Getting value from Digital in Mining: Asset planning

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Getting value from Digital in Mining: Asset planning

Around the world, we see lots of hype and interest in applying digital technology to mining operations. We work with many clients to help them identify opportunities to extract value from new technology. Based on what we’re hearing and seeing, we have identified a few key areas where technology can change the game in the short term.


Most companies we see have a meaningful opportunity in managing their assets in a more coordinated manner. We often see:

  • Poor linkages from long-range to monthly to short-range plans means that planning becomes an act of science fiction instead of a reasonable stretch goal that the front line can buy into
  • Often the daily plan is the week plan divided by seven, regardless of the crew numbers, the grade, the state of equipment or any other real-world limitation; a target that lacks intellectual integrity will be impossible for an experienced crew to buy into
  • Plans are in silos; mine, plant, rail, port and operations, maintenance — there is no integration that shows a real-world understanding of conditions on the ground

These limitations lead inevitably to compromise. First of all, since each of the inputs reflect a different reality than the plan, there is no single source of truth, and more time is required to compile each plan version. This absence of hard-edged reality means that planners use average data for key variables, when everyone knows the variables can vary in predictable ways. The plans stop improving—as each plan is not rooted in real data, there is no way to tell if your plans are getting better or worse.

And even worse, the plans become a political exercise, finalized through negotiation rather than what the team can actually achieve. So instead of having a big picture view of the whole operation based on data, you have a loosely related set of plans in silos; that doesn’t help anyone.

We see Digital applications leading to real planning payoffs in the near term, where:

  • Plans can be updated daily, even shiftly where appropriate, with changes being communicated to phones and tablets over wifi.
  • Planners can use actual data for equipment location, distance, grade, etc. The data can come from sensors in the equipment or can be manually entered into phones and tablets by the frontline team. This has multiple benefits, as the plans are much closer linked to the reality frontline people see in front of them. Not only are the plans more accurate, they are easier to align around.
  • Short-term plans are optimized based on facts, not negotiated. When one node of the system changes, the changes can ripple through the whole plan quickly. Accordingly, as bottlenecks are revealed or eliminated, resources can flow quickly to the right place.
  • Management gets a system view rather than silo views. This doesn’t always make life easier, as bottlenecks can appear out of nowhere, but it’s always better to know the truth in advance than to be surprised.
  • Most importantly, a robust and connected system reinforces coordinated and consistent actions across the system, which lead to more predictable behaviours and more sustainable results.

Want to learn more about extracting value from new technology in mining? Read the full blog: