Digitalization of Short Interval Control (SIC)
Companies across the industry have benefited from shifting traditional methods of paper-based data collection to mobile-based data collection. This is what they call, the digitalization of information.
Collecting information using a mobile device opened up a new world of possibilities for many companies. By harnessing data that is now available digitally, the management gains the intelligence to pursue new goals in a more strategic, data oriented framework.
Successful application of SIC requires a key condition that your team has the skills, and the desire to make improvements to the production process.
With the right set of tools, your team is now equipped to measure current happenings, and identify areas to improve performance.
Digitalization of Data Collection
The usage of real-time information has become increasingly common in underground mines. Tracking and monitoring personnel safety, monitoring and tracking equipment, monitoring ventilation must be taken beyond conventional methods today.
One way to do this is by using sensors. Internet of Things or IoT devices are smart, affordable devices fitted with sensors that capture data. There are various sensors for various types of data. The data captured is sent in real-time to the control center.
Paper based inspections must move to digital inspections. Smartphones and tablets can be used to capture more data such as operational checklists, inspections, and others.
Enabling technologies have advanced significantly to a point where it has now become highly cost effective to implement all of these ideas.
Digitalization of Production Scheduling
Short interval control is primarily focused on production control. As discussed earlier, while there is a standard for the manufacturing industry, a standard is yet to be defined for the mining industry.
In essence, a digitized short interval control enables the creation of a super fast feedback loop on the production tracking against expected production at short intervals. This is made possible using a multitude of interconnected seamless technology pieces working together to manage and track production.
While a standard short interval control system has been used in mining for many years now, the core benefit of digitizing production control is to improve the speed at which production can be tracked, and consequently (automatically) matched to expectations.
Digitization of production control requires a cutting-edge scheduling system that:
- Imports your mining long range schedule and “tunable parameters” from your production plan.
- A capability matrix that identifies skill and effectiveness index, identifies and matches operator to the most effective equipment, creates shift task lists for supervisors to review and dispatch.
- Is integrated with KPIs and reports to allow supervisors, operations managers and management to get insights and facilitate optimization as required.
Digitalization or digitization is about bringing operators and supervisors closer to understanding where the entire mine stands with respect to overall goals for the day, week, month, and the year.
Technically, operators or supervisors in a mine must be able to view their production targets and completed targets. Modern technology such as mobile apps allow the capturing and reporting of this information seamlessly. Examples of these distinct interfaces are below (from our mining fleet management software, groundHog)
Here are some interfaces for a Loader, Jumbo, Haul truck, Bolter and others. Note how easy it is for operators to know their shift targets, and also report their progress in real-time to the operations command center.
In the past, technology platform changes have often been quite expensive, and in some cases very risky. Moreover, the learning curve to on-board personnel to these platforms was usually quite steep and expensive.
Today, technology has advanced rapidly in the last decade, and all of the technologies discussed in this article are very affordable to implement.
For example, IoT devices such as sensors are less than a few dollars, these capture data and send them to any computer or device of choice. Advancements in mobile technology has made smartphones and tablets with powerful computing capabilities affordable for large scale implementations.
A great user experiences in such digital short interval control solutions also reduce the amount of time it takes to on-board your staff to this platform. A mobile application for reporting is also a great companion to radio communication elevating the culture of being live and up to date.
Digitalization in mining is focused at making mining better than before. And “better” really means lower operating costs, more actual yield in compliance with plans, improved standards of safety, and a higher regulatory compliance.
What digitalization also delivers is automation of common manual tasks, some of which are very slow.
In other words, unlike what is happening in most mines across the world, a digitized mine allows your people to focus fully on their core mining job rather than learning to operate the technology that is powering the mining operation.
Digitalization works to identify and eliminate inefficiency such that your mine is always able to perform at it’s best. Common problems such as inaccurate task allocations, misplaced equipment, inaccurate data, delayed communication and more, are taken care of by a central system in a digitized mine.
Although I find that there are non-digitized systems which can take care of these common problems, where digitalization really shines is in its ability to provide the right information to the right people at the right time (actually, in real-time) – without anyone even making an effort.
This may sound very simple, but in an industry that is centuries old, and which is facing some of the most difficult economic challenges, digitalization in mining is proving to be an indispensable tool to keeping costs low, profits high, and decisions strategic.
So, now that you get a fair idea of what digitalization in mining can do, let’s dive deeper into understanding how it actually benefits your mine at a mid to low level.