4 Must-Have Technologies for Metals & Mining

4 Must-Have Technologies for Metals & Mining

If you’re within the metals and mining industry, just like the Doe Run Company is, news that commodity prices have declined to lows not seen since late 2008 and early 2009 isn't new. The question is with these low prices, can your company afford new information technologies? I think the solution may be a resounding “Yes!” actually, I think companies that want to survive should seriously consider deployment of the subsequent four technologies.

1. “X” as a Service: Whether it’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Hardware as a Service (HaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), or variety of other X-aaS, your company is losing ground if it isn’t already using one among these technologies or within the process of moving to at least one.

a. Managing on-premise data centers isn't core to our metals and mining business, and competes with internal resources that are more central to our industry. Moving to IaaS and/or HaaS allows companies to possess state-of-the-art facilities and equipment as an expense, smoothing the cost curve at a price that's at or below what's likely spent on internal data centers. Furthermore, this feature avoids large equipment replacement costs that inevitably seem to be necessary just when the industry tanks.

b. On-premise software applications tend to be expensive and need hard-to-find and sometimes hard-to-retain personnel with specific skill sets. Why not find cloud SaaS solutions for routine applications that are sufficient to urge the work done at much lower annual costs? Doing so allows your company to use it's highly wanted personnel to manage these solutions, while also freeing them up to figure on more strategic projects that are directly tied to your company’s bottom line. 

2. Internet of Things (IoT): Your Company has been involved within the “Internet of Things” for an extended time, albeit perhaps under a spread of various names, like process control technologies, instrument controls or operations technology. If your IT team isn’t joined at the hip together with your operations technology team, you're missing out on some big opportunities to enhance processes, reduce your cost structure and supply some much-needed visibility and insight into where you would possibly be dalliance and money.

a. Automated process control equipment in your mining, milling, smelting and refining operations may be a key to steady-state operations. These systems are in situ for many years. Integrating process control equipment data and trends with information from the business (IT) side of the house, like laboratory analysis information, human resource information, environmental data, and inventories, can present information to assist you to improve operations while reducing costs. You'll find that “institutional knowledge” is flawed when financial results are compared with indicators like staple usage, process information and environmental data for a specific product. By watching data in an integrated fashion, you’ll find ways to enhance processes and results that were thought to be “perfected” years ago.

b. Mobile equipment monitoring alone gives your maintenance team crucial information a few particular pieces of kit and helps them plan routine maintenance before equipment fails. Using that information alongside human resource data, inventory information and maintenance cost data for every piece of kit provides visibility into the most/least efficient operators, assists with maintaining proper inventory levels for repair parts, and helps determine truth equipment costs per hour. Ultimately, this level of insight allows production and maintenance teams to enhance efficiency and reduce overall operational costs.

3. Data Analytics Tools: As you would possibly expect, these tools wont to be very expensive and required steep learning curves. Today’s dashboards or data discovery tools are now available as a SaaS, meaning companies can get their feet wet in data analytics at a coffee investment threshold. Better of all, you don’t need rocket scientists on staff to use the technology.

These tools involve what’s called an Extract, Transform and cargo (ETL) tool that permits your IT staff to tug data and prepare dashboards supported information from multiple data sources, like your ERP system, HR system, maintenance system, environmental information system, and process historians in your operations technology systems. By manipulating the info to supply multiple views or dashboards, the business user can see—in a matter of hours—trends and important insights which may have taken weeks of knowledge analysis to supply within the past. Below are a couple of ways you'll readily utilize these tools (both the ETL tool and therefore the dashboard tool has short learning curves) to enhance your business.

a. Equipment Comparisons: Use dashboards to match equipment cost per hour between individual mines, between competing vendors, and even between various equipment models. Doing so allows you to seek out the proper combination that produces the simplest overall value for the corporate.

b. Operational Performance and Efficiencies: Dashboards can also assist you to visualize production information alongside maintenance information and environmental, health and safety data. Doing so can provide a broader perspective to enhance operational efficiencies. for instance, you would possibly do a comparison between production, equipment, and underground air quality.

4. Drones: Mining and metals companies are typically located in a number of the more remote areas of the planet. Companies will spend an outsized amount of capital to create infrastructure, like roads, to enable manual inspection of pipelines or to supply access for workers to gather water samples at various outfalls for environmental reporting purposes. Why not use a drone to perform those visual inspections or potentially collect water samples? There are probably dozens of other applications where drones might be used more cost-effectively than current practices.

Commodity cycles are a given, what's not known is when one will start and when it'll end. Instead of “hunker-down” and easily cut costs, innovative companies are using technology to assist them to survive. These four technologies just might make a difference in improving your company’s cost structure and helping you survive this down cycle; preparing you to require advantage of the industry’s next peak.

Read Also

Issues and Trends in the Metals and Mining Industry

Issues and Trends in the Metals and Mining Industry

Supantha Banerjee, VP & CIO, PSC Metals
The New Tech Frontier for Utilities

The New Tech Frontier for Utilities

Greg Sarich, CIO, CLEAResult
Creating a Tangible Impact through Collaboration

Creating a Tangible Impact through Collaboration

Matt Schlabig, CIO, Worthington Industries
Building a Local Technology Team

Building a Local Technology Team

Chris Cawood, CIO, OceanaGold Corporation