Gaining new perspectives at surface mining operations could drive sustainable improvement

When it comes to exploring the information available from smart equipment, “all data, all the time” sounds great in theory. But focusing on a vast array of data makes it difficult to determine what matters most. Through data collaboration, new perspectives can be introduced — even from different industries — that may otherwise have been overlooked. Collaborating and sharing data between equipment, on-board systems, and the people who use them brings several advantages to both mines and technology partners, including the ability to deliver customized, holistic solutions that will drive sustainable improvement.

For the mines, data collaboration facilitates better decision-making through the use of reports, dashboards and other metrics. It also allows system optimization based on the ability to monitor assets in real time and manage service life cycles. The mine could also implement continuous improvement programs relying on operator feedback and industry benchmarks to optimize system support.

For technology partners, data collection helps technology companies understand how mines are using their systems, which better aligns solutions with customer goals. It also enables supply-chain optimization and improved inventory management. As mining becomes more difficult, data collection could help identify areas of future need.

Three things are required for successful data collaboration: a diverse group of people with a variety of skills — even across industries — to gain new insights and see things from more than one perspective; a process of delivering and developing new insights; and the technology to transform manual processes and enable people to take action.

People

This is, arguably, the most critical of the three required areas. Encouraging cross-functional collaboration and the breakdown of silos should be driven by leadership who must stand behind the concepts of collaboration and teamwork, and should be able to communicate a common goal that is well understood, worthwhile, and that the entire organization can willingly adopt. Leveraging the diverse strengths of people and roles throughout the organization and mining industry, encouraging their feedback, and incorporating that feedback helps put the right people in the right roles, to better deliver on strengths. 

Process Requirement

It can be broken into three tiers: data integration, information and action.

“Data integration” is often confused with “data centralization,” but really, it’s a matter of democratization — making data easier to access. Through integration, the data can be made easier to access, thereby allowing teams to more successfully translate that data into information.

The information tier allows mines to use the data collected by equipment sensors and on-board systems to provide actionable insights via reports, analytics and other metrics. This information tier helps to drive action by identifying true improvement opportunities and uncovering unforeseen or unexpected issues that could result in higher costs, equipment downtime, and even safety risks.

The action tier drives actionable results through process optimization. Data is great, but unless it gets to the necessary people, at the right time, it’s very difficult to drive action or positive results. Once action is engaged, organizations can implement a continuous improvement loop: evaluate the action and resulting effects, then assess the data integration and information layers again to determine the success of that action.

Fit-for-purpose Technology

Rather than automatically being drawn to the latest and greatest technology, mine sites should first identify the key problems they need to solve, then select a technology that’s fit for that purpose and will solve those problems efficiently and consistently. Chosen technologies should also fit with the people and processes in place. Once a technology is logically chosen, it can be leveraged to carefully organize collected data based on its intended usage — data that is used or needed more frequently should be especially easy to access.

Technology also facilitates test environments before delivering products to market; customer feedback in early stages can help improve the development and performance of the final product.

A Unified, Cross-functional Approach

Komatsu has now established a Data Solutions team to help refine its approach to tackling data collaboration. The team marries Komatsu’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer) strengths with the OTM (original technology manufacturer) strengths delivered by Komatsu’s subsidiary companies Modular Mining and MineWare. Working as one customer-facing entity, the company leverages OEM expertise, especially related to equipment design and common failure modes, and OEM-agnostic technology solutions from Modular Mining and MineWare to develop a better understanding about how to optimize and improve the mining operation.

The Data Solutions team leverages both edge and cloud computing in its digitization approach. Edge computing delivers data directly to a mining organization’s front line to change the way mining is done. Edge computing provides operators with insight to their performance and treatment of the equipment, while also providing maintenance personnel with the information they need to perform key tasks.

Cloud computing enhances the way they look at mining and helps create a sort of exploration environment. Since it occurs at the cloud level, which facilitates the storage and analysis of the copious amounts of data being collected, the Data Solutions team uses cloud computing to holistically leverage the big data they are collecting from equipment and on-board systems to identify bigger-picture improvement opportunities.

Unifying the data from various on-board systems, equipment units, and computing approaches into one single, normalized dataset helps improve understanding of both the equipment and organizational or industry performances, and ultimately can be used to further increase the performance at mine sites.

If done effectively, data collaboration can truly revolutionize the way mines operate. The first step for effective data collaboration requires being open about how data is being used, and the value it can unlock. It’s important that miners understand what the technology providers are doing with their data, and it’s important that technology providers be transparent about the data they collect and their intended purpose for it. 

“From a miner’s perspective, it’s very important that data isn’t just disappearing off into a black hole,” said Simon Van Wegen, product manager — data solutions for Komatsu Mining. “As a customer, miners are actually involved, so they will know what actions to take to drive improvements.”

Data collaboration also requires a cultural change, which must be embraced by the entire mining industry to be truly effective. This, again, requires a careful balance of people, processes, and technologies — with a carefully thought-out and very specific end goal.

Ultimately, those looking to implement data collaboration will get out what they put in.

This article was submitted by Modular Mining Systems.


A hydraulic excavator operators monitors his Argus system (left) and selects the data he would like to see (right).

 

 

Driving Sustainable Performance, One Load at a Time

It seems mining companies are always under pressure to cut costs and raise productivity. Not knowing future prices for their products, they need to extract each ton at the best possible cost. How can mining companies manage real and sustainable performance improvement over time? How would they measure it?

The mining sector is changing faster than ever, with technology now a key strategic priority and enabler for productivity and sustainable growth.

Industry experts have suggested embedding effective management operating systems at mines, which will make performance more transparent and help identify areas for improvement. Some have also said the mining business should focus on innovative approaches to improve productivity and take advantage of what digitization can offer.

Mining companies and OEMs are shaping the design of a more interconnected, digital mine by leveraging advances in technology and artificial intelligence (AI). However, there is still an abundant amount of data being collected on mine sites that remains untapped.

MineWare CEO Andrew Jessett believes the ability to organize, manage and measure mining data is key to driving sustainable performance in the future.

“Better data management is giving mining operations a real competitive edge,” he said. “Using data smartly can improve productivity, reduce mining costs, and enhance employee performance and well-being. Those companies getting it right are rapidly seeing the benefits of digitization. It’s about connecting multiple systems, processes and people together to deliver sustainable, step change improvement — one load at a time.”

MineWare supports more than 230 systems in more than 130 surface mining operations around the world to improve their performance and productivity. The company’s monitoring systems provide mine sites with independent machine guidance and payload monitoring information for their large ground engaging machinery in real time. In 2017, MineWare joined the Komatsu group of companies.

Technology Return on Investment

Jessett said MineWare’s systems deliver a measurable productivity RoI for loading equipment such as draglines, electric shovels and hydraulic excavators.

“The results Argus and Pegasys deliver in the field speak for themselves,” he said. “We typically see a measurable productivity payback within six months.

“Beyond this, our customers see sustained performance in the long haul as well. Our engineers and field support experts work on the ground to help mining operations sustain and continually build on that level of improvement over time.”

A comprehensive understanding of mining processes is integral to avoiding the discontinuities that could arise from disconnected operations.

Digitization can help break down silos and provide greater end-to-end visibility across the supply chain. Jessett said this more holistic approach improves decision-making, machine reliability as well as people and process efficiency. 

“MineWare’s holistic approach supports productivity improvement across the entire value chain, integrating operating systems and sharing knowledge between departments to break down the silos.

“We’re closing the feedback loop on upstream and downstream mining processes. And in doing so, our clients are seeing the very real benefits of system integration and collaboration,” he said.

What this means is that they are giving mining personnel, from operators to engineers and planners, immediate access to important actionable information in real time. Having critical payload and performance data available drives greater operational efficiencies and smarter decision-making.

Long Term Technology Partnerships

Jessett said strong partnerships between mining equipment and technology service providers and mining companies is another imperative for sustainable performance improvement. While technology is advancing and MineWare prides itself in being on top of technological changes, Jessett emphasizes the importance of bringing customers along on the journey.

“A true partnership approach is essential, working closely with everyone on site — from the operators on board, site supervisors, maintenance personnel and mine planners all the way up to the boardroom.”

“Our customers want to innovate and future-proof their mining operations. We support them on their digitization journey, with interoperable monitoring technology solutions that can drive sustainable improvements to their operations and bottom line.

“From benchmarking operator performance to optimizing payload, it’s about measuring what’s happening on board and in the pit, and applying those insights to deliver continuous improvement — in real time and for long-term improvement.

As an example, MineWare’s Argus Shovel Monitor has now been operating for more than four years at a hardrock mining operation in Wetern Australia.

The Argus trial and change management project delivered against the following three key performance criteria:

• To increase the average system payload by 5 metric tons (mt);

• To achieve system accuracy within ± 3%; and

• To ensure zero increase in the number of overloads (tip-offs).

Through effective training, implementation and management, including operator workshops, in-cab coaching and live performance monitoring, the new technology received strong support and acceptance. The team also benefited from MineWare’s 24/7 service and support through its Integrated Support Centre (ISC).

Each of the previously mentioned criteria was met or exceeded.

The intuitive display of the Argus system was particularly well-received by the team on site. In the cab, operators had control over what data was displayed and how, empowering them to use this real-time information to make the most efficient decisions.

Following the success of the trial, which increased the average payload significantly, reduced payload variability and ensured no overloads or underloads, the technology has remained in place and continues to deliver results for the Western Australian mine site.

The Argus system is proven to boost shovel productivity between 3% to 16% while lowering the cost per ton moved.

“Time after time, our customers have demonstrated that once the Argus system is adopted, their improvement is consistent and sustainable.”

This article was submitted by MineWare.