It seems mining companies are always under pressure to cut costs and raise productivity. Not knowing future prices for their products, they need to extract each ton at the best possible cost. How can mining companies manage real and sustainable performance improvement over time? How would they measure it?

In a June 2018 report, McKinsey suggested three key focus areas for mining businesses at this critical time. The mining sector is changing faster than ever, with technology now a key strategic priority and enabler for productivity and sustainable growth.

Industry experts have suggested embedding effective management operating systems at mines, which will make performance more transparent and help identify areas for improvement. Some have also said the mining business should focus on innovative approaches to improve productivity and take advantage of what digitization can offer.

Mining companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are shaping the design of a more interconnected, digital mine by leveraging advances in technology and artificial intelligence (AI). However, there is still a plethora of data being collected on mine sites that remains untapped.

MineWare CEO Andrew Jessett believes the ability to organize, manage and measure mining data is key to driving sustainable performance in the future.

“Better data management is giving mining operations a real competitive edge,” he said. “Using data smartly can improve productivity, reduce mining costs, and enhance employee performance and well-being. Those companies getting it right are rapidly seeing the benefits of digitization. It’s about connecting multiple systems, processes and people together to deliver sustainable, step-change improvement — one load at a time.”

MineWare supports more than 230 systems in more than 130 surface mining operations around the world to improve their performance and productivity. The company’s monitoring systems provide mine sites with independent machine guidance and payload monitoring information for their large ground engaging machinery in real time. In 2017, MineWare joined the Komatsu group of companies.

Technology Return on Investment 

Jessett said MineWare’s systems deliver a measurable productivity RoI for loading equipment such as draglines, electric shovels and hydraulic excavators.

“The results Argus and Pegasys deliver in the field speak for themselves. We typically see a measurable productivity payback within six months,” he said. 

“Beyond this, our customers see sustained performance in the long haul as well,” he said. “Our engineers and field support experts work on the ground to help mining operations sustain and continually build on that level of improvement over time.” 

A comprehensive understanding of mining processes is integral to avoiding the discontinuities that could arise from disconnected operations.

Digitization can help break down silos and provide greater end-to-end visibility across the supply chain. Jessett said this more holistic approach improves decision making, machine reliability as well as people and process efficiency.  

“MineWare’s holistic approach supports productivity improvement across the entire value chain, integrating operating systems and sharing knowledge between departments to break down
the silos. 

“We’re closing the feedback loop on upstream and downstream mining processes,” he said. “And in doing so, our clients are seeing very real benefits of system integration and and collaboration.”

What this means is they are giving mining personnel, from operators to engineers and planners, immediate access to important actionable information in real time. Having critical payload and performance data available drives greater operational efficiencies and smarter decision making.

Long-term Technology Partnerships 

Jessett said strong partnerships between mining equipment and technology service providers and mining companies is another imperative for sustainable performance improvement. While technology is advancing and MineWare prides itself in being on top of technological changes, Jessett emphasized the importance of bringing customers along on the journey. 

“A true partnership approach is essential, working closely with everyone on site — from the operators on board, site supervisors, maintenance personnel and mine planners all the way up to the boardroom.”

“Our customers want to innovate and future-proof their mining operations. We support them on their digitization journey, with interoperable monitoring technology solutions that can drive sustainable improvements to their operations and bottom line.

“From benchmarking operator performance to optimizing payload, it’s about measuring what’s happening on board and in the pit, and applying those insights to deliver continuous improvement — in real time and for long-term improvement.” 

As an example, MineWare’s Argus Shovel Monitor has now been operating for more than four years at a hardrock mining operation in Western Australia.

The Argus trial and change management project delivered against the following three key performance criteria: 

• To increase the average system payload by 5 metric tons (mt);

• To achieve system accuracy within ± 3%; and

• To ensure zero increase in the number of overloads (tip-offs). 

Through effective training, implementation and management, including operator workshops, in-cab coaching and live performance monitoring, the new technology received strong support and acceptance. The team also benefited from MineWare’s 24/7 service and support through its Integrated Support Centre (ISC).

Each of the previously mentioned criteria was met or exceeded. 

The intuitive display of the Argus system was particularly well received by the team on site. In the cab, operators had control over what data was displayed and how, empowering them to use this real-time information to make the most efficient decisions.

Following the success of the trial, which increased the average payload significantly, reduced payload variability and ensured no overloads or underloads, the technology has remained in place and continues to deliver results for the Western Australian mine site. 

The Argus system is proven to boost shovel productivity between 3% to 16% while lowering the cost per ton moved. 

“Time after time, our customers have demonstrated that once the Argus system is adopted, their improvement is consistent and sustainable,” said Jessett. 

This article was submitted by MineWare.