It is 2016, and that means it is time for MINExpo. After a four-year hiatus, miners from all four corners of the earth descend on Las Vegas, making it the mining capital of the world for a few days at the end of September. We wouldn’t miss the chance to attend.
As the MINExpo 2016 conference materials tout, this year is all about “technology and solutions for today and tomorrow.”1 We couldn’t agree more! Our mining practice is abuzz with talk about the event because we aren’t looking back, but rather looking ahead to the mine of the future.
When MINExpo last occurred in 2012, commodity prices were high, demand was strong and corporate balance sheets were flush. Today, the global business environment has dramatically changed. Commodity prices have plummeted, inventories are running high, and the once-steady demand from developed and emerging markets has lessened. Simply put, volatility and uncertainty are the “new normal.”
As a result, mining companies must now shift their strategies and adopt new business models faster than ever before. The digital transformation of mining companies––which leverages new technologies to improve processes and operations––has become a business imperative. In fact, the barriers to digital transformation are no longer technology, but the organization’s ability to adapt to an increasingly advanced and changing environment.
Accenture has a vision for digital transformation in mining that is based on the following five key pillars:
Visualization and Alerts. Mining companies don’t lack data, they lack the ability to “visualize” it––that is, to see and understand the data in clear and easy-to-read charts, graphs and alerts. In the early stages of digital transformation, the visualization of data can help your employees make better decisions faster to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs.
Analytics and Dynamic Scheduling. Mine sites have many moving parts and people. Therefore, productivity in mining demands constant insight for logistics planning and rightsizing of resources. Analytics and dynamic scheduling draw on data to monitor the safety of people, track asset health and proactively respond to changing conditions to meet required output.
Digital Twin. Aligning strategic and real-time plans and schedules has long been a challenge for mining companies, especially when different methodologies for people, processes and technologies are used. The concept of the “digital twin” offers an immersive virtual environment to help miners make value-driven decisions from the boardroom to the mine site.
Integration Automation. The automated mine is just the beginning. Through a “virtual handshake,” information from one process is automatically transferred to the next, fanning out to fine-tune processes based upon the earlier automated decision making. Integrating automation across the value chain can help miners solve a variety of critical business issues faster and more intelligently.
Cognitive Network. A cognitive network is the next generation of technology being deployed across industries around the globe. The use of artificial intelligence will provide a way for people to interact with technology and create an environment that is self-improving, self-learning, self-healing and self-controlling. The analysis of unstructured data will drive true transformation across the mining value chain.
While this is a challenging time for mining companies, opportunities abound for those who embrace digital tools and capabilities. As we see it, emerging technologies will be required to leapfrog the competition and outperform against market conditions. Thus, we look forward to speaking with you further about the mine of the future—whether before, during or after MINExpo.
1MINExpo 2016 homepage, http://www.minexpo.com/.