Convincing the mining industry of the benefits of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) has not been the easiest task over the years.
For starters, the technology emerged significantly during the mining boom when its benefits were not exactly top priorities for mining companies looking to rapidly develop projects and produce their commodity as quickly as possible.
In hindsight, which is always a wonderful thing in mining, IoT should have been a priority, or at least a major consideration, for mining companies, especially when you consider what has become important in today’s marketplace – innovation, productivity and efficiency.
To be fair, IoT has been on the radar of many mining companies as awareness of its benefits to not just mining, but several other industry sectors, has grown.
However, unlike an industry such as manufacturing, mining would not be considered an early adopted of IoT, according to Schneider Electric process automation offer and BD director Brad Yager.
“Mining definitely prioritised speed over efficiency when it was expanding but that’s no longer the case – now there is much more focus on driving operational efficiencies,” Yager told Australian Mining.
“These things have always been there as ‘nice to haves’ but the primary goal was to do things faster but not necessarily more efficiently.
“Now with the downturn and the smaller margins it is much more important – it is a necessity to survive rather than an opportunity to make more money.”
Schneider Electric, the global energy management and automation specialists, launched its next generation architecture and platform to deliver IoT-enabled solutions, known as EcoStruxure, late last year.
Yager said the benefits of adopting a platform to deliver IoT range from the obvious – a reduction in energy use – to more complex considerations like workforce management, due to its ability to unlock additional productivity from employees.
He added that IoT allowed mining companies to adapt to volatile markets with better efficiency, while also complementing their social licence to operate with improved maintenance and monitoring capabilities.
These benefits are particularly beneficial in the shift towards autonomous technology at mining operations, Yager continued.
“When we look at the automation piece it can solve a lot more than just the energy dilemma. It is a cost saving but there are also a lot of other costs in a business it assists with,” Yager said.
An obstacle that prevented mining companies from implementing IoT solutions into their operations during the mining boom was establishing a strong business case for the technology.
Despite IoT’s benefits for mining now being better understood, and even better suited to today’s market conditions and strategies, Yager said justifying investment was still an issue.
“How to get the business cases there to invest appropriately in those benefits is probably the hurdle,” Yager said.
“I think what we will see is some forward-thinking businesses that invest early and they will start to leap frog their competitors – then the ground swell will come.
“At the moment there is more opportunity for the smarter, more nimble players to take advantage.”
Schneider continues to advance its IoT solutions, based around EcoStruxure, which provides a fundamental set of technological capabilities that have proven to unlock value for users.
EcoStruxure offers three core capabilities, described as: embedded connectivity and intelligence; interoperable foundation for smart operations; and, infrastructure for cloud-based connected digital services.
The latest architecture and platform is open, scalable and interoperable, connecting the three layers of Schneider’s technology stack, from connected products, to edge control, to applications, analytics and services.
According to Schneider, the next generation EcoStruxure delivers safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability and connectivity of IoT-enabled operations.
It has been designed to enable Schneider, its partners and end-user customers to develop scalable and converged IoT solutions that deliver innovation at every level of an organisation.