Mining influencers, conferences, magazines all talk about the need for miners to digitalize at the risk of losing market share to competition. This statement can be overwhelming and individual circumstances should be applied to it.
Miners might raise some of the following questions: 1) what does digitalization really mean?, 2) how does it apply to my operations?, 3) how to I plan or evolve my mine’s technology roadmap around digitalization?
We look here at how to start the digitalization process for smaller operators from a connectivity perspective.
Cost, onsite support and inability to justify short-term ROI have all contributed to the incapability of many smaller operators to invest in the deployment of near real-time applications on-board their mobile equipment.
Add the cost of the application- whether be dispatch, asset health, etc. – to the cost of deploying and maintaining a full scale wireless network, and many are unable to justify the ROI on their project, and remain stuck in the manual collection of their data.
We will examine the traditional limitations faced by smaller operators in this quest towards the Digital Mine, before discussing over the next few weeks how each of those limitations can be tackled, quickly and cost-effectively.
Service Level Agreements (SLA) are traditionally seen as an insurance policy. It’s great when you need it but its value tends to be questioned after a few years, if it’s not fully leveraged.
The situation has become worse over the last few years, coming out of the mining downturn, as many miners decided to take the ‘risk’ of not renewing their SLA in order to reduce their operational costs. The direct savings might have been obvious but the indirect costs of not renewing have often been overlooked.
As more data is collected from your mobile fleet for real time monitoring and data analytics, the pressure placed on your mine’s wireless network has never been so high. Often associated with the collection of this data is an increase in hardware installed on-board your mobile fleet for all the required applications, as well as the connectivity solution.
With an increasing number of mines in the process of digital transformation, reliability of your wireless network is becoming paramount. Real time or near real-time data access to fleet data is now a requirement for mines of all sizes, and failure of those wireless networks isn’t only critical for autonomous sites.
We will discuss here five examples of how network downtime, even in a non-autonomous environment, can affect your productivity by impacting a variety of business units within your mine.
By definition, the connected mine requires connection to all your mobile and fixed devices at any one time. Monitoring of your wireless network to ensure its reliability and connection to all your devices is therefore paramount.
However, the unique environment in which miners operate, only allowing for a limited network bandwidth, combined with the criticality of the mining fleet applications quickly differentiate network monitoring solutions.
The thought of upgrading your in-pit wireless network can be a bit daunting and nerve-wracking. Are you going to have to suffer through a fork-lift upgrade? What kind of downtime will be associated? Will that downtime be network wide, or only on a few items at a time?
A little planning, and the right technology choices can take all the fear and concern out of this significant event.
No matter the size of your operations, digitalization has become a requirement for any mine aiming at remaining competitive. The digital transformation process does however vary from mine to mine, and is influenced by a large number of factors including financial, environmental, operational and safety.
Autonomy can be seen as the ultimate level of a Digital Mine, where safety is increased and production is optimized. When the downtime cost of your equipment exceeds US$10,000/hour/fleet, success of the autonomous mine relies on successful deployment and ongoing management of your wireless network.
Between recent volatility of commodity prices and an increasingly competitive environment, real time visibility into mining operations through implementation of a ‘digital mine’ has become paramount. Almost every facet of mining operations has the ability to be digitally transformed, and the opportunity over the next decade is massive with almost all of the benefits tied to driving down cost per ton.
What some may forget however is that access to this data relies first and foremost on a reliable wireless network that has the ability to adapt as the mining operation changes, and supports the increasing amount of data required.
Asset Health, IoT, Fleet Management, Productivity Monitoring, High Precision GPS, Safety, Security, Asset Tracking, Communication, Connectivity. There’s a lot happening on your wireless network. It seems the request for more data and more access is nearly non-stop.
How do you scale your network to handle this constant increase in scope?