Capturing technological potential

It wasn’t long ago that data at mine sites was captured through arduous paper-based reporting and transported back to head office, where the information was filed.

While in hindsight this process seems archaic, if you look back less than a decade ago, mining companies just didn’t have exposure to the sophisticated technology available today.

Through its innovative software, InEight has succeeded in creating digital project management solutions that address the mining industry’s most pressing challenges.

The result has been improved performance, reduced operating costs and an ability to maximise safety at mine sites to a degree that is light years ahead of the old paper-based systems, according to InEight Asia Pacific executive vice president Rob Bryant.

“If you go back a bit more than a decade, it all used to be centred on paper-based reporting, which involved more work to manually collect data and report back,” Bryant says.

“We’ve come a long way with what technology has enabled, especially using devices in mobile environments. Things like tablets and smartphones are now commonplace – it’s come a long way in a short period of time.”

InEight offers field execution management solutions that help mine sites continuously improve jobsite productivity through more efficient project scheduling.

This range of solutions includes features that streamline the development of work packages and daily execution plans to help workers organise, communicate and report on work.

An increased focus on mine site safety has also seen growing demand for the tool’s features that capture data for safety, quality and compliance programs.

With forms being available on mobile devices, it is now possible for them to be completed in the field and routed for review and approval through an automated workflow. It represents what Bryant describes as a “definitive trend towards the mobilisation of data.”

“People are keen to access data whenever and wherever they want. Technology has enabled us to access a wide range of information at our fingertips,” he says.

As such, InEight has noticed a trend in mining companies wanting digitalised solutions for their performance, a demand that has been driven by two factors, according to Bryant.

“The first driver is that technology is enabling more mobile and digital capture of information on a range of devices that are available today,” he explains.

“Secondly, there is now a desire for that information, and then, for an understanding of the value of the data that exists. Being able to capture data and bring it in for analysis is where the value is.”

While the ability to capture data is integral in order to analyse and implement information on mine sites, it must also be accessible in a variety of conditions.

Previously, the process of gaining information from isolated areas, such as underground mines, was difficult given the extensive paper trail that ran from operations to head office.

This was a significant consideration for InEight as it developed its software programs, which are capable of being accessed in an offline environment.

“They enable mining companies to access project information, such as drawings, documents and checklists offline, which gives you the ability to conduct inspections and synchronise data, bringing it into the the repository of project-related information that already exists,” Bryant says.

“Our document management solution offers the ability to download files via our apps, take them into a mine tunnel and access them where there is no coverage.”

In a bid to further capitalise on the latest technological advancements available, Bryant tells Australian Mining that artificial intelligence (AI) is already being utilised in InEight’s planning, scheduling and risk tool.

The ability for AI to assist and support the human decision-making process through “machine learning” is a central feature of InEight’s solution. Machine learning allows AI-based systems to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed to do so.

“We’ve introduced AI initially in the planning phase, which is already helping people make better decisions,” Bryant says.

“There are many variables in planning and scheduling that take data from previous plans. Through a knowledge library developed by AI, software can draw on the database and recommend trends or patterns that it picks up on from the past.”

This is a concept that is becoming increasingly appealing to mining companies – the ability to optimise efficiency through continuous, machine-based learning – and Bryant is confident that InEight is at the forefront of innovation here.

“There’s a lot of interest in AI. The real trick is applying it to a specific environment and using it in particular scenarios where it adds true value,” he says.

“InEight has a point of difference, as our tools are guided by market experience and our own personal experience, given a lot of our team come from the relevant industries.”

It all adds up to exciting prospects for InEight, as the company looks at continuing to capture the vast benefits technology offers in the mining space.

This article also appears in the October edition of Australian Mining.

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