Five Easy Digital Wins for Mining Companies by Rockwell Automation

Five technologies you can easily adopt at your mine to increase productivity, enhance worker safety, and gain operations visibility.

Technology is changing the way mining companies do business. Learn about five new technologies you can easily adopt at your mine to increase productivity, enhance worker safety, and gain visibility into your operations. These tools will bring you quick wins, so you can accelerate your journey toward the connected mine.

One: Augmented Reality (AR)

The concept is well known. The idea is to superimpose digital information onto real objects or equipment. It can be done using tablets, mobile phones and wearables.

Sound complex to set up? Think again! Modern AR technologies allow quick development of applications without coding! And this implementation goes beyond the standard overlay of digital information over real objects: it also enables virtual collaboration.

This means that, in addition to providing field personnel with real-time information in context of the actual process, this technology helps mining companies enable remote expert advice for equipment maintenance, as well as augment the training process to create customized, memorable instruction for new workers.

Two: Hybrid Architectures (when mainstream sensors meet industrial applications)

The beauty of a combined platform is that it allows you to mix data from mainstream low-cost sensors or devices on equipment with industrial automation information. Imagine integrating information from environmental monitoring (from IoT sensing technologies) with real-time production information coming from process automation systems.

Incorporating information gathered with IoT mainstream (and low cost) devices into mining automation systems provides a huge opportunity to gain operational visibility, limited only by your creativity. For example, there are ready-to-use IoT development kits for environmental monitoring that can be ordered on the Internet.

Three: Mobility

By nature mining operations are very spread out geographically. Field workers often find themselves servicing or operating equipment without a direct view into how the specific piece of equipment is currently performing. This lack of visibility and information can reduce productivity and also result in unsafe operations.

Mobile tools, like our FactoryTalk® ViewPoint application, allow field workers to monitor, manage, and control processes in a secure mobile environment. These tools can be accessed via web browser, which means no client software to install and maintain, a lower total cost of ownership, and a more straight-forward implementation.

Four: Analytics

One of the major challenges mining companies face is disconnected and siloed information. It’s a constant struggle to find ways to aggregate and contextualize information from various areas of the business to enable better, more holistic decision-making.

Today, technologies like FactoryTalk® InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, exist that allow mining companies to collect structured and unstructured data from nearly any source within the enterprise and quickly build applications and decision tools.

In addition to using analytics to gain broad, operation-wide visibility, you can also use it at a smaller scale to improve equipment performance. Controller-based modules, like our LogixAI module, available this spring, can be plugged directly into your controller’s chassis, where it will analyze device data and automatically build a model for optimal operational parameters.

The module can also monitor equipment performance over time and alert operators when conditions are outside of your set parameters. This means mining companies can begin using self-service predictive, and even prescriptive, maintenance strategies.

Five: Simulation

Mining supply chains are an intricate sequence of material movements and processes, and there are several potential combinations of material movements across the value chain: extraction, conveyance, stockpiles, processing plant, rail and port.

Simulation tools can help mining companies analyze potential changes to their operations and supply chains, and even incorporate the impact of external factors like weather, market demand and commodity prices.