Digitising decisions in the mining supply chain

Our recent article, Mathematical Mining in 2019, examined the possibilities presented by analytics and artificial intelligence for today’s mining organisations, based on Deloitte’s annual Tracking the Trends report. Here, we look to the report again, and focus on supply chain digitisation. What does a digitised supply chain mean for mining? And how should companies approach this monumental shift?

The status quo

Deloitte’s report notes that,

“unlike industries such as manufacturing and automotive, the mining sector still lags in its efforts to digitise the supply chain”.

While mining companies may have digitised specific pieces of equipment (like trucks or trains) they haven’t extended this approach across the entire supply chain.

“As a result, the data they generate from the technology they have installed exists in a vacuum.”

The potential

What would happen if all processes from pit to port in a mining operation were effectively digitised – harnessing analytics, AI, cognitive technologies, robotics, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The data generated from a comprehensive and integrated system of digital technologies across the supply chain would provide genuinely useful insights, says Deloitte. The benefits include:

  • reduced inventory costs through just-in-time procurement
  • enhanced asset utilisation rates
  • more dynamic and responsive EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) relationships, leading to improved production outcomes.

Where to next?

“Those organisations that crack the code around fully interlinking their supply chains can do more than break down operational silos,” explains Kevin Xu, Mining & Metals Leader for Deloitte China.

“They can also gain the end-to-end visibility they need to enhance their asset utilisation, operational efficiency, and productivity – realising hard dollar savings as a result.”

According to the report, a paradigm shift is needed.

“To create a more interconnected and responsive supply chain, mining companies need to stop thinking in linear terms and imagine instead a circular system that we call the digital supply network (DSN).”

A DSN:

  • integrates information from multiple sources (such as sensors, GPS data, core operations data)
  • predicts outcomes (such as equipment wear and tear, patterns of operator behaviour, inventory levels)
  • allows companies to make evidence-based decisions in order to streamline their supply chains, guiding them as they invest in targeted physical technologies (such as robotics, drones, and autonomous vehicles).

“It’s a virtuous loop, one that employs real-time data to accelerate decision-making, enhance transparency, and enable collaboration across the entire supply network,” the report points out .

Biarri EMI: steps to digitised supply chain

Biarri EMI’s tips for digitising decisions made in your mining organisation are:

  • Start small. Find low hanging fruit in the form of medium to large payback opportunities requiring low effort. These will help demonstrate the value of data-driven decision-making and build support within your organisation.
  • Plan it out. While starting small is critical, so is mapping out the end goal before you get too far. But watch out for the trap of over planning before you have any experience in the transition!
  • Fail quickly and small. Be prepared for the odd failures. Data-driven decision-making and digitisation are new concepts. This means there is huge opportunity for improvement but also opportunity to misstep – as on any journey. Set up your projects and initiatives to tolerate failure but ensure it is reached quickly to move on to better targets.
  • Deliver iteratively. Build an implementation approach that delivers value iteratively and quickly while building up towards larger deliverables. This ensures you bring value forward while also making sure the end result is relevant. In today’s fast paced world, long “big-bang” projects are at risk of being outdated before they are delivered.

Biarri EMI’s data-driven algorithmic products are worthwhile investments for mining companies on their journey to a digitised supply chain:

  • kavern is an algorithmic web app that provides prescriptive analytics to guide load and haul equipment scheduling on mine sites. It enables easy data capture, reporting and spatial mine visualisation, coupled with powerful automated scheduling capabilities.
  • Distributed Infrastructure Maintenance Optimisation solution (DIMO) is used to schedule preventative and corrective maintenance of mining assets that are distributed over large distances. Like kavern, it introduces a spatial component to planning, and analyses data to automatically generate schedules.

Both kavern and DIMO integrate with third-party systems and data acquisition sources such as Pitram, as well as data upload from spreadsheets. This means that, while they deliver targeted point solutions in specific areas, they are capable of interacting with other systems and extending their business value across the supply chain.

Get in touch with us to find out more.

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