At Ramjack Technology Solutions, we bridge the critical gap between mine operations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and world-class original technology manufacturers, like Newtrax, Mine Design Technologies, Conspec Controls, MineWare, SmartCap and Worldsensing – to name a few. Through these partnerships – and others like them – we provide mining companies and operations with localised services that guarantee improvements in safety, productivity, and effectiveness.
With extensive experience in technology adoption in mining, Ramjack deliberately focuses our energy on real-time technology products purpose-built for mining. Streams of big-data to analyse trends are important for improving mining effectiveness in the long run, but even more important is ensuring that the miners, engineers and manager at the face have the information they need – when they need it – to make the right decision at the right time.
Integrated, fully interoperable, real-time solutions are the foundation for making this happen. Most technology manufacturers know this, but still struggle with adjusting their mindset to ‘play well with others’. On the technology front, many – if not most – of the technologies being developed for mining today are compatible with each other and can be integrated into a comprehensive mine-wide solution. Everyone understands that in the current Internet of Things (IoT) era, technology simply can’t operate in “silos”.
However, even with this fundamental understanding – and with the complementary technology available – mines still struggle to realise the full potential from their technology deployments. While the technology plays an important role, when it comes to increasing overall mine safety and productivity, the technology alone is not enough.
Making a mine better – i.e. safer and more productive – is similar to any major change management process and requires all the elements that any major change would require in any industry. Where mining differs from other industries is in the level of complexity of the environment and the ever-present history of failed technology deployments that plague operations.
Ramjack’s efforts to assist mines with increasing the success rate of technology adoption start with the technology selection process itself. But, even at this stage, the technology is not what matters most, but rather the priorities of the mine and how they align with the technology capabilities.
To accelerate technology adoption, Ramjack looks to address five key challenges:
1. Management Culture: when a management team is suddenly equipped with the data they’ve been craving for years, it is important to ensure it is used correctly to get the most out of the operation – a misstep in this area can cause huge backlash from miners, sufficiently huge to stall or even halt the technology deployment altogether;
2. Miner Acceptance: if managed correctly – including the right miner engagement programme – it is possible to have a significant, positive impact on the lives of the miners. Improvements in safety ensure miners are able to return home unharmed at the end of every shift. Improvements in productivity can increase bonuses and, in turn, the standard of living of everyone who depends on the mine. Successful ‘miner engagement programmes’ are able to generate a ‘pull’ from the operators as opposed to a ‘push-back’;
3. Dynamic Environment: even the most static of mines is a very dynamic environment. Changes to mine plans require a flexibility that needs to resonate not only with the technology, but also with the users of the technology – from management to engineers to equipment operators. Technology deployments often fail when the systems and processes do not align with the realities of what needs to happen to get the work done. In these situations, the technology is seen as barrier to success, not the solution to a problem. Technology needs to enable the mining process, not hinder it;
4. Technology Applicability: technology in mining has been around for a long time now; for example: today, very few surface operations run without some form of fleet management system. That wasn’t true 30 years ago. Even so, there is still no “silver bullet” technology that ensures success. What works at one mine might not necessarily work at another mine. What works on surface is not guaranteed to work underground. Ensuring that the technology selection is the right fit for the mine’s technology vision requires more than just a tender process. Bridging the inherent gaps between what the mine needs and what the technology manufacturer makes is an essential component to successful system adoption;
5. Too Big Too Soon: there’s a tendency for technology deployments to take on a life of their own; CAPEX approval is scarce, meaning you only have one shot at getting it right. But, the risk of failure increases exponentially with the size of the deployment and the pace of implementation. The wise mine implements technology on a recurring basis, knowing that small – successful – steps in the right direction are far better than biting off more than you can chew. A commitment to technology is a mindset change over time, not a single decision at one point in time.
Without the right mindset at all levels, technology adoption – and the productive use of new solutions – can be problematic, with staff members resisting change, or in the worst-case, actively sabotaging new ways of doing things. Extracting the full value from new systems and technologies requires continuous and systematic knowledge transfer. When knowledge filters through an organisation, safety and productivity improvements usually follow closely behind.
At Ramjack, we’re filling gaps in technology adoption and knowledge transfer programmes with state-of-the-art technologies AND custom service programmes – ranging from technology roadmap services to complex remote operations centres.
Please give us a call if you’d like to explore these ideas further at your operation.