Our miner has been going about their business of getting product to their customers, and using the same tools and processes, for years. They aren’t a big operation, only a couple of diggers and ten trucks, so the idea of spending big on some hugely expensive FMS or Asset Health system just doesn’t seem to make sense. Now with the advent of smart Internet of Things (IoT) products and technologies, a technology rich future appears to be cost prohibitive and further out of reach to our small miner.
Actually, the opposite is true! Choosing the right technology can mean a gradual, and cost effective, way of introducing new technologies into mining operations. How does that work you may ask?
An outdated vision of the cost of IoT
Well, prior to some exposure to what these new products and technologies offer, our miner believed they had only one option – a once off capex purchase for the hardware and software for all of their fleet, and for a network that would allow connectivity across all mining operations. It’s a big 0 to 100 lift that miners like our small operation don’t have an appetite for due to the cost, and the additional management and risk that large change of this type causes.
What’s the alternative? The small, cost effective, incremental and scalable introduction of smart IoT technology that offers real returns, and quickly.
Leveraging Smart IoT for greater flexibility and ROI
Smart IoT technologies like our Intelligent Endpoint® (IEP), coupled with the correct choice of mining applications, can deliver on this in a number of ways:
• Low cost introduction
• Easy to manage targeted roll-out with quick returns
• Multiple opportunities to scale up at a rate that is affordable and manageable for smaller miners
1. Start with basic network coverage leveraging an edge computing platform
To start with, there is no need for a wireless network to cover all mining operations across your site. Edge compute devices like the IEP provide a store and forward mechanism that can be controlled in terms of where it uploads/downloads its data. A network for our small miner might consist of just one or two wireless access points at key locations on the site, preferably utilizing existing infrastructure; power and data.
2. Automate production data collection cost-effectively
Secondly, deploying IoT devices on your load and haulage fleet allows for the transmission of critical production data. One small miner using a paper-based system noted that the truck drivers record each circuit they do, multiplied by the total tonnage capacity of the truck. Productions supervisors then multiply the total fleet by the number of circuits times the total capacity to calculate daily, weekly and monthly production. He stated that they’re always out by 10,000 tons or more because loads were never fully optimized, which wasted effort and efficiencies across the business.
Having the real data, captured and presented automatically, saved precious time and made the work far more efficient than the paper-based method.
3. Monitor your fleet asset health with a third-party solution
Expanding the network over time allows for more real-time access to the production data, and adding edge devices to more fleet can also brings rewards in terms of asset health management.
Being able to quickly identify issues with vehicles before they become failures can turn an ROI almost instantly. A noticed change in gearbox oil temperature, acted upon quickly, can save $250,000 for the cost of a replacement.
4. Increase network coverage and applications over-time
With the incremental increases in network coverage and connected vehicles, our miner doesn’t have to stop there. They can choose to deploy other applications from multiple vendors while sharing data sources via the edge compute device.
As an example, numerous applications can access vehicle health data from a single source via serial port mirroring.
5. The result: An IoT solution that grows with your needs
Outside of the technical expansion available at a rate that our miner finds comfortable, the measured scaling up of the new technologies can occur at a speed that allows for proper management of change from a competency and cultural perspective. It gives our miner time to integrate new tech and new information within the organization, and ramp up the skills of their staff without losing sight of what has always been the prize – information that drives greater production for less cost.
To discuss your mine requirements and how 3D-P can help you implement a cost-effective IoT solution, contact us today.
While we all dream of the day where we can buy just one thing to solve our communications challenges in the mining environment, we all know the design specification for the silver bullet is a long way off (as in “that’s never going to happen”).
So where does that leave us? Well it’s a matter of opinion of course. For this crusty old consultant, the answer is one size never fits all. For me, the answer has always been what do I have in my tool belt that can solve this particular customer problem that makes sense for the customer and their application.
We are essentially talking about finding a business solution and not a vendor driven technology choice. As always, the answer lies in understanding the problem fully as it relates to the business operation in question.
Do not neglect design and installation of your network
There are a few basic questions that will narrow your view on where you start. For example, if you are a brownfield operation that has a pre-existing network and it’s performing poorly, is your problem the technology, or the way it is currently deployed and maintained? Do you have the right technical skillsets in place maintaining it? Maybe you did when it got installed and over time you’ve lost your internal expertise?
For this sort of site your approach may be that you just need some external help for a while to provide an independent view to the problem and to provide some recommendations, and/or assistance to make the necessary changes to bring about the performance required to have your operational applications working optimally. Some examples of what might be considered are:
– Assessing your team competency against the operational tasks required to maintain the network. It could be that it is a simple matter of some training on site.
– How are you currently managing movement of infrastructure and do your current resources understand the specific radio technology requirements around distance and antenna choice? Even something like changing to a RAS (Rapid Auto Steering) self-aligning antenna solution on your trailers may drastically simplify the process of moves and changes to your network, reduces risk of failed changes, optimise network connections and at the same time by using a smart self-aligning antenna solution, you’re solving a technical resource constraint you may have at site.
– On another more physical level, your performance issues may be down to the type of connectors or coaxial cable you use on your installs and an independent audit may find that your procurement people changed you to a lower cost cable at some point which has inadvertently degraded your network performance over time as cables were replaced as needed.
For a greenfield site it is important not to follow the pack and assume what everyone else is using is the right solution for your site. The requirements for every site can vary significantly.
Technology: LTE vs wireless meshing technology
Let’s consider the discussion around LTE that seems to be very hot at the moment. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a knock out technology and there is definitely a business case that would make it a slam dunk for LTE in some operations but impractical in others and so the question is how do you decide that? There are many factors that contribute towards the right fit. These include things like site topography, size of mine and density of fleet, life of mine, technical resources, owner operator or contract miner and most importantly, what are your applications?
LTE offers a benefit of less infrastructure in some topographic situations whereas a wireless meshing technology such as Rajant can offer greater levels of redundancy and reduce the level of attentiveness and technical expertise to deploy and maintain and consequently, the opex and resourcing requirements to run and maintain the network become significantly less.
So while we have no silver bullet, we definitely can find the closest thing for your business. Contact us today.
All jokes aside, now heading into the twilight years of my career I have the unique honour of being asked my opinion about various subjects in my area of experience and some may say expertise. For anyone that knows me, you will get that I am driven from a place of always trying to do what is right by my customer and this conversation is less about technology and more about process.
While some may see my blog title as sarcastic or tongue in cheek, my point is to create some thought about who do you work for? And, is what I am doing right now bringing value to the shareholders now or in the future? If I am working on the strategic aspects of the business cycle, am I acting in the smartest way possible?
The challenges and impact of a proof of concept on your operations
This brings me to the conversation about Proof of Concept (PoC) or Evaluation Trials of technology.
Here are a few points in bullet form:
• Almost any vendor can make a limited wireless pilot look extremely good if they have complete control over the operational scenario and the environment (one or two clients sending data does not rate as a true use case demonstration);
• Pilots rarely demonstrate a true operational use case and so run a very high risk of future failure if adopted on a larger scale;
• Customers almost always never gain complete organisational buy in to enable success which conversely almost guarantees a failure;
• Proof of concept projects are often poorly defined, scoped and budgeted for which then typically leads to a failed attempt;
• The operational impact of running a pilot on a production site should never be underestimated.
I could go on. There are lots of papers about how to succeed with technology and the common denominator for all impartial papers all start with a conversation about understanding the business problem you are trying to solve, then launch into a discussion about process, people and culture (stakeholder engagement) and lastly system requirements. One very good paper I can point to can be found here: AUSIMM White Paper and while the discussion is around completely different subject matter, the concept is the same.
Moving away from a PoC to education and peer networking
So what is the message that I am trying to convey? Where ever possible, avoid a vendor’s offer of a proof of concept or free trial. Nothing is ever free. There is a far less costly, less risky and higher chance of success approach available to an operation that will produce a far greater and much better use of your time that will bring true value to your business. Here are a few key points.
• Do the work to properly define your business requirements to address your operational and business objectives;
• Understand your full scope of technical requirements;
• Take the time to engage your departments and stakeholders. Enrol them in the business case and the journey of change;
• Map your business and operational requirements to known solutions to start narrowing your selection criteria;
• Create the criteria for success in your project to enable you to conduct an effective vendor engagement process;
• Do the research for reputable solution providers/systems integrators with domain expertise and track record of success with the applications you are looking to integrate and operate. Often word of mouth in the mining community is a great source of recommendation;
• Develop a learning relationship with your likely vendors to identify the value proposition from each. What solutions have they delivered in the past, where have they delivered, how do they deliver, what is their technical leadership and capability, do they work well with the various equipment OEM’s;
• Ask to go and visit some of your vendors’ reference sites. If your candidate doesn’t have one return to the previous bullet point, then ask them again about their experience;
• The right vendor will likely share their knowledge so that you will understand all the challenges and pitfalls of your project as learned by themselves in working on similar projects amongst their customer base;
• Yes, in the end, as our technology partners would agree, it’s the domain expertise that makes the solution, not generic labor, so sole source justification is a process you will likely need to go through with your procurement team which will require a well-documented process and business case (please read all the above bullet points).
In summing up, unless you are a leading-edge R&D innovator, there will be countless operating examples of something similar to what you are trying to achieve in your own business. Going out and networking with other mining operations and colleagues to discover lessons learned and what works for others will not only achieve a faster result at a lower cost, it will look good at the next shareholders AGM.
In its 2017 report titled ‘Digital in Mining: Progress … and Opportunity’, Accenture reported that “56% [of mines were] considering merging their IT and OT groups within the next 12 months’. While significant progress has been achieved, the two groups are still learning to work together at most sites to address common issues around wireless network reliability, mobile data access and cybersecurity among others.
The distinct functions each group is accountable for has a lot to do with this difficult merge. It’s however critical to review the silver lining in converging IT and OT when it comes to the digital mine – enhanced productivity through real time data access provided by a reliable wireless network and reduced technology Capex.
The conflicts traditionally faced between IT and OT
Traditionally, the operation technology (OT) group is accountable for managing the physical process that creates value from ‘pit to market’, leveraging equipment, sensors and software; while the information technology (IT) group is in charge of managing everything related to data center and networks.
While it quickly becomes clear that IT is essential to the success of OT by providing the communication piece, especially as mines digitize, the two groups typically still work in silo. Having their own budget, processes and KPIs, they typically run projects in parallel, not consistently consulting each other or considering the bigger picture. The potential result: selection of a short-term solution for one group, that could impede on the long-term plans of the other.
Let’s look at this common example. As miners look at automating data collection, the IT group might be charged with deploying a wireless network and will be searching for ‘just’ a radio to be installed on the mobile equipment. However, the OT group might have other plans, considering accessing further sensors and managing some of the data at the edge over the lifespan of the technology. Two options are available: 1) only buy a radio, then add additional hardware as requirements appear, 2) understand the full technology requirements of the two groups over the next 5 years and select the appropriate solution. Some true savings could be achieved by going with option 2 with less hardware and less equipment downtime required.
The power of convergence when planning your technology needs
As the proverb would say, the sum of IT and OT working together is bigger than the success each group could ever achieve individually.
By aligning IT’s and OT’s business unit delivery and tying them to the overall performance of the mining operations, the two groups have the opportunity to plan their long-term mutual success by ensuring data is reliably and timely communicated, and overall technology capex is minimized.
But where to start? Joining forces and co-planning their technology roadmap for the next 5 years or so together is critical. Tying the communications requirements with the data requirements will help paint a general picture of what the network should look like year over year (size, throughput, etc.), which data will be accessed on-board the mobile equipment, how it’s expected to be communicated and at which frequency.
To truly leverage the benefits of a convergence between IT and OT, a four-step process should be followed:
1. Convergence of the two departments should be embedded into the culture of the organization;
2. Consistent direction should be provided to both departments;
3. Clear definition of the value of the convergence should be outlined, supported by new ‘digital’ KPIs such as innovation rate or time from pilot to scale;
4. Only at last should the right platform be selected supporting the needs of both IT and OT.
Converging IT and OT with edge computing
The output of this discovery phase by IT and OT will often reveal a greater plan that will require some forms of edge computing to reduce hardware expenditure and downtime as IT moves from one wireless technology to another and OT requires additional data.
A platform like the 3D-P Intelligent Endpoint (IEP) provides the communication and integration tools both teams will need. With up to 5 times less downtime, and half the hardware expenditure required, the ROI on edge computing is quickly justified when the bigger picture is considered.
To learn more about how 3D-P can help you reduce capex through integration, contact us today.
With an increasing number of mines in the process of digital transformation, reliability of your wireless network is becoming paramount. Real time or near real-time data access to fleet data is now a requirement for mines of all sizes, and failure of those wireless networks isn’t only critical for autonomous sites.
We will discuss here five examples of how network downtime, even in a non-autonomous environment, can affect your productivity by impacting a variety of business units within your mine.
The most common applications running on wireless networks at mines are some type of fleet management system. These all rely on some level of network to deliver data.
Without connectivity, and subsequently this productivity data, your haulage cycles are likely under-performing, facing the risk of some under-trucked circuits and others with empty trucks queuing. The trucks and shovels, no longer able to communicate with each other, are at risk of increased under- or over-loading events, wasted time in cycle decision making, and perhaps even dumping material at the wrong location.
Inaccurate ore control
Another team heavily relying on real time connectivity is the Engineering and Ore Control team. High Precision GPS systems on Shovels and Loaders have made huge advances in Ore Control, both in simplifying progress measurements as well as ensuring the right grade is sent where it needs to go.
Network outages wreck havoc on these systems forcing significant justification and manual adjustments in order to account for productivity. For some miners, Ore Control alone justifies pulling all the stops in an effort to resolve network outages.
Having historically mined for the longest time without real-time monitoring of your mobile equipment’s health, many may expect that your operations wouldn’t be affected by a short-term network downtime. Maybe that’s true to a point.
But, over the years a number of examples have been collected demonstrating how asset health monitoring systems have prevented critical failures and saved big dollars. Beyond those rarer examples, the longer your network is down the less data you have around optimized maintenance time of your assets or reliability of your equipment. And, unless you leverage an edge computing datalogger that offers a Store and Forward capability, any asset health data collected while your network was down will be lost, never able to make it to your analytics package.
Human resources displaced
Downtime of your wireless network doesn’t only affect efficiency of your equipment. A large portion should also be attributed to the man power displaced from other tasks and allocated to troubleshooting the issue.
It might only be a matter of a few minutes, but in some cases may be a matter of hours, involving the right people, driving down the pit for assessment, maybe driving back up to access the right equipment and finally resolving the issue by moving a trailer, modifying a configuration item, or replacing a component. At the end of the year, days of man power have been wasted troubleshooting your wireless network rather than focusing on mining.
With a combination of proper hardware and installation, proper network design which takes into consideration your mine plan and technology road-map for the next few years, your requirements for redundancy and fail-over, and mining-centric network monitoring systems, your operation shouldn’t require a full network team purely tasked with troubleshooting.
With safety being paramount at all mines, video surveillance is increasingly used to proactively monitor operations and safety of your staff. Additionally, on-board safety systems such as proximity detection, operator alert systems, man down systems and others are becoming more and more prevalent, and many rely on solid communications for maximum performance.
Scalable network deployment should be an option for some operators
Understanding that wireless network downtime and the related delays in application data delivery can have a significant negative impact on operations and that it should be prevented as much as possible, where do we leave operations who may not have yet deployed these applications or realized their related efficiencies at all?
It seems clear there are significant improvements in both operational performance and asset health, as well as significant safety increases available through digitalization of the mine. But in some cases, proving the ROI for a fully deployed wireless network to support these applications can also be challenging.
The solution may lie in the ability to scale the application and its network requirement as operations and budget grow. In some cases, a starting point may be as simple as deploying a single access point at the edge of your pit and relying on an edge computing that collects, stores and forwards the data when in the proximity of the access point. In this case, deployment should be simple and the ROI pretty quick.
To learn more about 3D-P’s scalable network solutions, contact us today.
All of our industry leaders talk about innovation as one of the key mechanisms to step change in our business. The conversation is as applicable in any industry as it is in mining. As a result, we certainly have no shortage of research organisations, committees, in-house research and development teams all working diligently to drive greater value in our respective ecosystems.
The limited scalability of research projects
Tier one mining companies invest in and maintain significant levels of resources, engineers and PHD’s, undertaking research and development to develop new methods or technologies to drive step change in any given area. Of course this is essential to the industry and their competitive advantage.
Having been in the industry for a while now, I have certainly seen and also participated in my share of research projects that have turned into home grown solutions that inevitably turn into in house manufactured products that quickly become unsupportable, have no road-map to access sustained innovation or change and as a result become limited in scalability, quickly superseded by industry and inevitably a financial burden on the company, which of course negates the intended purpose of the idea.
But don’t feel bad, it’s the human condition to believe we are the only person that has a good idea, then by enrollment, we create the culture around us that has the group belief that it is unique and the right thing to do.
The underestimated leap from innovation to manufacturing
I have a friend who I lovingly refer to as The Nutty Professor. He is devoted to discovery and change in the industry, he sits across lots of different research and standards bodies, runs research projects and contributes fiercely to the community. A man I would definitely call a thought leader in the industry.
We talk often about innovation, interoperability, digital transformation and other great topics and the one thing that he is consistent in his belief is how as an industry we continue to believe that no one else thought of it and if we “build it ourselves” we will put ourselves ahead of the game and in one foul swoop we have taken ourselves from being innovators to half-baked product manufacturers often failing in the execution phase.
We all too often overlook the possibilities that there is already a solution out there in the market that exists, fully commercialised and supported, either in the industry or from another industry vertical. As scientists and researchers, we do extremely well at understanding the problem and then devising a solution, yet we often do poorly at researching the market to discover what the pre-existing commercialised market can deliver us or if there is an appropriate partner that can apply their already learnt expertise and specialised services to bring a research project into being as a commercialised product.
Understanding the true cost of product development and supportability
The difference between a proof of concept science project and a fully built product is not insignificant. And, while many people look at the cost of raw materials as the value of the product, the cost of PRODUCT LIABILITY can never be undervalued.
When we look under the surface of what total cost of ownership looks like, we begin to gain an appreciation of the costs for maintaining expert resources to ensure the ongoing development and support of a product through its life-cycle, engineering costs, design, testing and certification, manufacturing, support and maintenance, product life-cycle management, supply chain management, logistics and warehousing and so on. I’m certain I could make a mining company CFO cry.
The true success stories lie with those organisations that have made the distinction between research and development of an idea and productisation of an idea, and, in doing so go to market to find the appropriate industry partner that will help them bring their innovative ideas into full maturity as a supported and maintained product.
At 3D-P we have been partnering with our customers for over 20 years as an enabler for them to realise a sustainable, faster time to market approach to innovation. Our value add to the industry is the depth of experience and diversity of these engagements, our domain expertise and know how in the industry delivering solutions in product development, manufacturing and product life-cycle management. Our first-generation Intelligent Endpoint is the result of collaboration with a customer that was embracing the challenge of integration of disparate systems operating on heavy mobile equipment. 3D-P’s core business is digital transformation in mining.
To learn more about 3D-P’s digital solutions, contact us today.
By definition, the connected mine requires connection to all your mobile and fixed devices at any one time. Monitoring of your wireless network to ensure its reliability and connection to all your devices is therefore paramount.
However, the unique environment in which miners operate, only allowing for a limited network bandwidth, combined with the criticality of the mining fleet applications quickly differentiate network monitoring solutions.
Traditional wireless network monitoring
Monitoring the devices on your network can be accomplished in any number of ways.
The first thing people think of when they think of monitoring a network is typically a ping test, which can only tell you if something is powered on, communicating, and responding to ping messages.
To take your monitoring to the next logical step a protocol like SNMP can provide more in-depth health and utilization information. However, it may not necessarily provide you the information you’re looking for, and there are security and reliability concerns as the protocol is considered “connectionless”. While these two tools are considered staples of monitoring, they can’t do it all.
Monitoring from the client’s perspective
The majority of network monitoring solutions monitor the network’s performance from the perspective of the infrastructure. They can tell you which devices the infrastructure is connected to, details on those connections such as bandwidth utilization, latency, etc. From a mobile user’s perspective however, there’s a big gap.
The locations and times when the device can’t connect to the network are the exact locations and times when monitoring is needed most. It’s possible that blind spots are caused by lack of connection to infrastructure. It’s just as likely that the blind spot was caused by too much overlap of coverage, resulting in a period of time where the device couldn’t obtain access to its AP.
The root cause can only be determined by monitoring connection data on the client. Monitoring from the client’s perspective is critical for mobile mining networks.
Monitoring without affecting your bandwidth
A substantial consideration to take into account is that monitoring wireless clients requires some bandwidth. With 802.11 based wireless mobile client, you are talking about a shared medium and “polite” clients. This means that a client will only talk when nobody else is talking, this goes for any kind of traffic on your network.
There is no way to say one client is more important than others, and each client can decide what data is most important to send when it gets a chance to speak. This introduces a wrinkle into network monitoring of your clients, you want to get the relevant information but you don’t want to have critical mining application data held up because of it.
3D-P uses its Intelligent Endpoint® (IEP) to enhance monitoring of your wireless network health while having minimal impact on your network traffic and providing maximal information about network health. Similar to the philosophies of Smart IoT, with analysis of data occurring at the edge, rather than all at the network’s core, the wireless environment can be monitored from the edge, with client devices collecting any number of metrics and reporting back to a centralized location, the Insight server.
But it doesn’t end at just sending back some data, because what if your mobile asset has moved to a part of your mine where there is no coverage?
Monitoring shouldn’t stop when out of coverage
In traditional network monitoring solutions, you may get a location of where the radio was last talking, and where it started talking again. But what about all of the data in between, and all of the data you need to make not only a quick decision, but a correct decision?
The 3D-P IEP and network monitoring tools continue to collect data while out of coverage, storing that data, and making it available for examination once connectivity is restored, giving you a view into why communication failed, and what the environment looks like in the dark areas.
To learn more, don’t miss out our blog next week on how the improper monitoring tool can bring your network to its knees, or contact us today.
While the large mining houses move rapidly towards automation of mobile operations, generally their whole operational environment is powered by a single OEM chosen by the customer. This strategy not only specifies the types of trucks a miner uses for example, but also dictates the technologies required to support the autonomous operations, from the wireless infrastructure to the machine access technology. All of which has to be approved by the machine autonomy vendor.
If a customer wishes to use alternate technologies, the costs and logistics associated to validate and test a customer preferred alternative are often prohibitive and so, in most cases, things stay the same and the advantage to the customer of implementing newer and better performing solutions is lost.
Expanding larger operations’ access to their data
While this scenario may appear to be complex and limiting, many larger miners have been planning and implementing change over a long period of time in order to arrive where they are today, and, as a result, they are less impacted by the OEM’s technological directives.
For some miners, 3D-P has been a technology partner providing an avenue to not only implement their autonomous solutions but to provide a steady roadmap of transformation towards it. At the same time, 3D-P enables the customer to continue to create an environment of open access to their data in order to drive continuous improvement in their operations while on the journey towards their autonomy goals.
Working from this customer driven solution approach, it has also enabled OEM testing and validation of 3D-P products that interoperate with the formerly closed OEM solution which in turn has provided the keys that have enabled these customers to de-risk and minimise the need of forklift upgrade that other miners are forced to undertake when embracing an Autonomous solution.
Facilitating data access to contract miners
So, let’s wind forward to the real world for the rest of us in the mining community who often have nothing more than a clipboard or a mobile device like a tablet to record information as they operate in their daily business of moving ore.
There is much to be done for the contract miners and second tier operators in addressing the void between paper-based operations for production and maintenance and that of the fully connected and autonomous operation where availability of information becomes actionable in real time.
The challenges for the contract miner are often exacerbated through the fact that they often operate a diverse range of fleet. They typically face the challenges of interoperability and connectivity to exchange information between their own fleet to interact with the customers’ fleet systems and access to networks in order to transport the vital data required to achieve the efficiencies and availability of equipment required to attain contract targets, and at the same time remain profitable in the delivery of the contract.
Enabling smaller operators’ access to their data to automate processes for continuous improvement
A similar challenge also exists among the smaller operations where many still utilise manual paper-based processes to acquire the production and asset health information.
Information is often days behind and inaccurate, leaving the operator with little chance to implement any significant business improvement. Yet, there is often the perception that implementing any solution to automate current processes and bring information to near real time where real improvement changes can be made in short order cannot be justified from an ROI perspective.
While Autonomy may be but a distant dream for these operators, the challenge at this level is many are so busy just trying to keep up inside the business of digging ore, most do not have the resources to invest in strategic planning towards digital transformation. The opportunity to improve their business operations through transformation can be overlooked resulting in the business becoming left behind and less competitive.
Partnerships, the key to cost effectively access all your data
With extensive domain knowledge and experience in assisting larger mining operations with strategy and transition towards automation of their operations, 3D-P is rapidly becoming the strategic partner for more and more mid-tier miners and contractors providing a fast track alternative to investing in internal resources to develop the expertise.
3D-P brings the experience of all our customers’ projects to assist our clients to develop a customer driven strategy focus that is right for them which in turn enables them to remain agile in their operations, and open and agnostic in their technology roadmap strategy towards their transformation goals. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive to be elegant and smart.
To learn more about how 3D-P can help with your technology roadmap, contact us today.
Deployment of an out-of-the-box fleet management or asset health solution is not always an option for smaller operators. Add the cost of the application to the cost of deploying a full scale wireless network and many are unable to justify the ROI on their project, and remain stuck in the manual collection of their data.
The applications traditionally have requirements for relatively high cost hardware and software, as well as a network requirement for full coverage throughout the site. That doesn’t make it the only solution.
Cost and coverage: Challenges of the smaller operations
Access to digital production and asset health data can be game changing. The costs of accessing that data, whether the cost of traditional Fleet Management Systems, or the full site coverage networks required to support them, can however be daunting.
Traditional alternatives, even the proven pencil and voice radio solution, may seem the only available solution.
Facilitating access to your data through a complete near real time solution
The good news is technology is continuously evolving. Along with it come opportunities for reduction of dependency on individual hardware packages for each on-board application, and in some cases, reducing the need for 100% network connectivity.
As an example, 3D-P’s Intelligent Endpoint (IEP) is more than a rugged radio. It can not only provide connectivity to an available network, but can operate as a data-logger, capturing all the required on-board production and health data. When coverage from a mine-wide network isn’t available, the IEP can store that data for later delivery.
That delivery can occur as soon as the device is back in coverage, or as in the case of shovels and other equipment that may not travel back and forth between coverage hotspots, the data can be automatically passed to a more mobile peer, such as a haul truck or supervisor vehicle that travels back and forth frequently between coverage areas.
That shovel data is then delivered to the office the next time the truck comes back into coverage. The solution not only reduces hardware clutter and costs on-board, and the cost of extensive network infrastructure, but allows operators to begin utilizing on-board data in a cost effective manner, while providing scalability to more real-time solutions as requirements grow.
A solution that grows with you
The biggest advantage to starting with this type of deployment is that scaling up from this point is easy and can be accomplished as budget or requirements dictate. The model reduces your mine’s barrier to entry to technology, you can get a lot from a little at the start and enhance your network as time goes on. Adding nodes and coverage areas becomes a simple task that on site resources can accomplish.
This also allows you to add additional features to your network down the road as well; supervisor remote access, device monitoring (pumps, wells, generators, battery backup systems, etc.), camera systems, driver alertness systems, tire pressure monitoring, or any other thing you can dream up.
It can all start by deploying the 3D-P Intelligent Endpoint as a data-logger to your fleet, giving you the first near real time look at your data for a cost far less than what you’d expect a full coverage wireless network, fleet management, and asset health system, and sets you on a path to digitize your small to medium size mine.
To learn more about our digital solutions for smaller mines, contact us today.
Most mines now have the ability to access some of their data in some ways, whether be in real-time, near real-time or manually. However, what the industry now calls the ‘Digital Mine’, defined by the installation of a variety of applications on-board the heavy mobile equipment and real-time access to the data they generate, often remains an option only available to larger operators.
Even for those operations, reliable real-time access to the machines’ critical data can remain a challenge caused both by a limitation in availability of access to all the data and an excessive amount of data travelling through the mine’s wireless network at any one time.
Leveraging OEM applications and analytics package can be limiting
For many years, miners have felt the heavy equipment OEMs have limited access to their mobile equipment data providing pre-defined analytics reporting, and limited visibility to historical data. Emergence of a common vision wherein miners have the ability to access and own all their data has been developing for several years.
Who better knows your operations, processes and unique challenges than your own staff? The ability to access all your data and apply custom analytics to the data that truly matters to your business not only supports productivity improvement and maintenance cost reductions, but also ensures continuous improvement through historical data recording and trending.
In many cases, OEM-provided analytics packages may not be capable of providing the same level of analytics on competitors’ fleet.
In these cases, mines can benefit greatly from a third party solution that makes all the data available, providing the flexibility to adjust the analytics while monitoring the items that are important to their specific operation.
Digitalization has typically excluded smaller operators
Implementation of a Digital Mine not only includes deployment of applications on-board the heavy mobile equipment, but also requires the presence of a reliable wireless network capable of transporting the generated data in a time frame appropriate for the operation.
The cost of implementing a real-time capable solution for digital asset health, or even production data, may not be an option to smaller operations, who may be recording the data manually, and while desiring the promised increased productivity of digitalization, often struggle to create a clear business case on their technology ROI.
However, some third party applications now offer affordable solutions to automate data collection providing those smaller operations with access to their critical data, when and where it’s needed.
Some hardware platforms communicate the data intelligently leveraging a store and forward application, which reduces the requirement for full wireless coverage and infrastructure around their site. The network can then be scaled as business requirements evolve and real-time access to data is needed.
Digitalization costs are often under-estimated
As mines begin to require access to more data outside what their OEM equipment offers, new applications are added on-board the equipment. Not only do those applications require their own hardware in the cab, but also their own access to specific data resources, such as GPS data, the supporting hardware for this data, as well as a reliable wireless network.
The main cost of these new applications reside however in the downtime associated with their installation and support on-board the heavy mobile equipment, especially when looking over the life of technology.
For those miners looking at moving toward the ‘Digital Path’, deployment of an open data access solution system provides the computing capabilities to host their choice of third party applications and add more as their business requirements evolve, while minimizing the digitalization costs.
To learn more on how 3D-P can help you with some of your Digitalization challenges, contact us today.