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Building a digital ecosystem to support the mine of the future

Cubility - Digital Ecosystem

How IBM is helping mining companies solve problems from connectivity through to autonomous solutions and harness data to drive the industry towards the digital mines of the future.

“Technology, in its various stages of evolution, is our business at IBM,” reflects Manish Chawla, Global Managing Director for Energy & Natural Resources. “We’ve been involved in mining for decades, and just like in any other industry we’ve re-invented our offerings to add services, software, data handling, cloud and AI capabilities. Our focus has progressed from IT and core functions to meet the needs of business transformation projects such as SAP implementations or process outsourcing, to support the mining industry in managing data as a strategic asset; helping the industry to capture, monetise and secure it.”

IBM’s portfolio features a set of offerings targeting enterprise & operations transformation, outsourcing, SAP implementations, and helping clients use their data to their specific strategic advantage. “Look at technologies such as blockchain for traceability in the supply chain,” Chawla adds. “Today, we are a full-service partner focused on the employee experience, while using technology for transforming various functions across a mining organisation.”

Chawla notes a recognition from the mining industry that technology can now solve specific problems from connectivity through to autonomous solutions. “Now we’re able to harness the data, the C-suite can see the importance of digitisation and how it will drive the business in the future,” he says. “A technology-savvy and enabled mining enterprise is critical for attracting and supporting the workforce of the future. How do you get people out of the unsafe conditions of underground mines in remote areas and make the industry attractive to a new generation? Technology holds the key.”

A recent study by the World Economic Forum forecast that over the next decade the mining industry will create further value of $190bn from additional transformational measures. “When these strategies are executed in a more integrated fashion, inside-out and outside-in transformation, we believe businesses will be at a great advantage from humans and machines working together,” explains Maxelino Nelson, Senior Executive for Industry Innovation, Global Solutions, & Business Strategy at IBM. “This will outperform humans or machines working on their own. It’s a great opportunity for us and our mining clients to solve some of the societal challenges relating to sustainability while developing the mining sector’s ecosystem to partner with IBM to truly transform the business in a more holistic way.”

Nelson notes that over the past 5-10 years the digital transformation journeys IBM’s clients have taken have been characterised by AI and experimentation with customer-facing apps; activities that have been driving the cloud during chapter one of a digital reinvention.

What will chapter two hold? “We believe industrial businesses are ready to move towards business reinvention: scaling digital and AI and embedding it in the business. It’s about hybrid cloud, moving mission critical applications from experimentation to true end-to-end transformation. The key to winning is centred around what we at IBM call the ‘Cognitive Enterprise’.”

With the initial trends of the first chapter maturing, Nelson maintains we’re on the cusp of the next big shift in the business architecture. It will be driven by the pervasive application of AI and cognitive technologies, combined with data, to the core processes and workflows across mining organisations alongside important functional areas such as finance, procurement, talent and supply chain. The results of this revolutionary change will be defined as the Cognitive Enterprise.

“Companies that get this journey right are on the way to being a Cognitive Enterprise,” affirms Nelson. “In our experience, critical areas for natural resources industries to get right on this journey are openness and collaboration, integration, intelligent workflows and cultural skills. In a time of continued volatility and disruption, open innovation and co-creation are vital to be able to partner across ecosystems and learn from other industries to achieve fundamental transformation as 90% of the jobs in mining are changed, not necessarily replaced, through technology.”

How is IBM helping companies embrace Mining 4.0 and support the move towards the digital mine of the future? “We’ve developed a data-driven productivity platform with Sandvik, a leading supplier of underground mining equipment. This partnership has seen us connect their assets, their equipment, to our cloud to be able to pull data off. The value proposition to a mining company is not only to get data from the Sandvik equipment, but also from other vendor feeds,” explains Chawla. “Interoperability as well as the open data standard is critical for a mine operator. They get visibility to production information, help with equipment, maintenance analytics and improved uptime.”

Built on IBM technologies, Sandvik offers a platform for underground mine optimisation, both for production and data/maintenance related aspects. “We’re also the primary data analytics platform and AI software services partner for Vale for where they have an AI centre of competence,” Chawla reveals. “We’re doing an extensive set of use cases with them, including route optimisation for trucks, testing safety use cases and optimisation of smelters.” IBM is also working with Newmont Goldcorp to help them better understand their ore body, allowing them to reduce the time spent by geologists in analysis and data collection to determine where to guide the next drilling campaign. “We’ve reduced inaccuracy by 95% with the geology data platform that we call ‘cognitive ore body discovery’,” says Chawla.

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Article originally published by Mining Global


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