December 17, 2017

Digital disruption leaves mining and metals companies lagging behind

While other industries are equipping themselves with the necessary tools to close the digital disconnect, worryingly, mining and metals companies are lagging behind, two industry analysts,  Wickus Botha, Africa Mining and Metals leader and Wim Hoogedeure, Africa Advisory Mining and Metals leader at professional services firm EY, fear.

“The digital disconnect – a gap between the potential from digital transformation and the poor track record of successful implementations – is not because of a lack of engagement from the sector, but is rather due to unsuccessful implementations, perceptions of high costs relating to IT spend and a disconnect with current operating models,” say Botha and Hoogedeure in unison.

The current digital disruption is sweeping across the world and upending industries at an unprecedented speed has resulted in  in a digital disconnect in the mining and metals sector.

Botha and Hoogedeure are of the view that closing the digital disconnect will position mines to be fit for purpose for the future, ensuring practical and sustainable solutions.

“As productivity remains the number one operational risk in the mining sector, digital transformation in the sector will be a critical enabler to addressing the industry’s productivity and margin challenges. Mining companies will be able to better manage variability and improve productivity by merging digital with a manufacturing mindset, which focuses on productivity across the end-to-end value chain.”

Unfortunately,  many mining companies are yet to seize the advantages of digital disruption. The current rate of digital progress is out of sync with their scale of opportunity. EY’s global report, ‘The digital disconnect: problem or pathway?’found that 31% of 700 global respondents in the sector say digital is high on the agenda for their organisation, while 15% say it is not on their agenda at all.

Working examples

Two mines in South Africa have demonstrated one of the many ways digital can transform operations – the potential that can be reached in terms of both productivity and safety.

The mine has overcome its numerous structural challenges through the use of digital radio technology to monitor slope failures. The technology used by the mine has advanced to a point where it tells the mine’s operators where and sometimes when the slope failures are likely to occur, allowing for evacuations to take place.

A second example is a mine that used digital technology to track equipment and employees through the entire operation. It allowed them to optimise the utilisation of equipment, reduce stoppages, minimise bottlenecks and improve asset productivity and utilisation.

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