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All of our industry leaders talk about innovation as one of the key mechanisms to step change in our business. The conversation is as applicable in any industry as it is in mining. As a result, we certainly have no shortage of research organisations, committees, in-house research and development teams all working diligently to drive greater value in our respective ecosystems.
The limited scalability of research projects
Tier one mining companies invest in and maintain significant levels of resources, engineers and PHD’s, undertaking research and development to develop new methods or technologies to drive step change in any given area. Of course this is essential to the industry and their competitive advantage.
Having been in the industry for a while now, I have certainly seen and also participated in my share of research projects that have turned into home grown solutions that inevitably turn into in house manufactured products that quickly become unsupportable, have no road-map to access sustained innovation or change and as a result become limited in scalability, quickly superseded by industry and inevitably a financial burden on the company, which of course negates the intended purpose of the idea.
But don’t feel bad, it’s the human condition to believe we are the only person that has a good idea, then by enrollment, we create the culture around us that has the group belief that it is unique and the right thing to do.
The underestimated leap from innovation to manufacturing
I have a friend who I lovingly refer to as The Nutty Professor. He is devoted to discovery and change in the industry, he sits across lots of different research and standards bodies, runs research projects and contributes fiercely to the community. A man I would definitely call a thought leader in the industry.
We talk often about innovation, interoperability, digital transformation and other great topics and the one thing that he is consistent in his belief is how as an industry we continue to believe that no one else thought of it and if we “build it ourselves” we will put ourselves ahead of the game and in one foul swoop we have taken ourselves from being innovators to half-baked product manufacturers often failing in the execution phase.
We all too often overlook the possibilities that there is already a solution out there in the market that exists, fully commercialised and supported, either in the industry or from another industry vertical. As scientists and researchers, we do extremely well at understanding the problem and then devising a solution, yet we often do poorly at researching the market to discover what the pre-existing commercialised market can deliver us or if there is an appropriate partner that can apply their already learnt expertise and specialised services to bring a research project into being as a commercialised product.
Understanding the true cost of product development and supportability
The difference between a proof of concept science project and a fully built product is not insignificant. And, while many people look at the cost of raw materials as the value of the product, the cost of PRODUCT LIABILITY can never be undervalued.
When we look under the surface of what total cost of ownership looks like, we begin to gain an appreciation of the costs for maintaining expert resources to ensure the ongoing development and support of a product through its life-cycle, engineering costs, design, testing and certification, manufacturing, support and maintenance, product life-cycle management, supply chain management, logistics and warehousing and so on. I’m certain I could make a mining company CFO cry.
The true success stories lie with those organisations that have made the distinction between research and development of an idea and productisation of an idea, and, in doing so go to market to find the appropriate industry partner that will help them bring their innovative ideas into full maturity as a supported and maintained product.
At 3D-P we have been partnering with our customers for over 20 years as an enabler for them to realise a sustainable, faster time to market approach to innovation. Our value add to the industry is the depth of experience and diversity of these engagements, our domain expertise and know how in the industry delivering solutions in product development, manufacturing and product life-cycle management. Our first-generation Intelligent Endpoint is the result of collaboration with a customer that was embracing the challenge of integration of disparate systems operating on heavy mobile equipment. 3D-P’s core business is digital transformation in mining.
To learn more about 3D-P’s digital solutions, contact us today.