Mining 5.0 reintroduces ‘the human part’


Staff reporter

Webinar hears about Rockwell Automation view of digital mine

Americas mining customers of US industrial automation and digital technology major Rockwell Automation are worried about an impending industry-wide IP drain and how it might impact their Mining 5.0 ambitions, a senior business leader has said on a webinar.

Rockwell digital consulting principal Kumar Parekh recently spent a month visiting mining, metals and cement customer sites in North and South America and came away believing concerns about mining’s capacity to merge technology and people optimally are rising as the industry continues to struggle to compete for high-level talent.

“What we have found is that our clients are now focused on … preserving IP as key personnel retire or leave because a lot of people in our industry have got 25, 30, 40 years of experience and they are coming to a stage where they will be leaving the workforce or they are actively leaving the workforce,” Parekh said on a “Digital transformation in mining” webcast hosted by Australia’s Austmine.

“From a technology perspective what we have been doing typically is that we have been using extended reality and emulation technologies to be able to capture the knowledge of the workers or the people who are departing from the company, and … get it ready for use by the younger cohort who are currently joining.”

Parekh said Rockwell also employed software-based change management in its approach to intellectual property preservation. He felt the need to qualify that: “It’s a software approach, but it’s a software approach that works.”

He said other sectors such as financial services were having success capturing and building organisational IP “from a data operations perspective”.

“But the mining industry is behind the eight-ball on this,” he said.

Parekh said mining’s journey along the Mining 4.0 evolutionary curve to “Nirvana … an autonomous, connected mine which can be remotely controlled from a remote operation centre”, was stalled for most companies before stage three of five phases.

“In simple language … if you can measure it, you can monitor it [and] report it, and if you can report it you should be able to create business intelligence on it,” he said.

“If you can do that the next step would be to diagnose problems.

“After that you want to be able to predict.

“After that you want to be able to be prescriptive in terms of trying to solve problems.”

And then there was autonomy.

“Digital transformation to Mining 4.0 and beyond is, at the end of the day, about [the] pursuit of an autonomous closed-loop operating system.

“It doesn’t mean that people working on the mine sites will not be required. It simply means that the way of managing is different.

“Most [Rockwell Automation] clients are somewhere between descriptive and diagnostic, or up to predictive.

“There are hardly any clients who are able to use the full power of prescriptive analytics to be able to look at what we call the three diamonds: higher throughput, predictive maintenance and process optimisation.

“This is the cornerstone … every company is looking for.”

Parekh said Mining 5.0 “introduces the human part again”.

“It is about human and machine collaboration with a focus on sustainability and reliability, and it uses the same technologies but takes them forward and puts a human-centred design into place.

“What it does is that it helps [people] have greater job satisfaction, especially in a world where we are struggling to … basically attract more younger people into our industry. It increases safety [and supports] a better environmental impact.”

 

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