At last – a Sure-fire Way to Bundle and instantly transmit data where it’s needed, regardless of application format or protocol

Mining IQ Interview with Mal Jones Vice President and GM of 3D-P Australia

Mining IQ: Hi, welcome to today’s podcast with Mining IQ, mine name is Jacqueline Bran and I’m the editor for Mining IQ and in today’s podcast I’m delighted to have the option to discuss something that we haven’t covered in any great detail in an audio interview before on Mining IQ, and that’s a discussion around how to bundle up and instantly transmit data where it’s needed regardless of application, format or protocol. This is a subject we hear a lot about at Mining IQ from owners as well as operating mine sites and it’s one of those challenges that is faced across many operating mine sites and people talk to us about problems with adding additional mining applications on an insufficient network, how to balance functionality with cost and reliability and things such as how you ensure that stakeholders are aligned behind options of expectations and all of those are fairly sizeable challenges on their own, let alone as a combination.

So, if you’re facing these challenges you’re definitely not alone but I’m delighted actually to have someone who is an expert in this subject on the line today and that’s a gentleman by the name of Mal Jones who’s the Vice-President and GM for 3D-P Australia and 3D-P and very familiar with these challenges and in fact they’ve helped numerous clients to overcome them, to face them, and to build a strategy around them. So in this podcast today with Mal we’re going to be talking about the steps to solving those problems and Mal’s going to guide us on a path in order to help you to overcome them at your mine site.

So, a little bit about Mal, he’s an exceptional industry leader who’s got a great deal of experience in the industry and he succeeded by building his career on trust, knowledge, as well as his ability to delivery mission-critical solutions. In fact, prior to joining 3D-P, he was the trusted lead consultant to major mining houses such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Xstrata and Newmont, and it was in fact during his consulting assignment back in 2007 that Mal first learned of 3D-P and that’s an interesting story and one that I think I’ll let Mal tell you himself. So, welcome aboard, Mal, it’s a pleasure to have you on the line today. I’d love to invite you to share your experience of discovering 3D-P in your own words.

Mal Jones: Well, thanks very much for the introduction, Jackie. Yes. indeed, back in 2007 it was the consulting assignment that I was doing for Rio Tinto at the time, which was all around looking for a standard appliance to manage integration and applications of their onboard mining systems and as a consultant and a radio engineer, I’d always been involved in looking for solutions and resolving the problems of integration for the customers, but typically, until that time when I found 3D-P, things were done in a very disparate way where multiple systems had to be used to actually achieve that integration layer, so it was at that time travelling the world looking at the problems around all of those sites for RioTinto that I came across 3D-P as a product, and beyond the product itself it was actually at the level of knowledge and understanding of the mining applications that the organisation as a whole had which was that real differentiator between their product, the product knowledge and other vendors that were in the industry which were either solving problems of integration from a radio network perspective or being able to integrate multiple pieces of equipment with an Ethernet switch or something like that, that there was the glue that was sitting in-between that was missing, and that’s what this company represented and, indeed, I was so switched on to their level of expertise and knowledge that I felt I just had to join these guy because it’s very unique to find an area of such specialisation, so it was a real thrill to join them.

Mining IQ: Thanks, Mal, and really it’s wonderful to hear how passionate you are about your job and I think that extends to the discussion we’re going to have today because I know that this is also something you’re very passionate about as part of, you know, the work that you do. So, I think I’ll get straight into my first question, which relates to the conflict between functionality and cost versus functionality and reliability when you’re in that selection process of purchasing a technology solution; how would you balance these opposing outcomes when advising clients, Mal?

Mal Jones: Well, thanks, Jackie, that’s a really good question and in answering it, I would typically be asking the questions back to the customer in terms of, do they understand the cost of being unreliable in the business; have they done the study for the total cost of ownership versus the purchase price? The importance of reliability really becomes more of a priority when we understand what the total cost of lost production is for a machine that has unscheduled maintenance due to failure of equipment; what’s the cost of the resources you would need to maintain and to put someone suitably qualified in the pit and on a machine that’s got a couple of implications which is around safety and availability; what’s the cost of unreliable data, for every time a machine is not reliably connected to the network the integrity of the data itself used by the business to operate more efficiently and report on production  accurately, it’s lost. Data reliability is vital to any application, so without it the applications themselves start to become ineffective; the cost of ownership is directly related to that reliability.

Mining IQ: Mal, do you feel when you put that question to potential or existing clients around their understand the cost of being unreliable to their business, do you feel like people are generally prepared for that question or do you feel like that that’s something that often would take people by surprised? Have people genuinely thought about that cost?

Mal Jones: Well, often it’s not thought about fully in terms of the reliability factor. Typically the selection process of a solution is driven by a number of  groups, some, often the IT departments themselves are doing the selection, but they look at typical IT type requirements in terms of management and what are the standard tools and those sorts of things but they don’t actually look at the reliability and what that means from a support perspective and what it also means from a production perspective, whereas the mining operator themselves, they are all about reliability and anything that they can do to minimise downtime of a machine and increase its operational efficiency is what they’re striving for, so often there’s a gap between those two groups.

Mining IQ: Which actually leads me nicely into my next question, Mal, and that is, how common is it that mines struggle to roll out additional mining applications simply because their networks are not sufficient to handle them, you know, that might be a scenario, of the fact that you’ve got these opposing outcomes, you know, an IT head versus an operational perspective on the situation, so how common is it that they do struggle to roll out those additional applications and if that is the case, that it’s fairly common, what quick wins can you actually advise?

Mal Jones: Okay. So, this scenario is actually very common; mines often operate separate networks to support separate applications for a number of reasons; number one, because of lack of visibility between the groups within the operation, and two, a lack of confidence that a single network can actually support multiple applications. So the problem in this case is really as much an organisational one as it is a technical one. Quick wins can be achieved in both of these areas from the business perspective, bringing together your practitional edge from each of your groups to share their group initiatives; often synergies are found where groups can leverage one another to achieve an outcome, often these group discussions will identify the need for a common approach at the integration layer. The quick win in this instance for any business is more about changing the business process of treating goals and initiatives as a group rather than in isolation, considering the parallel initiatives.

From a technical perspective, it’s really about finding the tools that can help an organisation migrate from managing disparate networks and applications to a converged and managed environment, this is where 3D-P’s expertise lies. The quick wins are usually gained by addressing the biggest problems first, which is generally the integration and management of the onboard systems of the mobile fleet; 3D-P’s approach has always been focussed on intelligent ways to manage the applications and the way they can access and share a common network. The tools were developed through experience, mining application-centric is the word that I like to use rather than what a typical networking product delivers, which is just a networking connection and nothing more. These products have no application layer management tools that address how the application needs to access the network and talk across that wireless network, so really the quick win is also a strategic win implementing something that can solve a problem today but has the glue or the tools that will enable a scalable future for the ongoing integration over the life of the mine.

Mining IQ: I love that approach, Mal, and I love the terminology you use, mining application-centric, I think that really sums up everything that we’ve been talking about here and everything that you feel so passionate about as part of your role and as the work that you do for the business. So let’s talk about that perspective that 3D-P has to be application-centric and let’s take it one step further and talk about how it’s actually possible for 3D-P to bundle and instantly transmit data where it’s needed regardless of application format or protocol, I think that that is an astounding achievement and I think that a lot of mine sites will be really excited by. So let’s talk about how it’s possible and also what the benefits are of actually doing that.

Mal Jones: Thanks. Yes, there’s multiple facets to that question. First, if we have a look at the problem from a physical connection perspective, which is different interface types; many modern day applications use Ethernet as a standard interface, so the connection of the application is pretty simple and straightforward, however there’s many customers that have a mix of OEM applications from different machines as well as older applications or applications that were never actually intended to integrate into a broadband network. So these applications and devices have a lower level connection which could be serial or cam bus, which is a machine standard, and even digital, which is a single bit entry, so the solution in the first instance is about solving the physical interface layer. Customers are more often than not looking for a device that can manage multiple interface types with one box to reduce the complexity and points of failure on a machine, so moving up from that sort of physical connection layer, at the protocol layer, understanding how the application works, again, this is 3D-P’s area of expertise and through solving these sorts of problems for more than 80 surface mines around the world already, we’ve built the tools to enable miners to integrate their applications and their underlying protocols through a simple web-based interface, so our customers don’t have to reinvent the wheel on what has already been done before.

Now, that tool set that I talk about also addresses another problem that the miners have, which is one of, that the resources that they have on site and available to them, typically the sorts of things that I’m talking about here require, you know, some really heavy IT professionals that know how to configure things at a very low level command line language, whereas the tools that we’ve developed, as I’ve said before, which I like to use the word, application-centric, mining application-centric, the web-based Gooey has the simple user interface that enables the lesser skilled miners to be able to integrate and manage their applications at the click of a mouse without knowing all of that detailed engineering IT knowledge.

So with our experience and understanding of how those applications work, 3D-P apply those intelligent tools through the endpoint manager, which is our front-end of management, that helps the miner manage the use of the wireless network because the wireless domain is a finite resource. Control of the data flow is vital and there are a number of ways we can implement that control; for real-time applications we have the tools that can prioritise traffic by the type of application, rate limit other applications that aren’t so time critical so they don’t hog up the network and for other applications that only need near real-time access, we can store and forward the data to transfer it off a machine when it’s only in a certain location or scheduled transfers for a given time of the day. By applying some of those intelligent rules, it enables our customers to maximise the use of their network often by applying a management strategy like this with a tool like ours, our endpoint manager coupled with our intelligent endpoints, the customers are often able to squeeze or solve their immediate problems with their existing infrastructure, squeezing out of that existing infrastructure what we can, enabling them to make a more strategic approach or view in planning for the upgrade of their future network, as with these tools comes the ability to monitor and report the health of the network from the mobile applications perspective, and there’s really no other technology on the market today that provides that level of control of visibility.

Mining IQ: Something that interested me there that you were talking about is obviously the requirements of that network and the, I guess, the business critical components of it and one of the things that is business critical today or a must at any mine site is seamless connectivity and I’m sure you are more than aware of that, Mal, and from what I understand you manage to actually achieve this seamless connectivity with on-machine applications that aren’t actually designed for modern networks, so I think that I will be speaking or giving a voice to the listeners and asking you, what does it actually mean for your users in real-time and in tangible results, because that’s obviously a fantastic benefit?

Mal Jones: So what it means for the customer is a huge shift in the way that they can now run their business, by enabling those on-machine applications the customer is now able to carry out their business without the need to spend hours each day travelling into the pit to collect data from machines that previously had no means of transferring data across a network; it also, it’s important from a number of perspectives, from a safety perspective, anything a business can do to minimise the requirements for people to be in the pit has to be seen as a win, a very big win. From an efficiency perspective, again, anything that a company can do to minimise loss of time, of resources, less failure of systems through standardised and reliable solutions, it all goes towards improving the bottom line for the business.

Data availability on demand and in real-time improves the cycle time from the time of an event to the time that a customer can make a decision or react, this could mean saving an engine on a machine from a critical failure, identifying a problem in production early and preventing high grade oil going to the waste dump or something of that nature, or identifying areas in an operator’s dig plans before the end of shift and making corrections on the sly, or modifying a drill and blast pattern based on early data received over the year in relation to an unusual rock formation count. These are all very achievable for the customer today by leveraging what is already available on many machines, all they need is the glue at the integration layer to enable it.

Mining IQ: Thanks, Mal, and I guess that leads me very neatly into my final question which is, do you have any words of advice that you’d like to offer to those at mine sites who are struggling to transmit their data where it’s needed or who feel like their network is insufficient to support their requirements? I feel like any words of advice that you might have will be gold dust for a lot of people, so I’d love to hear any tips or tricks that you could share with our listeners.

Mal Jones: Cheers, thanks, Jackie. Well, the best advice I can offer anyone or any client upfront is to look for a partner that has a proven track record of success many times over and has a sound understanding of the applications and the networks and what it takes to integrate them reliably. Look for a partner that has the tools to enable you as the client to focus on your job as a miner and not become dependent or a specialist in IT or dependant on specialist resources to support your technologies, where a higher reliability and more sustainable solution may be achievable to reduce that dependency. Remember, a radio vendor can typically sell you a radio network but really has no expertise in supporting an application, let alone multiple applications, whereas an application vendor will sell you an application based on their value proposition, they’ll tell you what they think the application needs to talk on the network, but can’t make any guarantees on its performance if you combine it with other applications on a network. So the answer lies really in the glue that sits between all of them, in most cases the answer the clients arrive to is 3D-P.

Mining IQ:  Thank you for much for your frank answers and your insights, Mal, I thoroughly enjoyed having this chat with you and I’m sure that our listeners will gain great value from the insights and the stories that you’ve shared, so thank you so much for giving up your time today, I really enjoyed our discussion.

By Categories: Executive Forum, Mining Technology Solutions

3D-P Hosting Mining Americas Summit Lunch & Discussion – Technology Connected: Breaking the Chains of Vendor Data Constraints

Mine Operators the world over are struggling with the issue of vendor constraints.  Now  is your opportunity to discuss the challenges you face and learn how others are dealing with this issue. 3D-P is hosting a luncheon at Mining Americas Summit in Denver, CO USA, on June 11th at the Denver Marriott City Center. Our wireless network discussion, “Technology Connected: Breaking the Chains of Vendor Data Constraints” will be a round table interactive discussion during and after lunch. 3D-P’s US Regional  Manager, Bill Wright and 3D-P’s General Manager of South/Latin America, Hugo Untiveros will be facilitating the discussion.

Now in its third successive year, the Mining Americas Summit is a premier networking event. Senior executive leadership will gather to discuss the capital management strategies, cutting edge technologies and operational investments that will drive the mining industry for years to come. It’s an exciting period of opportunity and investment in the sector.

Mining Americas Summit (June 10 -11) offers:

Keynote presentations that offer insights into the major issues facing the industry at the moment. Speakers from leading companies will discuss domestic and international trends in mining and resource development.

Interactive panel discussions where you will see honest and open debate on the major challenges facing the industry, such as process improvements and market developments in strategic resources and precious metals.

Real life case studies from experts detailing practical advice and best practices. Presented by subject matter experts, these sessions will provide you with the ideal opportunity to examine and exchange views on key industry challenges in a more informal setting.

Hands-on workshops with interactive participation, specialist advice and Q&A sessions. This year’s topics will address leading edge techniques and technologies for process improvement and production optimization

Exhibits from over 30 leading suppliers is the most efficient and cost effective way to identify the latest technologies to support your operations. Suppliers will be showcasing products that could significantly increase your efficiency & profitability so it’s definitely not to be missed!

If you would like to register for this event, click here

3D-P Contacts:  BillWright@3D-P.com, HugoUntiveros@3D-P.com, VivienHui@3D-P.com


By Categories: Executive Forum, Mining News

One Minute Video That Could Change Your Mine

Ron White, 3D-P VP of Technology Presents Mining Technology Solutions at Mine Site Automation Conference in Tucson. Watch this short video and if you’d like to hear his full, 17-minute video, click below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA0aRCNhunE?rel=0]

Click here to watch the 17 minute video

Reducing Onboard Technology Clutter through Open, Ruggedized, Onboard Computing and Networking Appliances.

New applications for mining equipment are continually becoming available, and many are seen as critical to the safe operation and productivity of the equipment shortly after their release.  These new applications drive additional hardware installations on the equipment. This hardware, described as  “technology clutter” has the effect of reducing operator comfort, and potentially creating safety issues such as reduced visibility and ergonomics.   At the same time, many technology products are moving towards “open source” methodologies.  This session will illustrate:

  • How to utilize these advances to reduce technology clutter in cabs to streamline operations
  • Ensuring operators have full access to many critical applications
By Categories: Executive Forum, Mining Technology Solutions

Ron White Presenting at MineSite Automation Forum, Tucson, AZ

On January 29th, 2013 Ron White, 3D-P’s VP of Technology will be speaking to the attendees at the MineSite Automation and Communication Forum.

The following is an abstract of his presentation:

Reducing Onboard Technology Clutter through Open, Ruggedized, Onboard Computing and Networking Appliances

New applications for mining equipment are continually becoming available, and many are seen as critical to the safe operation and productivity of the equipment shortly after their release. These new applications drive additional hardware installations on the equipment. This hardware, described as “technology clutter” has the effect of reducing operator comfort, and potentially creating safety issues such as reduced visibility and ergonomics. At the same time, many technology products are moving towards “open source” methodologies. This session will illustrate:

  • How to utilize these advances to reduce technology clutter in cabs to streamline operations
  •  Ensuring operators have full access to many critical applications

3D-P is hosting the cocktail reception at this event.  If you haven’t registered for this informative forum please go to http://www.minesiteforum.com/.  We hope to see you there!

By Categories: Executive Forum, Mining News