This was the question that the collaborative teams within Gold Fields, ABB and Enterprise Transformation Partners (ETP) set about answering at the Gold Fields Granny Smith gold mine in Western Australia. As part of a technology project to modernise the mine, together, they have worked on a solution that will facilitate communication and instantaneous connectivity between mining workforces, vehicle fleets and equipment. Today, this solution – a bespoke-built ABB Ability™ Operations Management System (OMS) – has just been implemented, assisting in integrating short interval control and closed loop scheduling into the one digital platform.
This is a significant milestone for Gold Fields and for mining in Australia. As one of the most digitally-transformed and real-time connected mines in the world, Granny Smith will act as a blueprint for Gold Fields’ other Australian mines – with the OMS model an important part of Gold Fields’ modernisation strategy.
The implementation of this OMS also underlines just how important collaboration is in the context of digital transformation, and ultimately, interoperability.
“Collaboration has been critical to the success of this project. Our technology teams have worked closely with ABB and ETP and other vendors to build an agnostic system architecture that will enable real-time visibility across operations,” says Rob Derries, Unit Manager, Innovation and Technology, Gold Fields Australia. “As a mine operator, we face a broad range of planning and operational challenges in hard-to-predict environments. We like building on our people’s capability and experience by working with technology innovators to bring in the tools and systems to better manage this balance. It also allows our people to move into more highly skilled roles and tasks.”
Notably, the OMS is aligned with ISA-95 – the international standard for integration of enterprise and control systems. Clinton McKinnon, ABB Product Manager – Digital for Mining, explains why this has been key to the success of the project.
“In mining, there is often a divide between departments and business levels, with each silo representing assets in very different ways, and sometimes the names of these different assets are not aligned with each other,” says McKinnon. “The ISA-95 standard provides a universal language and an understandable framework in which information can be exchanged. This seemingly simple requirement is the key to interoperability that will enable asset properties, functionality, and configurations to be shared across the industry.”
With the introduction of the ISA-95 standard at Granny Smith, the mine has a ‘plug and play’ architecture that can be deployed across open pit and underground operations. What that means is that it connects and integrates information from other hardware and software – such as sensors applied to machinery, and the Mobilaris underground situational awareness and location tracking software – giving planning and operations teams the ability to see the whereabouts and monitor the condition of critical equipment and personnel in real time.
“The mine now has one single, unique system that will bring transparency to the planning and operations,” says Alan Teixeira, Product Business Line Manager – Mining & Digital Solutions, ABB Australia. “These teams will now have a clear vision of any roadblocks or bottlenecks in their operations. This will translate to significant savings as they address efficiency opportunities and improvements in the productivity of the mine.”
Granny Smith’s workforce will be able to receive documents or work orders live via smart tablets, as well as report their task completion or any interruptions in real time. All fixed and mobile equipment will be connected, allowing teams to achieve new levels of production scheduling efficiency and optimise their resource usage from bench preparation to crusher.
“One of the benefits we’ll see immediately is more efficiencies in our short interval control, because until recently, a lot of the work was done manually with verbal commands over the radio,” says Shannon McDermott, Superintendent for Technology Projects at Gold Fields Australia “This will give us visibility of how our operators are performing against their daily shift schedules.”
“We’re pleased that the OMS has now been implemented and Gold Fields can start seeing tangible benefits,” says Teixeira. “As the OMS is a bespoke system that Gold Fields, ETP and our ABB research and development teams have been working on since 2019, we’ve all benefitted from the project learnings. Each partner has shaped the development of this system.”
Significantly, ABB drew on the support of ETP and the partnership with the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Industry 4.0 Energy & Resources Digital interoperability (I4.0 ERDi) Test Lab to build a digital twin of the Granny Smith system. This enabled both Gold Fields,ABB and third party teams to collaborate offsite to test their developments, eliminate bugs and verify the interoperability of mining equipment by running multiple scenarios on the digital twin without disrupting mine activity or production.
“By providing ABB’s OMS solution, we will support the Gold Fields team with significant improvements to planning and productivity, moving the responsibility and reliance from individuals onto an efficient digitalized system for faster decision-making and higher productivity,” concludes Teixeira.