The mining industry is going through a period of renewal, but while the cost-cutting and downsizing is at an end, it’s not like the heady days of the boom with seemingly unlimited access to capital for new projects.
By Warren Zietsman, managing director, IFS Australia & New Zealand.
At this point in the cycle, new investments are being applied strategically with both a view to medium and long-term benefits and learning from the mistakes of the past when a rush of investment led to the inflation of costs.
For example, we are now seeing adoption of new technologies like mine automation and driverless vehicles that – after the initial investment – let mining companies scale up their operations while maintaining or reducing unit costs.
But there’s a lot more to it than shiny new equipment. With so many competing possibilities, companies need to know they are making the right investments. And they need to be able to transform their operations to take full advantage of them.
Data is the new gold
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Data is the new gold”. The people who say it are not usually miners, but maybe there should be more of them that are.
When I talk to senior executives from mining companies, I hear a lot about the promise of new technologies. I also hear that the data that mining companies need to be successful is buried deep within a lot of ageing and disconnected enterprise software systems.
Don’t get me wrong. Many aspects of mining are specialised, and require specialised software systems, many of them developed by systems suppliers or local companies close to the operational coalface.
But these systems are not designed to provide the integrated information foundation – or “single source of truth” – that companies need. Nor do they attract the sort of research and development spending needed to deliver state-of-the-art functionality and stay ahead of the technology innovation curve.
Look at the systems deployed throughout the industry. How many of them offer integrated business processes modelling and eLearning tools?
Look at the systems deployed throughout the industry. How many of them offer integrated business processes modelling and eLearning tools? How many provide a helicopter view of corporate performance versus operational objectives?
How many have the mobility and device support demanded by a modern workforce that wants to pull up all relevant information on their smartphones right now?
The answer is ERP
To get that sort of functionality, mining companies need a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that offers a lot more than back-office business management functionality such as HR and finance. They also need to be able to simplify their applications landscape by delivering enterprise asset management (EAM), project management, and workforce planning and scheduling capabilities within the same ERP solution.
Just as importantly, they need a modern and flexible platform that can integrate easily with other software and new technologies, that can easily be tailored to the needs of different groups of users, and that delivers information to whatever device they use whenever they need it.
One of our Australian customers – a mining company with operations in multiple countries – has just built an integrated systems foundation with a single ERP solution replacing four or five disparate systems. That is enabling them to consolidate different business entities, standardise their processes, extract reliable, real-time data, and transform their business by adopting automation, IoT, AI or whatever other new technologies are coming up next.
If data is the new gold, companies must be able to mine it, not bury it!