Within the last few years, the global mining industry experienced something of a supercycle, an unprecedented boom in profits.
But, this boost has brought with it some less desirable effects, says Ash Bosworth, director of analytics and innovation at Pulse Mining Systems. The supercycle fostered a lax approach to production efficiency, he says.
Meanwhile, an aging workforce has led to a loss of expertise, leaving companies less capable.
To help bring production efficiency back as a priority, Pulse utilized business intelligence (BI) software provider Birst to create an application that targets specific mining pain points. It helps users monitor operations in real-time, enabling some clients to drive millions worth of additional production.
Here, we’ll show how Pulse developed the software, and we’ll look at the compelling benefits of real-time data.
The Problem: Lack of Automation, Monitoring Capabilities Handicapped Production
Australia-based Pulse Mining Systems offers consulting, services and software for mining companies of all types and has worked with some of the world’s most successful organizations, such as Rio Tinto, Glencore and Centennial Coal.
As the supercycle continued, mining companies experienced decreases in production, Bosworth says.
Key factors that exacerbated this problem:
- The aging workforce left mining companies with fewer qualified workers to maintain optimal production levels.
- Troubled communication between operational technology and IT made analytics data for assets difficult to read.
“From the miner’s perspective, the absence of a modern automated real-time reporting solution to monitor performance of people and equipment…was a critical shortcoming.”
Ash Bosworth, Pulse Mining Systems
These problems manifested in various ways across mining operations:
- Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) reports from machines didn’t line up with the company’s business requirements, so they were unlikely to offer any significant insights.
- Many mining clients manually entered data from reports written by process supervisors; this was a conflict of interest because “basically they were filling out their own report card,” Bosworth says.
- This manual entry meant that data couldn’t be viewed until the 24-hour cycle was up, so managers couldn’t review the data in an appropriate time frame, such as when they ended a shift.
Pulse’s primary offering is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite designed specifically for the mining industry. And in recent years, Pulse has invested in advanced mining analytics applications that harness the power of the internet of things (IoT).
The company saw this as an opportunity to combine the capabilities of their solutions, Birst’s BI capabilities and extensive experience with mining industry data to create an application that targets these pain points.
The Solution: Real-Time Analytics Drive Millions in Added Production
Bosworth says that Birst offers the most versatility and can gather data from multiple sources, including the Pulse ERP and the mining equipment itself.
This combination spawned a series of applications to address the problems listed above. The Production Analytics app was created in collaboration with a client to pull data from:
- Continuous miner machines (machine data)
- Shift rosters and the company’s ERP (production and budget data)
In order to source this data from machines, Bosworth says Pulse outfitted each continuous miner machine with more than 300 sensors that capture and transmit data every second.
“This data is collated and analyzed by our app, combined with data from other pertinent sources and presented either on a tablet device or emailed to relevant stakeholders in accordance with a predetermined schedule,” he says.
Now, all the fundamental elements are in place, and the application can be configured to fit with various types of machines. Since these continuous miners are among the most complex assets, Bosworth says adapting the app to simpler machines is a relatively easy task.
The end results of implementing this solution are significant:
- Data and reporting accuracy is greatly improved through the use of automatic data input versus manual entry.
- Automatic mining increases production rates. Bosworth says continuous miners have typically been used in manual mode. Since the new app tracks the mode used, use of automatic mode has increased dramatically, leading to more efficient production and less risk of damage to machines or human injuries.
- The increased volume of data provides a greater overview of productivity. Users can review data in a dashboard format, which offers a clear grasp of current operations.
“They have reported that working with the solution has increased the understanding of front line managers on how the people and equipment perform within the overall mining process,” Bosworth says.
In terms of pure statistical benefits, the numbers tell a successful story as well. Since implementation, the app helped one Pulse client achieve:
- A 3.2 percent increase in the operating rate
- An increase from $2.5 million to $3 million per year in tonnes produced
Bosworth and Pulse Mining hope to expand these data-driven capabilities to other areas of mining for their clients, from exploration and project development to full operation.
“Our clients have told us that they would like to expand the system to include every process across every site,” he says. “Whilst their current focus is on production, they will be looking to expand the solution to include engineering, cutting sequence, environmental and possibly safety.”
The best part? This technology isn’t only for enterprise companies; Bosworth says the app’s framework can be customized to each client in an affordable package.
So, How Can Smaller Companies Gain Real-Time Analytics?
Through a company like Pulse, or other vendors that are focused on maintenance and asset management, companies of any size can find significant benefits by putting their data to work with analytics. Here are some tips:
- Seek software with strong data-capture capabilities. Many of the top maintenance management systems today offer the ability to stream condition-based data from your most important assets, whether it’s heavy manufacturing equipment, vehicles or building components such as lighting and HVAC systems.
You can gather data manually with spot checks, or invest in sensor technology that automatically transmits data to your ERP or CMMS in real time, populating dashboards and giving you a greater grasp on operations as they happen.
- Embrace the internet of things (IoT). IoT technology is a driving force behind data-driven, proactive maintenance and asset management. Many successful implementations of IoT technology for maintenance optimization end up spreading into and improving other business areas.
For example, IoT technology can be used to enable remote control of vehicles, or potentially help home in on root causes of maintenance issues. You can view several examples of advanced IoT in mining here.
- Call 844-689-4876 for free guidance on software selection. Maybe you need some extra help finding the right maintenance or asset management system. Call our advisors for a free consultation to narrow down your best options.