Listen to what others are saying in the Mine Site Automation and Communication Community LinkedIn Group
Francesca De Michele LinkedIn Discussion Point: From fragmentation to integration: Simplifying mining applications
Many mine sites around Australia are working on implementing automated machinery and the necessary communications infrastructure which goes along with this. But for automation to run smoothly a myriad of programs need to be able to talk to one another, to pull and push, and share data amongst themselves, without friction. This form of software integration is by no means a new idea; it has been implemented almost seamlessly in the manufacturing and e-commerce sectors. But as RPM CEO Richard Matthews points out integration and automation in the mining industry is behind the eight ball. Mathews explained that although the mining industry has been “slow in comparison to other industries there is a big drive now” to integrate and simplify the software solutions used.
“There’s a significant drive because everyone understands it’s all about driving the costs down,” he said. “Integration also assists with safety, especially as the industry moves towards increasing automation like driverless trucks and trains.” Speaking at a conference in Perth recently Sandvik director, Andrew Philpott, said a common platform needs to be developed so mine sites can move safely into the future. “For us we need to develop a common platform so that all the equipment can communicate with each other and we can envelop all the equipment under the existing automation technology,” Philpott said.
Comment by Group Member Mark Whiteley “One of the biggest challenges facing the mining community regarding fragmentation of mining applications, is the locking down of key data by the equipment manufacturers. I have a background in the IT Industry, and this situation is very similar to the unification of network protocols that occurred in the mid 90’s. Prior to the adoption of the IEEE 802, 802.11 etc, the standards for interconnecting computers via networks left to the manufacturers to create. This meant that there were many and varied vendor network protocols which were developed by the large computer manufacturers of the time. These manufacturers included Digital, Honeywell, IBM, Burroughs, Apple, and others, which all used different vendor protocols; therefore customers were ‘locked-in’ to using a single computer system. Interconnecting allowed them to communicate to another manufacturers network protocol.”
“This is very much the case today in the mining industry, where a few powerful vendors control a market by ‘locking’ away data in the vehicle management systems. We need an independent body that can ratify a standard data set which allow machine data to be published to other systems. This ‘standard data set’ should provide ‘public’ data from equipment to exposed to other mining systems, however; will also recognize the need for ‘hidden’ data that will protect the vendors warranty checks.”
Reply by Francesca De Michele: “Thanks so much for sharing your comments on this topic. Presently I’ve been hearing this from a number of people in the industry. Their biggest complaint is around the fact that many OEMs will not provide open-source software which means they’re locked into using one supplier. One of the ways people intend to combat this is by including open-source requirements in their tenders; do you think this is going to help to shift the barriers around this industry? Or do you still expect it to be awhile off before anything changes?”
Reply by Mark Whiteley: “The speed at which the ‘protectionist’ behaviors of the OEM’s are changed, is by industry pressure. There needs to be a forum where OEM’s can discuss this issue with the industry and perhaps decide what data should be ‘published’ in a standard format – perhaps XML or CSV files. Also the industry must recognise that some data will be proprietary and thus not for public consumption. So your suggestion regarding providing open source data as part of a tender process, will only work in a highly competitive market. If none of the vendor OEM’s want to comply with this tender request then there is not much the client can do. The OEM’s will not drive this process, because there are too few manufacturers in a worldwide industry, and so an industry forum is needed where a bi-partisan agreement can be reached that provides the industry with the data it needs in a standard format, while protecting OEM’s intellectual property.”
Reply by Group Member Peter Cunningham: “There is a relatively new organization forming that has a mandate to address this called the “Global Mining Standards and Guidelines Group”. http://www.globalminingstandards.org/”. This group works with AusIMM, CIM, SME. Membership consists of a number of mining companies, OEMs and OTMs.”
Reply by Group Member Sean McClary: “Francesca, this is what 3D-P (www.3d-p.com) has been saying for years. We are supplying to the largest mining organization across the globe. The ability to have, run and manage multiple applications on to a single platform is critical as well as crucial in today’s mining environment. The 3D-P Intelligent Endpoint is just that. A ruggedized, full open computing and networking platform that can integrate any application on board any mobile machine.”
Additional resources: Mining IQ Full Article, 3D-P’s Global Sales & Marketing VP, Sean McClary’s Blog Post: Taking a Lesson from Corporate IT, 3D-P’s VP of Technology, Ron White’s Presentation: Reducing Onboard Technology Clutter through Open, Ruggedized, Onboard Computing and Networking Appliances
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