Reopening after the pandemic will require reinvention and reinvestment in digital technologies. In 2021, companies should prioritise being more digital, data-driven, and in the cloud; as well as having more variable cost structures, agile operations and automation; and creating stronger capabilities in security. This agility will be core to their continuous response to the unpredictable.
Numerous companies have fleets of autonomous trucks, drills, trains and loaders at mine sites, but there is also a growing need to automate parts of the decision-making process across the mining value chain, ensuring decisions are being made ‘in-time’ – leading to vast improvements in efficiencies and cost.
The key to this next level autonomy will be the increasing use of artificial intelligence; machine learning; robotic process automation; descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive analytics; and scenario modelling. These technologies allow systems to understand the data flowing through operations, enable situational awareness, and develop near-real-time insights into operations. These will offer great support to human talent and guide automated decision-making and responses to changing conditions.
Success Factors for Investment in Automation
1.Focus on Value: Having clear visibility of the key value drivers is critical to avoiding false starts and matching stakeholder expectations.
2. Address the foundation: Ensure your IT architectures are ready to support communications between various systems and types of equipment. Companies should work closely with partners to weave systems together. Importantly, they should assess cybersecurity requirements, because a breach could mean losing control of systems and processes.
3. Ensure data readiness: Companies need to consider their data-handling capabilities to capture and manage ever-growing volumes of data, while ensuring the data used to drive decision-making is accurate and trusted – without it, autonomous capabilities will be limited, at best.
4. Manage the change: The shift to autonomy could leave employees behind if not carefully managed. Mining companies can help their people feel more comfortable with new approaches by communicating clearly, building trust and preparing them to succeed in the new environment. Manage fears in the local community to maintain the licence to operate.
Reinvestment is best done in gradual, targeted steps. Having a roadmap and focusing first on high-impact areas – through the lens of Accenture’s Triple Zero purpose: Zero Harm, Zero Loss and Zero Waste – will prove effective. This framework provides insight into how actions and initiatives can support Triple Bottom Line reporting. Ultimately, new processes and capabilities are a stepping-stone to longer-term business transformation.