Monday, December 3, 2012

The Network Centric Mine

We will be publishing a series of posts on the topic of The Network Centric Mine, which is a concept that is sweeping the mining industry under a number of different names,  similar to what happened in the Oil & Gas industry over 10 years ago under names such as Oilfield of the Future, Digital Oilfield, iFields, eFields, Smart Fields, etc.  We published a paper on this topic and presented it at the International Mine Management 2012 conference.

The Abstract reads:

To respond to ever-increasing challenges, mining companies have been experimenting with new business models and technologies in order to speed mine development, production, processing and transport.  The various experiments involve mobile access to data, intelligent sensors, advanced analytics, virtual collaboration, virtual reality, automated equipment, remote operations centres and strategic partnerships.   A synthesis of all these components creates a ‘network effect’ that can dramatically improve the overall effectiveness the entire operation.

The concept of the Network Centric Mine borrows from a variety of industries, including defence, aerospace, aviation, petroleum, utilities and manufacturing.  Central to the concept are improvements to the way we connect people, process, information and technology, resulting in a more highly collaborative business model, with roles and processes designed to take advantage of new technology.  The components of the mining operation act as a connected network aimed at a common goal, regardless of the boundaries of organisation and location.

The design of this new organisational ecosystem needs to take into account the recent advances that enable the ‘plug and play’ integrated collaborative environment, including cloud computing, mobile devices and social networking, as well as advances in augmented reality, robotics, geo-location, digital labelling, simulation and analytics.  However, the most consistent lesson from other industries is the need to properly enable the behaviour and process changes necessary for success.

Benefits from adopting a network centric approach include the more effective use of scarce expertise, improved data and information analysis, reduced process variance, and more informed and faster decision-making.

The future of mining will see more technology savvy workers who will drive adoption of new processes.  The operations will shift from a relatively static and disparate set of functions, to a digitally aware, dynamic, automated, integrated and interactive environment, with increased agility, lower operating costs, higher productivity and improved safety.

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