It's no secret that the mining industry is continuing to decline. Negative headlines dominate about the slowdown in Chinese demand, volatile commodities, spiraling costs, ever-stricter regulation, talent shortages, lower ore grades, and declining productivity. According to a recent Forbes article, the industry has faced an up-and-down economy and risks, and is used to dealing with commodity price cycles, this new global economic uncertainty adds a new sense of urgency to those within the industry.
Miners are currently focused on boosting cost efficiency, enhancing predictability of their operations, and improving worker safety. The Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, analytics, autonomous operations, and big data are being used to navigate the downturn. This type of technology has allowed all of these things but requires a strategic long-term investment plan and effective integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) in order to manage data. It's also vital that short-term actions are taking in order to receive long-term benefits. However, this data and information and how they are used to make improved and quicker business decisions, will be the most competitive differentiator within the field.
The Internet of Things, cloud, and big data offer great opportunity to make better use of its data, as well as generate new revenue streams. The growth of connectivity, sensors and intelligent devices offers a variety of possibilities to remotely monitor and control assets, equipment and materials. For example, new cloud platforms can support greater knowledge sharing and collaboration – information is available where needed and can be shared inside and outside of operational teams for a lower cost. New analytical tools can analyze large amounts of information, as well as predict patterns to aid in improved decision making.
It's important to acquire a new perspective when moving forward and to view technology as a movement that offers mining businesses the change to renovate their business models. Many mining companies are already grasping the potential of these technologies and are already becoming lighter, more agile, and more efficient businesses.
Example according to the recent Forbes article: Mining companies that can autonomously track ore along the entire value chain are gaining efficiency improvements of 5 to 10 percent in recovery. One mining company remotely operates seven mines, two ports and a 1,000 kilometer railway. Another is doing the same with 14 mines, three ports and a 1,500 kilometer heavy-haul railway.
Improvements in digital technology will continue to pressure organizations to integrate IT and OT for significant cost savings through increased business agility and cost flexibility, and from continued lower infrastructure prices. It's important for mining companies to understand that implementing an integrated technology operating model is a vital business opportunity to take advantage of now.
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