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Training has always been a bit of a nightmare in mining.
On the job training, classes, workshops, and conferences on top of trying to get everything done makes it difficult.
Add to this the remoteness of much of the industry and it makes for a logistical headache.
Getting workers from sites in the middle of the Pilbara and Tasmania on the same page, let alone the same room, has always been a challenge in mining.
The only answer used to be travel – trainers would fly from one side of Australia to the other, or even overseas, to hold workshops at one site after the other.
In the opposite extreme, miners were forced to travel to a central location – costing their company a fortune in both dollars and productivity.
Faced with constant hurdles such as these, it was relatively unsurprising then that the industry adopted technologies to ease this problem.
The industry was amongst the first to begin using ruggedised PDAs to carry out audits and on the spot inspections.
It was again at the forefront of technology when it started using e-learning to provide online training before miners even stepped on site.
As technology has become more mobile, the mining industry is too.
The latest development is mobile learning or m-learning, which has risen out of the high numbers of smart hone and iPad ownership, and is being hailed as the next game changer.
Smart phone technology is ubiquitous on site, so the mining industry’s use of it to train up and learn was always going to be a given, especially as it can easily be used on almost any mine site in the country without the need for existing infrastructure – just a handheld phone.
It also addressed the issue of a dispersed workforce as it can bring people together in real time, with no cost to the mining company either.
So what’s an example of m-learning?
Imagine an articulated truck driver is in the process of dumping their coal payload at a fairly crowded shipping facility when the all-terrain truck’s hydraulic system suddenly fails.
The dump box is now stuck halfway and traffic is quickly growing behind them.
No longer having the ability to steer, a trip back to the depot is out of the question.
The only help is most likely an inexperienced diesel mechanic who has a limited off-hand working knowledge at best.
So, the driver can turn to their vehicle’s service manual for guidance, but this is time consuming.
In the time it took to find the answer in the manual, m-learning could have already solved this issue.
In a matter of seconds the truck driver could have pulled out their smart phone, searched the truck code in a mobile learning library and started downloading instructions or even a video on hydraulics and how to solve their problem.
Remote training programs could also help to diagnose the problem with a quick click of a button, source aid materials, and show the necessary steps required to solve the problem – in this case a leaking hydraulic hose.
Recent advances such as iPhone 4S’s Siri means that you simply have to ask and it will be presented.
An hour searching for a solution, or a quick fifteen minutes and some m-learning is the difference between serious downtimes, or a slight delay on site.
These mobile workforce aids are a reality due to the swathe of e-learning companies out there which provide 24/7 support to the mining industry, according to e-learning company Savv-e’s product sales manager James Fordham.