For many mining companies, conversations about the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) can tend to focus on technical issues, such as standards or data formats. Yet the idea that mining companies can adapt at their own pace to future technology developments is misplaced. In a world where driverless trucks can move more than 100 million tonnes of earth a year, having a single operating model for technology that helps to deliver real productivity improvement is becoming crucial.
Designing and implementing an integrated technology operating model is not primarily a technology challenge to solve; it is a significant business opportunity. And mining companies that grasp the potential are already pulling ahead to become lighter, more agile and more efficient businesses.
Instead of focusing on the synergies between IT and OT, attention should switch to the business gains that will be created by the integration of the two domains into a single technology operating model.
Digital transformation presents mining companies with opportunities and risks:
Big opportunities: Connectivity, sensors and intelligent devices create unprecedented possibilities to remotely monitor and control assets, equipment and materials. New cloud platforms offer greater knowledge sharing and collaboration. Analytics and new mathematical tools can deconstruct vast amounts of information and predict patterns to support better decision making.
Significant risks: Cybersecurity could extend beyond enterprise systems into the operational environment. Risks exist from operational technologies developed without software governance and from fragmented technical support across the wide array of OT. Conflicts between IT and OT teams can inhibit performance and threaten safety, environmental compliance, productivity and organizational agility.
Pressure on the mining industry to improve performance, cut costs and increase productivity, combined with the explosion of new technologies, creates a compelling case for developing the right integration strategy to achieve transformation.
George Long, Senior Manager—Digital Mining, Accenture, speaks about the Digital Mine Opportunity
The digital opportunity provides mining companies the ability to converge operational information to their information technology that exists within the ERP, a company’s financial backbone. The strategic advantage that’s gained by converging IT and OT means mining companies can drive forward into the future and increase profitability.
A strategy to develop an integrated technology operating model needs to focus on three important areas:
Data and mathematics: Having the right data at the right time, and the tools and capabilities to understand the data, is fundamental to business success. Mining companies need to manage data delivered from everywhere, every second of every day, across the whole operation.
Organization and governance: Having the right operating model means defining the structural and executional changes that will create value for the organization. Technology responsibility may need to move from the CIO to the COO, or even a new senior role.
People: Mine operations will increasingly need two categories of people: those who plan and those who maintain equipment. This provides new opportunities for mining companies that embrace a talent-led business model and requires a rethink of every stage of the talent management cycle.