to increase worker safety, reduce energy consumption and meet environmental requirements.

Consider this recent example we captured via a business value assessment exercise. Proactive maintenance enabled a 14% reduction in maintenance spend for a small mining operator – simply by mitigating unplanned downtime and delivering AUD $14Million savings in operating expense.

Company Goal:

To reduce unplanned downtime in operations of one small processing plant.

The Solution:

Introduce a condition monitoring solution on

The Process:

  1. Condition monitoring insights to provide operational alerts of potential failure, using equipment IoT connectors.
  2. Proactively scheduling resolution activities during planne d maintenance, limited outage periods on normal equipment rotations.
  3. Capture asset availability & reliability increases, end result production interruptions are minimised, and maintenance costs are reduced.

The End Result:

14% reduction in maintenance spend generating AUD$14Mill in OpE savings.

People, Productivity and Possibilities
– Digitalising the Workforce

Used correctly, digitisation can indeed create attractive jobs in the mining industry.

Unfortunately, the current workforce is aging, and many companies are finding recruiting young and talented people to work within mining challenging.

To address these issues, it is important to analyse the development from a worker’s perspective.

  • What skills are needed in the 4.0 Mining of tomorrow?
  • What will happen to the current workers?
  • Risks including privacy, stress, and work-life balance.
  • Safety vs. constant supervision.

Attractive workplaces need to attract the young people that can easily adopt mining 4.0, a workforce that can leverage and thrive in a future high-tech environment.

Using enterprise software applications that are simple to use and embrace are key to the digitisation drive.

Everyone carries a smart phone – why not in a mining environment? Instant capturing of health and safety data, observations, time recordings and ESG data creates a workforce enabled to drive change in your business. Just make sure your mobile technology architecture supports offline capability – this should be mandatory in this day and age.

Where to from here?

Whilst these new innovations and technology hold great potential for the industry, mining companies must go beyond a short-term focus of just reducing maintenance costs through implementing technology solutions.

Companies must embrace digital transformation by working differently to capitalise on the full potential of digital technologies that deliver operation-wide benefits. For successful adoption, overcoming internal organisational barriers and cultural challenges to digital adoption is equally important and still a barrier to adoption.

The way forward for mining companies is very clear – it’s positive and full of promise. As the world increasingly relies on mining to produce the minerals needed for green energy, innovative mining leaders will lead in a new era of deep global transformation that ultimately benefits us all.

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