How the Mining sector can adopt Industry 4.0 technology successfully
Start small, build business cases, and utilize organizations and partners who are asking the right questions.
For Industry 4.0 technology to be of benefit to any business (and for it to unlock sufficient budget to invest in it), it must be able to demonstrate tangible, bottom-line benefits for your organization.
Much like Industry 4.0’s cousin, ‘Digital Transformation’, it offers a world of promise when applied in the right way, to the right problem, but far too much time is spent talking about the technologies involved and what can be achieved, rather than what business problems that they’re trying to solve (the use case) and what you’re going to achieve (the outcome) by doing it in this new way.
Once it’s clear what’s trying to be achieved, then from a practical point of view, it becomes all about the data. However, it’s not about MORE data, it’s about collecting the RIGHT data, FAST and RELIABLY. Data is needed to not just analyze and build a business case, but to continually feed into any solution built to allow it to operate - without it, everything else fails.
In the world of ‘Big Data’, it’s easy to capture everything and get lost in the noise - the true skill is knowing what’s relevant to measure when assessing and honing in on that.
- Identify the business objective. Understand the goals that are being worked towards and the outcomes that the solution is to drive, whether its efficiency, output or something else – often this decision has already been made for you because the problems are obvious and growing.
- Pick a champion. To drive change within any business, someone that is willing to educate key stakeholders and champion the project widely is critical. It could be a small team, but ideally they need to be P&L-focused and have both a strategic understanding of what can be achieved, as well as be interested in innovation within the sector. It will be their responsibility to not only make the business case, but then also bring the wider workforce along on the journey so that the project doesn’t stumble post-deployment - change management can be the hardest piece.
- Explore the use case. Consider how Industry 4.0 technology might be used in particular environments in different scenarios to achieve the overarching goal. For example, if it was to improve efficiency, there’s lots of inputs that go into that, e.g. what’s happening on the processing plant floor, with the furnace, transport, etc. By choosing the right use case, rather than a technology, it is easier to plan an effective, successful project.
- Analyze the internal resources and the skills gap. It’s likely that there will be internal skill sets or existing technology roadmaps that might be of use, so this is the time to establish what the skills gap is, before drawing up a plan on how to find them before committing to a broader plan.
- Find the right suppliers. Work with organizations that know the mining sector and that have a trusted network of partners who they can call in to create the ideal solution. Any business promising a silver bullet, is advisable to be given a wider berth: Industry 4.0 sustainability solutions are complicated and one size doesn’t always fit all, it’s also highly-likely that they work with a network of partners to implement and run the program (if they don’t, with so many skill sets and technologies needed, are they truly best-in-class solutions) ensure that they also have an eye for the long-term and aren’t offering siloed non-expandable technologies.
- Pick a key metric and look to fill data gaps. Pick what the key metric of success will be and then establish where there are data gaps or it’s not possible to measure at present or in real-time. From here it’s possible to establish what hardware and software will be needed, as well as how automation and business logic models would work in your particular business.
- Identify the technology stack. As detailed earlier, there are numerous parts that go into a solution, so pick the right pieces.
- Start small. Run a small pilot program to establish what the business case is. This approach reduces risk and necessary upfront investment, making it far more likely it will be able to begin. Take one function, site, or handful of assets or plant and work with it; monitoring over time to see (and measure) the impact that it’s having – all with an eye on how this can scale.
- Make the business case. Craft the business case with proven data points for expanding and scaling the solution to different sites, assets or products with clearly identified metrics and establish-able benefits.
- Scale. Roll-out across multiple sites and capture bigger data sets from across operations, leveraging them to speed-up and enhance the optimization loop. Working with a partner that can work with you over the longer-term and, critically, knows how to scale will shorten future reduced costs, speed-up the deployment process, and reduce further development cycles.
Start small, build business cases, and utilize organizations and partners that not only work together and are experts in their field, but who are asking the right questions.
I4 Mining is a sustainability technology provider to the mining sector, offering ready-to-deploy ESG solutions that help miners to succeed both strategically and operationally without ever getting in the way of good business.
Our solutions enable you to easily develop strategies, deliver accurate sustainability metrics and reports in real-time, improve sustainability and business performance, as well as make predictive analytics and forecasts part of your everyday so that you can reduce risks and optimise from mine-to-market.
Speak to us today to book a demo and discover how you can get started on your digital sustainability journey.
Want to know about industrial AI + IoT more broadly?
If you'd like to find out more about the technology that underpins all of our digital mining solutions, other industrial uses of AI + IoT, or are eager to get into the detail of precisely what AI and IoT technology are then visit the Rayven blog.