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4 Must-Have Technologies for Metals & Mining
By Sharon Gietl, VP-IT & CIO, The Doe Run Company
These systems have been in place for decades. Integrating process control equipment data and trends with information from the business (IT) side of the house, such as laboratory analysis information, human resource information, environmental data and inventories, can present information to help you improve operations while reducing costs. For example, process control data from a milling operation—when paired with information about the shift operators and the results they obtained— can help you identify best practices. You may find that “institutional knowledge” is flawed when financial results are compared with indicators such as raw material usage, process information and environmental data for a particular product. By looking at data in an integrated fashion, you’ll find ways to improve processes and results that were thought to be “perfected” years ago.b. Mobile equipment monitoring alone gives your maintenance team crucial information about a particular piece of equipment, and helps them plan routine maintenance before equipment fails. Using that information along with human resource data, inventory information and maintenance cost data for each piece of equipment provides visibility into the most/least efficient operators, assists with maintaining proper inventory levels for repair parts, and helps determine the true equipment costs per hour. Ultimately, this level of insight allows production and maintenance teams to improve efficiency and reduce overall operational costs. 3. Data Analytics Tools: As you might expect, these tools used to be very expensive and required steep learning curves. Today’s dashboards or data discovery tools are now available as an SaaS, meaning companies can get their feet wet in data analytics at a low investment threshold. Best of all, you don’t need rocket scientists on staff to use the technology. These tools involve what’s called an Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tool that allows your IT staff to pull data and prepare dashboards based on information from multiple data sources, such as your ERP system, HR system, maintenance system, environmental data system, and process historians in your operations technology systems. By manipulating the data to produce multiple views or dashboards, the business user can see—in a matter of hours—trends and critical insights that might have taken weeks of data analysis to produce in the past. Below are a few ways you can readily utilize these tools (both the ETL tool and the dashboard tool have short learning curves) to improve your business. a. Equipment Comparisons: Use dashboards to compare equipment cost per hour between individual mines, between competing vendors, and even between various equipment models. Doing so allows you to find the right combination that produces the best overall value for the company. b. Operational Performance and Efficiencies: Dashboards also can help you visualize production information alongside maintenance information and environmental, health and safety data. Doing so can provide a broader perspective to improve operational efficiencies. For example, you might do a comparison between production, equipment and underground air quality. 4. Drones: Mining and metals companies are typically located in some of the more remote areas of the world. Companies will spend a large amount of capital to build infrastructure, such as roads, to enable manual inspection of pipelines or to provide access for staff to collect 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 could be used more cost effectively than current practices. Commodity cycles are a given, what is not known is when one will start and when it will end. Rather than “hunkerdown” and simply cut costs, innovative companies are using technology to help them survive. These four technologies just might make a difference in improving your company’s cost structure and helping you survive the present down cycle; preparing you to take advantage of the industry’s next peak.
Today’s Dashboards Or Data Discovery Tools Are Now Available As An Saas, Meaning Companies Can Get Their Feet Wet In Data Analytics At A Low Investment Threshold