Transforming the mining industry through digitalisation

ABB managing director, Australia, Tauno Heinola

The 2017 ABB Digital Transformation Summit took place this week in Brisbane, exploring the importance of implementing digitalisation across the mining, oil and gas, energy and utilities sectors.

The two-day event, held by global power and automation technology company ABB, highlighted the need for companies, particularly in the mining and resources sector, to implement innovative strategies to address efficiency needs and cost reduction efforts.

It featured a range of speakers, presentations and software demonstrations focused on the advantages of digitally enhancing businesses and business models.

Speakers included Matthew Furse, digital transformation specialist at Microsoft; Mike Houlahan, general manager, commercial services and finance at Horizon Power; and chief digital officer at Snowy Hydro, John McGagh.

Delegates who attended the event included mining companies such as BHP, Glencore and Rio Tinto, as well as members from energy, utility, and transportation businesses.

ABB Australia managing director Tauno Heinola noted the significant opportunities that can be derived from implementing digital opportunities including reducing energy costs, improving maintenance and increased productivity.

“Digital transformation is here as we speak, many real concrete solutions are also available now, however we have only seen the beginning,” he said.

One of the speakers, Rick Nicholson, global product management and marketing enterprise software at ABB, explained the difference between digitisation – the process of taking information in analogue form and converting it into a digital format – and digitalisation.

Nicholson said digitalisation involved “changing a business model that creates new value or new revenue opportunities that didn’t exist previously”.

“It’s much more of a transformation in the sense that the business is changing,” he said.

Nicholson also discussed where particular industries were on the digital S curve, with the mining and metals sector currently at a low level of digitalisation.

This was reinforced by ABB senior director of Intelligent Mining Solutions, enterprise software,Tarang Waghela, who reiterated that while a number of mining companies have adopted innovative processes or systems, the level of digitalisation for industry as a whole is not where it needs to be as yet.

Waghela said the majority of investment mining companies put into innovation goes toward technology for better extraction, but highlighted the importance of instead implementing innovative strategies throughout the company.

He also spoke about collaboration, not only internally but externally with other mining companies as a way to address the challenges in the mining industry.

“When we talk about innovation, it’s not just about implementing a piece of technology,” he said.

“Can we bring the best minds and get them to look at a problem in a different way?”

With the event an overall success, Waghela told Australian Mining he hoped it would inspire attendees to take action and implement what they have learned.

“If we can inspire people to take action when they go back, then that’s when this event will be really successful.”

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