At a closed-door industry event I attended recently, even as an analyst working in the mining sector, I was taken aback by the pace of change the industry is experiencing right now. One of the striking things about the conversations that took place was how digital – particularly enabling platforms, digital twins, and integration - has become embedded in the transformation companies are on, and the role that digital led innovation is playing. The sector has a long way to go, but acceleration is really happening. The mining industry is on the move.
Core to the discussions and challenges raised was how to embed digital led innovation in the business as usual processes of a mining operation. Innovation – an exceptionally broad topic – formed the basis of a slay of questions:
- Where should the focus be?
- How should innovation processes be structured, how are priorities set, and how to build business as usual collaboration?
- What will deliver value and what won’t? And, how to measure it.
- The value proposition of digital mining?
- How to structure the data capability that is required for integrated operating environments? Should this involve a Chief Digital/Data Officer?
- Defining the right approach for the roadmap. Have completed an assessment. Industrial domain is the appropriate for high ROI initiatives.
In a recent survey by IDC energy Insights of 245 mining decision makers globally, 57% of mining companies say operational excellence is their top priority. This is important because as companies bring digital together with established operational excellence practices, a new type of digital led operational excellence is emerging.
For industry leaders, operational excellence incorporates enabling the process, business and change improvement through data management and analytical capabilities in an environment of continuous change, improvement and innovation. The environment will utilise digital twins, digital models of products and processes associated with operations, assets and maintenance, and platforms for physical and virtual collaboration. The ability to bring this data enabled operational excellence to bear across the whole mining enterprise will be a critical driver of competitive differentiation and success for digital initiatives of mining companies. Mining companies seeking to create this in their own operations need to look at the following areas:
- Create an environment for innovation. Creating an environment that will promote innovation, that is integrated in the business and structured within decision making processes as simply as possible is important.
- Focus on the integration. Data integration between operational and enterprise systems is a mess for almost every company in the industry. This integration is critical to delivering the operational insight required.
- Look for suppliers who can provide platforms to enable integration of the siloed operational environment.