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Digital Transformation Blog

Practical insights on the digital revolution

What’s missing from the big data revolution in mining?

In mining, the Internet of Things revolution has driven massive amounts of investment. Proliferating sensors, hotspots, and beacons now make it possible to know exactly where equipment, people, or ore is at any moment. However, this positive development has given way to a new problem: how do we summarize all this data and put it into the hands of the people who can create value from it?

While working at mines throughout the world, we’ve had the greatest success in driving big productivity gains at the front line. And to do this, we’ve often used a process of Short Interval Control (SIC) that empowers superintendents and supervisors with real time information to make better hour by hour decisions. However, superintendents, supervisors, and the front line have largely been left out of the big data revolution. A majority still communicate shift-level information via radio or text messages.

If real-time data is so valuable to front line managers, then, why haven’t they engaged? Certainly a new wave data visualization suites (think Power BI or Tableau) will make it easier to present data in new formats and places, but that’s only half of the battle. The other, harder half is getting the frontline to engage in the data, taking the insights from short intervals and actioning them to drive value.

How, then, can we enable engagement? What functionality do tools need to adopt to win over superintendents, supervisors, and the front line? In our experience, 3 things are needed:

1. Manual data input: Not all important metrics can easily be collected autonomously (common example: delay info). A one-stop solution that is flexible and brings together machine and manually collected data creates a shift-level single source of truth.

2. Smart push notifications: Supervisors don’t stare at dashboards the whole day – they’re out getting dirty, engaging with crews and problem solving. When something important goes off target, supervisors need to be actively notified (e.g. their phone) to improve response times.

3. Action tracking: Even if all the right data is getting to the right eyes at the right times, someone still needs to close the loop. SIC tools need to allow supervisors to action variance, push actions to owners, and allow owners to collaborate across teams to complete.

We’re working with partners to create a tool that does just this. Would this be useful in your organization? Anything else you’d like to see in a SIC tool?