Trevor Roberts, Executive Director: Commercial at AEL Mining Services
When you use your smartphone to live video chat with someone halfway across the world or for directions with real-time traffic information, how often do you think about the research, design and technology that went into providing you with this power at the touch of a button?
While mining operations may not seem comparable to a smartphone, there are several similarities we can take out of this analogy. We believe mines rely on a theory we call “simplexity”, a process which combines endless hours of analysis, design, testing, technological innovation and expertise to create a product that allows the most simple-yet-effective usability for the end user.
Simplexity is about harnessing the power these countless hours can provide in improved products or methods of operating. For example, it’s about looking at why a customer has to pull several levers and turn switches in order to achieve a blast and finding out how they could achieve the same result at the push of a button.
We have noticed a growing trend toward Simplexity in the mining industry because it is win-win for operators; process times are reduced without the need for further training while the results are typically improved. This process all begins at the Research & Design (R&D) stage, a division in which we dedicated an industry-leading 1.5% of our revenue in the last financial year, where companies strive to continuously find better, more innovative ways of operating in order to challenge outdated methods and outcomes.
Mining in the past has typically been an “analogue” industry, where processes have remained the same because that is simply how it has always been done. However, the move toward digital processes and harnessing the power of the immense amount of data available is starting to challenge the status quo and move mining into a new era.
One such example is the importance for both mining and blasting operators to embrace Big Data, which is the phrase used for the seemingly endless streams of information that can be collected through monitors, sensors and other devices. However, Big Data means absolutely nothing without the means to decipher the information, such as how apps can decipher the information off locations of smartphones to determine traffic information and then suggest alternative routes.
Mining operations need to seize the opportunity to collect thousands, if not millions, of data sets for each step of their processes and then analyse the data so as to identify improvements to efficiency, or their own alternative routes. However, they need to do so now or face the impact of being left behind the pack. We foresee the combination of simplicity and complexity becoming a well-recognised theory in the mining industry as mine operators strive to reduce unnecessary operating times while maintaining output levels; which can be provided by the Simplexity of modern products and methodology.
Simplexity, therefore, is about finding ways in which we can reduce the number or processes, or the complexity thereof, for our customers while simultaneously ensuring the improved efficacy of the result.