The journey to becoming a digital mine

By Antony Bourne, SVP of Industries, IFS.
Becoming a digital mine is just the beginning – it’s supporting software that has a huge role to play in the mining industry’s digital transformation

While the mining and minerals sector remains 30-40% less digitally mature than comparative industries, 50% of the top mining organisations will utilise cloud based operational planning and simulation tools, by 2024. For many, digital transformation is well underway—and it has uncovered a myriad of new trends that have increased the need for a sophisticated end-to-end solution, such as robotics and AI, that promise huge growth in enabling mines to operate with less human resources.

Moving forward, mining organisations will benefit from a cloud-based solution capable of supporting the company in three areas:

New technologies are changing Asset Lifecycle Management 

Just like many industries, mining relies on critical infrastructure to keep operations running and profitable—but as infrastructure ages, challenges in keeping systems operating efficiently and safely remain. Mining companies face several different challenges when it comes to optimising asset lifecycles—between balancing lifecycle costs and workforce productivity, the sector is also under pressure to keep pace with upcoming regulatory changes and demand. 

But new technologies are changing asset lifecycle management. Simply buying new isn’t always the most viable, sustainable, or cost-effective route. A structured approach to asset healthcare, maintenance, operations, and reliability through a modern enterprise asset management (EAM) solution can assist in improving asset performance and that the asset is in an ideal condition. Data-based technology such as IoT and sensors, will enable mining organizations to track, monitor and optimize the lifecycle of entire asset lines. 

Sustainability: no longer a buzzword, but today’s reality

The mining industry now has a ripe opportunity to act as a key facilitator for sustainable practices and address global issues in the race to net-zero. Canada leads the charge in North America and worldwide, as a recognizsed world leading nation in mining and natural resources, the country is committed to developing the minerals sector in clean and sustainable ways, through new and emerging “green” approaches.

On the other side of the border, in the United States, as outlined in the Biden Infrastructure Law, the mining and minerals sector has a crucial role in making sought-after infrastructure and sustainability plans a reality. In fact, the U.S. requires access to large amounts of raw materials and minerals to make this possible. For example, silver, nickel, and lithium used for electric vehicles and charging stations, and brass and bronze for new infrastructure and underground pipelines. This exponential rise in demand needs modern software to be able to keep pace. 

Enhanced data models and reporting can help mining companies develop measurable and realistic ESG goals. Digitally enabling the mining sector puts the most important company assets on a highly visible network that realises supply chain efficiencies, ultimately reducing time wasting and resources and boosting sustainable initiatives. This results in a raft of benefits across supply chain efficiency, extending the lifetime of valuable assets, and allowing a dispersed workforce to easily collaborate.

360-degree view of mining operations

For the mining industry, projects are the cornerstone for developing business. Using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, tracking the progress of a project is easier—mining managers can gain full visibility as to which workers have been distributed, to which project and based on what expertise. When combined with field service management (FSM), the flow of communication throughout a distributed workforce can be kept constant, to ensure priorities are aligned and productivity is high.

As these ways of working become more common, complexities in managing projects increase—it’s never been more important for mining companies to leverage digital tools and ERP solutions to handle complex contracts and activity. The benefits of doing so are widespread and will be felt throughout the whole organization—from increased planning abilities and the seamless flow of information for greater collaboration, to cost control through the supply chain and real-time visibility.  

Europe’s largest iron ore producer leads by example

Mining is a core market for IFS, and our industry mining clients are at the forefront of evaluating how technology can help drive sustainability, productivity, and profitability. 

To achieve carbon dioxide-free production by 2045, leading mining and minerals group LKAB launched one of the largest industrial investment plans in Swedish history. With digitalization and automation as key enablers for realising its sustainability and productivity goals, the company chose enterprise applications company IFS to deliver a state-of-art enterprise asset management (EAM) solution capable of helping the company set a new world standard for data-driven mining.

There’s no time like the present for mining to go digital! 

There’s no denying that the mining industry is undergoing a significant transformation—by no means will a digital shift occur overnight, but it’s critical mining organisations consider how they can take advantage of this period of recovery and futureproof for what’s to come.

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