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Schneider Electric’s global mining experience has led the company to conclude that the way to industry transformation is in the creation of mining organisations, built around connected agile mining operations.

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“This type of operation enables the utilisation of data for advanced decision-making across process disciplines, within processes and at enterprise levels, with continuous flows of data and actionable insights at all levels across the value mining chain,” explains Marc Ramsay, ‎vice-president Industry Business Unit at Schneider Electric South Africa.

 A CIO of a platinum mining company based in South Africa summed up the importance of utilising collected data. “Digital mining transformation is all about data and what data can do for your business. Everything else is about obtaining the data,” he said.

Data acquisition has an incredible role to play in enabling mining companies to manage variability and control their operations. This is not new to the mining industry, however achieving a digital mining transformation is often seen as a looming burden upon mining companies due to additional installed connected devices.

“This is because cost and maintenance is perceived as much harder than current maintenance practices. This is not the case at all, and simplified strip-and-replace as well as plug-and-play technologies are being incorporated within the connected devices layer of IoT platforms,” says Ramsay.

Defining connected agile mining operations

Connected and agile mining operations are critical to organisational change and process re-engineering. The value extracted is generated through technology enablement and integration of the data and systems. They are a combination of four key elements:

  • Smart mining – this is the process of collecting data across equipment, people, and within the mine to create the ability to utilise insight through automated or human response. Data is used across all areas of the mine to enable users to understand what is happening; anticipate future events and embed those insights and feedback within processes that enable the business to respond.

  • Digital mining - this is the use of data to build a digital working model of physical products and processes. It is used for understanding, scenario modelling and simulation to test scenarios for extreme efficiency or any other optimised outcome e.g. safety. The control centre is the core of the successful mining operation and the application of advanced analytics and collaboration are centralised here.

  • Automation – this includes the automation of equipment via robotics e.g. trucks, trains, drills, etc and it has the potential of increasing predictability.

  • Integration – this is the ability to integrate the operation as a system, from resource to final user and from supplier to customer. A holistic strategy brings together the collection of data and hence responsive operations are created. These responsive operations help automate and create digital processes.

“All mining processes and roles will be affected, but the mine operation as a system itself will experience the most change. The companies that choose to partake in the transformation will however see the most return in value results, as the intensity of technology increases and develops, concludes Ramsay.

Schneider Electric assists mining companies in addressing their challenges; be these safety sustainability, operational efficiency, value chain efficiency or projects and services; through its global expertise. For more information, go to Meeting mining challenges. 

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