An automation fair event for a shifting time

Rockwell Automation chairperson and chief executive Blake Moret.

With workforce shifts, come opportunities. Rockwell Automation will bring in experts from Newmont Goldcorp, Vale, CISDI and ManpowerGroup to equip the sector during a changing time in mining.

It is easy for someone to point out a problem, but few people can provide sufficient recommendations for how to adapt to the changes we’re seeing to the mining industry workforce.

Globally, more than half of the mining workforce is over the age of 45. A big hiring wave is on the horizon for mining companies as they seek to replace retiring workers and simultaneously continue to grapple with ever-evolving cyber security threats, global trade uncertainty, and the adoption of new digital technologies needed to remain competitive.

Mining companies are also finding it challenging to source skilled talent in the mining industry, a problem that is intensified by the remoteness of mine sites.

“There is a big shift in the new skills that employees have been equipped with, from what mining companies are traditionally looking for,” Rockwell Automation global commercial program manager, mining, Nicole Bulanda says.

“From an employers’ perspective, this change allows them to hire employees who possess greater soft skills, such as the flexibility to work with digital tools and a capacity to manage change, in combination with the hard skills that were traditionally sought after.”

Bulanda believes companies are also increasingly strategic about the placement of human resources who possess technical skills.

Livelihoods depend on the industry’s capability to tackle this changing time, and mining companies take their own unique way of stepping into this mining frontier.

Senior company leaders from Newmont Goldcorp, Vale and CISDI will all gather at Rockwell Automation’s Automation Fair event in Chicago this month to share their successes when designing the workforce of the future.

“It’s interesting how each of these companies is approaching it in a different way, but they all work, and together they’re very powerful,” Bulanda says.

Rockwell Automation has made the changing workforce one of the themes of its fair event, following an eye-opening market study it conducted in conjunction with ManpowerGroup.

The study surfaced a variety of ways companies are addressing the issue, which vary dramatically.

“Some use technology, some use HR strategies, some use a combination of these,” Bulanda points out.

Newmont Goldcorp, for example, will be sharing how a strong emphasis on employee development, inclusion and diversity has helped grow its employee base.

These values, in addition to a new, company-wide operating model that the company’s executive vice president of human resources Bill MacGowan has implemented, will allow Newmont Goldcorp to maintain production volumes, improve safety performance and considerably lower costs, while simultaneously adapting to a large-scale workforce shift.

This talent management perspective is distinct from the path that Brazilian iron ore giant Vale is taking.

While talent management is certainly high on Vale’s priority list, the company is also tackling shifting workforce dynamics by streamlining internal processes.

Vale recently launched an integrated operation centre to bring together the skills of people, operating processes and technology in a way that integrates several functions of the iron ore chain.

This process simplification and additional value chain visibility allows its workforce to be more productive and nimble.

Engineering service provider in the global metals industry CISDI, on the other hand, seeks to help customers adapt to changing workforce dynamics by leaning on technology solutions.

CISDI’s integrated management and control platform for upstream blast furnace areas integrates operations across the iron making process to allow for more stable production, improved quality control and reduced energy consumption.

With more rote decisions and tasks delegated to the control system, the inherently dangerous process of making iron ore becomes less susceptible to human or machine error, keeping employees safer and allowing them to focus on more strategic aspects of operation.

ManpowerGroup will also be present at the forum, sharing “honest” findings from the market study, such as newly created roles that are emerging in the industry.

Rockwell Automation account manager, enterprise, mining, Geoff Irvine says that mining companies are all searching for what the future looks like for them.

“The key message for us is, the future is here and now,” Irvine says. “A lot of the things that people were searching for – virtual experience, digital twin and IoT – are now available. Now is the time to figure out how to manage the change internally and how to best roll it out.”

Rockwell Automation is prepared to see more than 10,000 attendees over the two-day fair, getting hands on with technology solutions that are brought by over 150 companies in collaboration with Rockwell.

Mining industry participants will glean on all the different ways other industries, including oil and gas, life sciences, automotive and tyre and food and beverage sectors, create a connected enterprise and adapt to changing workforce dynamics.

Finally, delegates will get to sit in more than 400 hours of education opportunities, with technical sessions spanning from digital engineering, information and analytics, network infrastructure, safety and security, to name a few.

The Rockwell Automation Fair event will be held in Chicago, Illinois on November 20–21.

This article also appeared in the November edition of Australian Mining.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.