5 business drivers for adopting digital operations in mining

Examples of the mining companies that leverage software to translate their long-term business goals into realistic operational plans and constantly adapt to changing conditions during the execution. You can follow their lead.

  • Are all of your KPI reports ironed out? Do all of your teams trust and use digital tools?
  • How realistic are your mine shift schedules to feed processing plants at planned rates?
  • How agile are your execution and maintenance teams in an unpredictable environment?
  • Are you leveraging data to meet quality mixing constraints and minimize stock handling?
  • Are you getting the most from your existing resources to drive down cost per ton?

The answers to these questions and more are readily available to the companies using ABB's operational excellence software tailored to the mining industry.

By Rajesh Nandakumar Nair LinkedIn
Global Portfolio Manager
Operational Excellence Software 
ABB Process Industries

I hope that the following real-life examples will  inspire your people to adopt modern ways to plan and control day-to-day activities; enforce safety and compliance; monitor and manage operational performance in mines, processing plants and across the entire enterprise. Help your teams drive tangible improvements in the five areas that are key to any business*: speed, flexibility, dependability, quality and costs. 

1. Speed

Produce an automated daily plan in compliance with mine's weekly targets, forecasted state of production, maintenance needs, HSE and other constraints (typically leading to up to 25% reduction of scheduling time). Help planners, supervisors and managers streamline processes, reduce unproductive activities, significantly accelerating mining cycles and overall project timelines. When more data is aggregated into a single integrated ecosystem, this will enable faster decisions for more roles (geologists, engineers, etc)

ABB helped Boliden in Sweden to replace paper, manual data entries and spreadsheets with an integrated process control system for automated production scheduling. This lets mine coordinators monitor and review mining activities based on targets, metrics and KPIs. Any deviations from plan are highlighted, speeding up appropriate actions.

2. Flexibility

When workforce, activities, vehicles, fixed equipment and sensors are connected in real time, operators can report production states and disturbances directly from the on-board tablet or in combination with the automated data collection. Thanks to the dynamic, digitalized resource allocation and dispatch with paperless work guidance and tracking, mine operations can be swiftly adjusted to the evolving requirements without compromising on safety.

ABB helps Gold Fields in Australia to solve a broad range of planning and operational challenges in hard-to-predict environments. Mine planners informed about disturbances in real time, can evaluate multiple “what-if” scenarios for optimal resource utilization and re-plan, also reducing HSE risks and production variability.

3. Dependability

Combine CMMS connectivity with maintenance forecast reports and on-event notifications. Access OEE, downtime and other KPIs. Provide a robust framework for enforcing pre-defined plans, increasing machine availability, reducing unplanned downtime and safety risks. This reliability extends to the overall dependability of the supply chain, ensuring material movement tracking and optimized flow of required quantities and qualities.

ABB supported a mining company based in India to get 11 sites (mines and concentrators) connected and integrated with business information (ERP). Besides improving maintenance practices, reliability and logistics, the company is continuously enhancing safety, material recovery and quality management.

4. Quality

Automate lab processes, improve coordination between dispatchers, processing plant control room operators, quality engineers and process analysts. With access to quality data from Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), process trends, alarms history, emissions, and other data in one system, they can act on root causes of issues and reduce variability. This helps transfer process methodology from higher-performing to lower-performing or green-field plants to guarantee standard output and compliance.

For a greenfield mining project in Latin America management required a data-driven decision support system to reduce project risks related to metal price, head grade, metallurgical recovery and operating costs. ABB is providing off-the-shelf solution and decades of experience to enable best-in-class processes from the start. The refineries processing new ore types will reduce product variability and lead time.

5. Costs

While initial investments are a consideration (particularly in underground mining due to complexity of positioning and the cost of communications infrastructure), ABB’s modular and scalable solutions for digitalizing workflows, optimizing data flow between different systems, workforce mobility and collaboration deliver substantial long-term cost benefits. We provide visibility of locations, equipment and personnel status in real time, effective intra-shift decisions and better orchestration across the entire value chain. This leads to more efficient resource utilization, reduced energy consumption, minimized operational overheads, less emissions and waste. By representing asset properties and workflows in a standard way based on ISA-95 framework, functionality and configurations can be shared across sites, simplifying integration and interoperability. The result is a significant improvement in the overall-costs-effectiveness of mining operations.

ABB has been recognized in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) BOSS Most Innovative Companies list for its cutting-edge collaboration with Gold Fields, to implement one of the world’s most digitally enabled underground mines. By introducing the ISA-95 standard, Gold Fields Granny Smith mine now has a ‘plug and play’ architecture that can be deployed across other underground and open-pit operations. It is forecast to lead to 25% cost savings from integrations and up to 10% productivity increase.  

A Canadian mine adopting ABB’s Short Interval Control and Underground Fleet Management System was able to move the truck dispatcher into an Integrated Remote Operations Center. After hiring analysts to support the dispatcher and automating the delivery of some insights, the customer found many opportunities for improvement, e.g. leading to 20% less personnel overtime annually.


Your journey to true operational excellence with ABB

If your teams are

  • still using paper, spreadsheets and siloed tools for mine planning, scheduling and execution
  • still lacking real-time visibility of operation states vs targets, energy consumption and costs, emissions, inventory, quality, OEE, downtime and maintenance activities
  • implementing an Integrated Remote Operation Center
  • considering advanced analytics algorithms for more systematic and strategic problem solving that would require AI/ML ready data

We can help digitalize your operations, rethink the data flow between an integrated set of tools and produce reliable metrics critical to your success. 

To get started, ask for your sample KPI report.

Then adapt the configurations from our mining blueprint to your dream report while optimizing the underlying processes.

Use the contact form below.

*Reference: Five main operational performance objectives according to Andy Neely, author of the book “Business Performance Measurement: Unifying Theory and Integrating Practice”
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