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Integrated Mine Planning and scheduling software

Mining goes mobile

Commit Works features in CIM Magazine, article reposted here:

Applications to modernize mapping, monitoring and mine management

Mobile technology is ubiquitous today. Seventy-six per cent of Canadian adults owned a smartphone in 2016, according to Statistics Canada, and 54 per cent owned a tablet or e-reader. The numbers are virtually identical in the United States. It is no surprise, then, that mobile devices are changing how people work, even in industries as conservative – and as operationally challenging – as mining.

A handful of companies have begun taking advantage of the new technology space. The mobile applications they offer vary in focus, but each aims to help miners get better visibility, make better decisions and improve the efficiency and productivity of their operations – all at prices far below traditional enterprise-level software. That fact promises to help level the technological playing field between large and small operators.

If you know where you are…

Takor Group is an Australian geospatial technology startup. Their primary product, Mappt, is a low-cost, offline-capable mobile geographic information system (GIS) application. Users record data and photos against geographic locations, such as the position of a drillhole, using configurable forms. “It can pop up questions one by one, and as they’re answered, it jumps to the next question,” said Takor product manager Ciarán Doyle. “In the background, it’s saving all that information against that location.” Users can create geofenced inclusion or exclusion zones, defining them either ahead of time or by walking or driving the perimeter. “The app addresses quite a few of the pain points that field collectors were feeling,” said Doyle.

“The massive time savings” of collecting data digitally, rather than manually with a physical map and pen and paper, is a major selling point, said Doyle, brand and strategy at Takor, as is having all the tools you need in one device. And, he said, “The quality of data has shot through the roof.”

It is also a fit-for-purpose solution, like many of the apps available for mining. “One of the reasons that Mappt came about was due to the frustration of using ArcGIS and their mobile application,” said Doyle. “It’s quite extensive and extremely hard to use and to set up. You couldn’t just go out in the field with a professional tool without spending thousands of dollars, and there’s a massive process involved.” With Mappt, he said, a user can go straight from purchasing the product to being in the field in “literally minutes.”Mappt

Mappt, a mobile GIS app by the tech startup Takor, was designed to be low-cost and user friendly. Courtesy of Takor Group

Chris Devlin, director at iSpatial Solutions, a GIS consultancy which acts as “effectively, the in-house GIS department” for a number of small mining companies, often recommends Mappt to clients. “They like it not only for the functionality and the ease of use but also for the licensing model,” he said. “It’s simple and cost-effective.”

…you can plan where you’re going

MST Global’s Field Analysis & Reporting Application (FARA) uses Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and a mobile app to provide fleet and personnel management to underground and open-pit operations. Sean Dessureault, now chief innovation evangelist at MST, developed FARA at his company, MISOM Technologies, before selling MISOM to MST in late 2017.


RELATED:TRANSITIONING FROM INFORMATION OVERLOAD TO EFFICIENT OPERATION WITH SHORT INTERVAL CONTROL


“Our tablet for fleet management can be installed in a machine in a few minutes,” Dessureault said, and even temporarily in contractor vehicles. The tablets determine their position using GPS or by sensing small, $30 Bluetooth beacons that can be placed around the site – even underground. That location information can be used by the application to automatically track cycles, sequences and even delays and can be leveraged to prompt users for input using location-based triggers. Operators also use the app to fill in digitized forms for things like hazard assessments and pre-operational checklists. Tablet-to-tablet communication means that a supervisor can approach a vehicle and view the forms the driver has filled out, even without Wi-Fi or LTE infrastructure.

“From the operator feedback, they like the digital forms the best. It saves time, and they find the information more engaging,” said Dessureault – especially when the feedback is gamified, as FARA can be configured to be. Employees earn points on a leaderboard for the number of cycles they complete or for providing a good safety share, for example. Shift changes can be improved by rewarding operators for getting on their machine before a certain time. Before, Dessureault said, “even if you did write an excellent safety share during your take-five, nobody would ever really know. Miners love having that feedback. They love to compete.”

The sudden availability of inexpensive apps and consumer-grade electronic devices has spurred some operators to adopt systems like this for the first time. “Some of our installs were in places that have never had fleet management before,” said Dessureault, “so productivity increased significantly.”

Put down the clipboard

For other operators, however, mobile technology may augment existing information management systems and make a technician’s job easier.

Canary Systems’ MLWeb is one such data management system. It aggregates and correlates data from various third-party instrumentation and sensors, data loggers, radars and satellites to provide risk management for projects in numerous industries, including mining, construction and dams. The mobile portion of Canary’s software suite is the data collection tool MLField.

“MLField has been designed to support users in cases where they don’t have automated instrumentation,” said Martin van Balkom, marketing manager at Canary Systems. “A technician would like to go into the field and, for example, go to a piezometer and take a manual reading.”


RELATED: THE BANDWIDTH BACKBONE


“There are still cases where people take the readings manually” with pen and paper, added Andrei Pascu, Canary’s Canadian group manager. “Going back to the office, those readings are transcribed into the system or into Excel.” Using the app to collect data, he said, is both faster and more reliable – previous readings are shown, helping catch entry errors, and the tablet automatically syncs to the project database once online again, eliminating transcription errors.

“One of the advantages of tying this all together is the speed with which you can now manage the risk of this operation,” said van Balkom. “We have a dam client in the U.S. where their data collection in the field, from the time it was collected until the engineer saw it, took about 2 months. That’s basically historical data at that point.” Even engineers used to getting instrumentation readings 12 to 24 hours after collection could benefit from the increased visibility that digital methods enable.

BME, a South Africa-based blasting company, offers XploLog, which like MLField, is primarily for collecting data in the field. XploLog’s data syncs back to BME’s blasting design database, BlastMap.

“As the users are logging into the XploLog system the actual loading and timing of what’s going on in the field, that information is being sent directly back to the office, so the people in the office are aware of any problem,” said BME managing director Joe Keenan. “They might get an alert saying three holes have collapsed, so they can talk about the best workaround. Or they can just log it into the system so the actual design is recorded in the database.”

“It increases productivity, but it also reduces the surprises. These tools give you the ability to see the problem before it becomes the problem,” said Keenan. Before using the mobile app to record blast data, he added, “it was paper reports or word of mouth. And it was a very imperfect system, I assure you.”

Bring your plan to work with you

Eliminating paper from the field makes life simpler for both planners and supervisors. Fewzion is a work management system from Commit Works, which enables short interval control (SIC) on mobile devices in the field. All work on site can be pulled in from source planning systems such as Xact, Surpac, Deswik, SAP, spreadsheets etc., as well as inspections, equipment servicing, training, site development work and the actual production work. It is then planned and can be tracked in short chunks to ensure people can react to problems early enough to reliably hit their targets.

“It contains all the work and targets that planners from each department have agreed to, alongside detailed tasks that crews and supervisors think need to be done for the whole site,” said Commit Works CEO Paul Moynagh. “Then the team can start making some trade-offs to land on a plan that is achievable for each shift.” By making everything visible to the whole team, detailed planning can take place between silos, allowing everybody to understand and commit to a well-coordinated, holistic plan for the operation.

Moynagh notes that at many sites, supervisors still drive around with stacks of paper detailing the week’s work in production targets, Gantt charts, mud maps and even photos of the whiteboard from the production meeting. “If you see these massive piles of paper, you understand why it’s very difficult to find the information supervisors need or get good decision-making out of that kind of data,” said Moynagh. The mobile portion of Fewzion provides an organized, offline-capable digital view of everything in the system. “A phone or tablet is far more convenient to carry around. And if they’re out in the field and see something that needs to be done, they can create a task and suggest a time for it,” he added. That task will be synchronized across the whole Fewzion system once the device is online. “Add to our new mapping system (visual ops) and all work can be seen on a map next to the machines and people that will be doing it and any of the hazards that they might encounter.”

Users of Fewzion have seen 30 to 50 per cent increases in production after implementation, according to Moynagh. “A lot of the things that used to get in the way, a lot of the annoying waste, now gets planned out before it happens,” he said. “All the things that were causing them trouble, which are very hard to pinpoint, just start to disappear with a well-thought-out frontline plan that everyone can see and agree on.”

More than mere technology

In true Silicon Valley style, several of the app makers pride themselves as disruptors with a higher purpose. “Most tier ones would never pay $1,000 for something they could buy for $20,000,” said MST’s Dessureault, only half-jokingly. “Our price point is so low, we can open up the quarry market, the small-to-medium size mines.”

“The big thing for us is the democratization of technology,” agreed Doyle of Takor Group. “We’re reducing or removing possible barriers to entry for people to benefit from technology. Being able to run the app on a cheap Android device and basically have an enterprise-level tool at a bargain basement price, that’s what we want.”

Short Interval control system

Pathways to a Mine that is in Short Term Interval Control

A few nights ago I had a call with Leon Cosgrove from Wipro about short interval control. We discussed the different ways miners can go to improve performance in their operations. Perhaps it was because we’re both involved in the consulting industry but somehow a 2 by 2 matrix appeared as we spoke. See below, we both thought it was helpful for describing the journey to a high performing operation.

On the Y Axis is the extent to which the mine can measure and see where all their equipment is and what it is doing. There is a big range of technologies here but to keep it simple these range from sites with no way of knowing where anything is or what it is doing through truck counts and radio based tools like PitRam up to high precision fleet management systems like Modular, Newtrax or MobileARIS. Telematics and measurement are one thing but getting the data out of the pit is equally challenging, again simplifying terribly, technologies used range from nothing to radios, to leaky feeder to wifi and daisy chaining to LTE.

On the X Axis is the extent to which the mine is planning and scheduling frontline operational work. On the left are operations that believe that a good mining schedule and perhaps a maintenance plan are able to be simply handed down to the operation to execute. On the right are the operations who have the frontline management systems and behaviours necessary to describe in short intervals what needs to be done each shift for everyone on the site. These operations engage religiously in the Plan Do Check Act cycle and use variances from the plan each shift, day and week to drive performance improvements continuously.

Short Interval control

Three routes to high performance

With the matrix above it was interesting to think through the different routes to becoming a high performer, we came up with three options.

1.Technology first. Many operations have invested heavily in connectivity and fleet management systems that tell them where alShort Interval Controll their machines are and exactly what is happening. When these operations want to move towards the high performer quartile they have lots of high quality data but they still need to break their silos and perform short interval, integrated planning and scheduling.

2. Management first. Traditional management operating system (MOS) consultants have done huge numbers of projects with miners getting them to improve their frontline management planning and coordination. Short interval control is a tool often implemented during these projects. However, without an easy to use and integrated frontline planning and short interval control system (most of these consultants still sell spreadsheets and whiteboards) the mature management behaviours they have implemented are very hard to sustain. Operations that use these old fashioned MOS “systems” are very difficult to move into the “High performer” quartile in a sustainable way as the tools often break when the consultants leave.

3. Management and Technology together. The most direct route to the High performer quartile is by integrating mature management practices with mature technology. This way the behaviours of the organisation can be directly supported by and embedded in the way the technology works. Critical to this transition is the use of a fully integrated frontline planning and short interval control system that can connect the enterprise planning systems to the operational technology that runs the mine. Done well this type of project uses mature management consultants to improve management practices while the technologists wire the system together to support mature management behaviours. This approach delivers rapid and sustainable results for much lower cost than option 1 or 2.

Commit Works has been working with some of the largest and the smartest miners in the world to deliver massive production and safety improvements.

Our fully integrated frontline planning, scheduling and short interval control system, Fewzion, has helped miners deliver 25% to 50% improvements in performance in less than 3 months from the start of implementation on site. Many of these sites have sustained their results for over 4 years through successive changes in management and ownership.

To find out more contact us at www.commit.works or call 1300 33 99 46

 

Mining

The role of digitisation in mitigating mining downturns

The mining industry is variable by nature. Mining it is dependent on multiple factors, including:

  • uncertainty about the nature of resources being mined
  • the changeable quality of a mine’s resources over time
  • environments, sometimes remote and extreme, where money has to be spent flying miners in and out
  • weather
  • market demand for resources
  • mining equipment, which can break down as a result of unpredictable stresses and loads on site.

These factors are part and parcel of mining, and are here to stay. The key to navigating variability therefore lies in how we plan for these conditions. Mining’s future prosperity relies on digital solutions that improve productivity.

At Commit.Works, we develop our software on the basis that we can out-plan uncertainty using innovative technologies.

Mobile technology: smartphones and tablets

In their November 2015 report, McKinsey & Company identified key technologies that have the potential to manage variability and boost mining productivity. Among these technologies were those that involve human-machine interaction:

“Consumer smartphones and other mobile devices have transformed the way that people interact not only with one another but also with machines. Consumers rely on their smartphones for driving directions, booking taxis, and monitoring their health; applications are also spreading rapidly in the industrial field.”

Commit Works’ Fewzion software is one such example. Working via an app on a tablet or smartphone, Fewzion replaces spreadsheets and whiteboards with a comprehensive online shift-planning system that is visible to all teams. It puts the plan in the hands of crew supervisors via their mobile or tablet every shift, so that they become accountable for delivering on the plan.

Monitoring performance in real time

In the same report, McKinsey & Company predicted that real-time measurement of performance against the plan will be a key area of value-creation in future:

“One benefit of real-time data is knowing the state and location of every piece of equipment in a mining operation at every second – and, in particular, whether it is operating according to or outside of the plan. This real-time insight gives new meaning to operations performance management, taking the conversation from one about monthly output to one that focuses on variability and compliance to plan.”

Our Visual Ops product exploits this potential by enabling teams to map and track everything on a site, from equipment to hazards to people. This reduces safety risks and improves coordination by ensuring a high level of situational awareness for everyone in a team.

Commit.Works also enables real-time performance tracking by incorporating short interval control (SIC) into its Fewzion software. Fewzion’s short interval control captures data on shifts at two-hour intervals. This allows project managers, directors and team members to check performance and make adjustments to get back on track if something’s not going to plan. Problems can be picked up early and solved before they become more significant and costly.

Because SIC is based on the idea that we can learn from the past, it’s a system that continually works towards improving future work. Digitised SIC offers a way of monitoring performance that is more accurate, effective, user-friendly and visible to teams.

Commit Works- Mining Technology

What to consider when implementing new technologies

What to consider when implementing new technologies

In previous posts we’ve discussed how vital it is that mining companies invest in technologies that enable them to keep pace with the industry’s innate challenges. In short, mining’s future prosperity relies on improving productivity by making use of innovative digital solutions.

But how do you know which solution is right for you, and what should you consider before investing company money in new software?

Paradigm shift

Perhaps the most important point to make is that embracing technology needs to happen as part of a broader change in the way mining is envisioned and carried out. The McKinsey & Company report How digital innovation can improve mining productivity argues that innovation needs to be seen by industry leaders “as an undertaking that encompasses all aspects of the business, rather than a technology effort”.

This fundamental shift is necessary for mining companies to draw real value from digitisation: “In particular, much of the value creation in mining will shift from how well the operation moves material to how well it collects, analyzes, and acts on information to move material more productively”.

Rather than investing in technology and hoping it will create value on its own, mining companies need teams that are able to understand both mining operations and technologies, so that new tech can be integrated effectively into operations and the results measured.

What about the people?

McKinsey & Company note that technologies are of limited help if they’re implemented without regard for the people who’ll be using them:

“From our work on big data across industries, we know that technology – data, analytics, and systems – is only part of the answer. Changes are needed in processes and people to most effectively implement technology and the new ways of working that it makes possible. Successful miners will set an integrated vision from data to systems to core processes to people capabilities, recognizing that new technologies only create value if they change the way people work and make decisions.”

A large part of the responsibility for integrating technologies with processes, decision-making and people must lie with the top executive team. McKinsey & Company stress that clear ownership of innovation needs to be built into the upper rungs of management, which means “refining the organizational design to create meaningful senior roles for people with technical skills, and redesigning the annual planning and performance-management process to create space for innovation”.

The Commit Works approach

At Commit Works, we’re passionate about showing our clients how to get the most from our software. Our demo sessions provide an opportunity for prospective users to explore how Commit Works can drive measurable business value. We’ll show you how our technology is reshaping business models and enabling companies to gain a competitive advantage.

Contact us to see how we can help you plan, track performance and stay on budget to improve your bottom line.