Changing Mindsets To Realise The Benefits Of Technology In The Mining Sector

With the rapid development of new technology and the advent of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ which is disrupting traditional processes and the way we live and work, data is becoming a hot commodity.

The challenge lies not in obtaining the data, but how to use it to its maximum potential to add real value to customers and organisations, particularly in a technologically stagnant sector such as mining.

For a company like Worley that provides engineering solutions to the world’s energy, chemicals and resources challenges, harnessing the power of data is vital for the organisation and its customers to prosper in the new digital age. With a long history of innovation, Worley has already been active in this space for a number of years and has established a strong digital reputation. In South Africa, the project delivery company has positioned itself at the forefront of mining technology by developing various leading-edge data management tools, such as the Stepwise process that makes it possible to expediently create option analyses to assist customers and prospective funders in making strategic investment decisions, and integrated design project tools to create a living digital twin of a facility that can reduce risk and improve productivity on a project.

Driven by teams of technical experts across the global organisation who have the unique advantage of also having years of EPCM experience, Worley’s data management solutions are aimed at addressing the ongoing challenges that energy, chemicals and resources customers continue to face: how to increase productivity, reduce maintenance and operation costs, and improve safety. Through collaboration and sharing of digital knowledge across Worley’s multinational regions, the company’s global digital teams are aligning to create the most innovative solutions to address these challenges. This digital capability is being embedded in Worley’s day-to-day working, and the company is creating global service lines to make the digital capability available throughout its locations.

“The world is changing at a rapid pace. Organisations across the globe have a strategic objective to ‘go digital’ or be at risk of becoming obsolete, but few know how to use technology to add real value to their operations,” says Denver Dreyer, Senior Vice President Mining, Minerals & Metals for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Worley has the knowledge and expertise to offer a roadmap to help our customers navigate what is unfamiliar territory for many. ‘Going digital’ is very different to the traditional way of doing work, particularly in the mining sector which has seen very little change in mining methods in decades. It requires a change in mindset of the entire project team, including the customers’ side, right down to mine personnel. Our customers’ teams must be aligned with ours to embrace technology and understand the immense benefits of it.”

Dreyer notes that it is vital to partner with a service provider that has industry experience as well as the technical expertise. Russell Du Plessis, BIM Manager for Worley, concurs. “In the mining sector, we’re seeing companies approach third party providers to create 3D models of projects. While this may appear impressive on the surface, the picture on the screen is not the drawcard – it’s the underlying data that is of value, which is accumulated by industry experts over a long period of time. What really makes virtual reality models powerful is the integrated data that makes it possible to provide design accuracy, look pre-emptively forward, and create a scenario plan for a project. The objective is to deliver an intelligent and integrated project scope that runs from the design phase right through to construction. This can only be achieved by utilising data centric integrated design principles combined with industry knowledge,” explains Du Plessis.

Dreyer comments that although it will take time for the local mining sector to fully realise the benefits of digital transformation, the company intends to mainstream digitisation across its larger projects. Worley’s South African operations is currently collaborating with one of its international counterparts to develop a ground-breaking ‘intelligent’ mine for a major mining client, which is set to be one of the world’s most technologically advanced mines.

“We have people who understand data management and the application of data in an operational context, and can develop digital design techniques from concept development to detailed design, implement data analytics to plant maintenance and operations to improve maintenance and plant availability, and apply digital processes and smart tools through the design, development and implementation phases. With this capability, we can develop the intelligent mine concept into a full lifecycle service offering,” says Dreyer.

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