Focus on productivity
Miners have been on their digital journey for several years now and have created significant value and new efficiencies. They have proven that new technologies can be deployed at the right price point, however there is an argument to say that value delivered at scale is rare.
As such, the focus of a miners' digital strategy is shifting from the IT departments to the assets and operations, as this is where value of a mining company is derived.
Productivity can be defined as value created or loss reduced. Measuring value created is difficult as the concept is theoretical, whereas the focus on loss is much more tangible.
Mining companies that truly understand where losses are occurring, in real time, have the ability to solve for those losses and increase productivity across the value chain as a whole.
Importance of integration
Integration of data has been common in the industry for a while with numerous data lakes and databases created. However, the integration of data and systems is only one piece. The integration of processes is where the bigger prize lies.
To focus on integration, miners should have visibility of the end-to-end production chain. This visibility allows mining companies to understand where opportunities exist to integrate and where losses are occurring.
With a foundation built on visibility and integration, miners have a much stronger platform to automate and optimise in near real time. This ‘layer cake' approach can be implemented in a number of ways and will be driven by each company's goals at the time.
Navigating Industry 4.0
The fourth industrial revolution has bought us new services, technologies and techniques that are here to help the mining industry achieve its goals. However, navigating this path is not straight forward. It requires the right blend of strategy, vision, operating model, innovation, technology, capability and most importantly, people and culture.
As mining companies go on their journey to delivering value at scale, they need support from core functions to help define the best path to take.
In a recent study Accenture identified key decision points that companies have taken on their own journey. By building this into a framework that supports digital initiatives, miners can accelerate their journey to value at scale.
Fostering a future ready workforce
The workforce coming into the industry today are all digital natives. In their personal lives they want fast resolution to menial tasks and want to spend more time focusing on experiences. This doesn't translate into the work space in mining presently.
The opportunity exists to leverage technology to minimise menial tasks eventually eliminating the dirty, dangerous, dull and dear ones. Using the present workforce to solve problems, identify solutions through using their experience and natural innovative spirit lays the ground work to attract the workforce of the future into the industry.
This year will see a much more fluid approach between roles and projects for its workers. Instead of being engaged in one role, miners will source internal employees from across the organisation into ad-hoc projects, or what Accenture calls ‘taskforces'.
Alongside changing management of work, there is a pressing need to upskill and retrain the existing workforce to meet new digital demands. According to Accenture's Reworking the Revolution research, two-thirds of Australian workers (66%) believe the roles requiring collaboration with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will rise over the next three years.
Accenture believes human-machine collaboration is a critical factor of reskilling the future workforce. To ensure growth and productivity, mining leaders must pivot their workforce and equip their people to work with these intelligent technologies.
Cyber resilience and the sleeping threats in the mine
Digital technologies are bringing undeniable value and productivity to the mining industry. However, with an increasing number of connected devices and systems, connected mine sites are more vulnerable than ever before to cybersecurity breaches and attacks from criminals, competitors and other nation states.
Mining companies this year should adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to cybersecurity. Future security systems should be able to automatically manage complex risk decisions and reduce the potential for human error.
*Ann Burns is Accenture resources lead for Australia and New Zealand, and George Long is digital mining lead