By Clinton Scott, managing director at TechSoft International
Mining is a complex industry that must balance worker safety, environmental concerns and sustainability with overcoming the challenges of siloed operations and increasing system complexity, thanks to evolving technology. This is where connecting assets more intelligently can help contextualise decision-making and bring improvements across operations.
Of course, data analytics is hardly a new concept for mines, but when combined with the high-performance computing capabilities of cloud systems, more reliable access due to the growth of 5G, and the connective power of the internet, it becomes a powerful disruptive force.
Mines are no strangers to the Internet of Things and the need to have remote connected sensors feed mission-critical data into operational rooms for safety and operational efficiency. But now they can incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence to inject sophisticated algorithms into the process that automates much of the ‘grunt’ analysis work at exponentially faster rates than human resources can ever do.
Even though disparate data is a concern for any industry, in mines it can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to worker safety. Automation can therefore positively enhance operations by cleaning up the messy data, whether this is from scans of hard copy documents or different types of data sets kept by different departments. By creating business value from automated processes using machine learning and artificial intelligence, mines can collate and contextualise data from unstructured sources faster, and optimise the information to derive improved insights.
More than that, decision makers get complete visibility on current process performance based on real operational data from system logs. This provides the foundation required for accurate analysis and diagnosis of process issues. Furthermore, mines can use this automation to help identify non-compliance. They can use transactional data to analyse the steps required to complete a process, check compliance and discover bottlenecks in the system. Automation can also identify employee patterns, behaviours and barriers to productivity.
Having such continually adapting systems means automation becomes adept in identifying and flagging issues proactively across multiple locations and assets. Artificial intelligence systems start developing capacity to predict outcomes based on frequency and severity. Mines are entering a digital new world that will be radically enhanced by automated systems helping to drive decision making.