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07 Sep 2016 - Business Management by Steve Mundell

How resource companies can maximise their digital technologies

Imagine a geo, a driller and a surveyor standing at a rig debating the name of a drillhole. It sounds like the opening of a bad geology joke but there’s nothing funny about it. When people in various roles at a resources operation have to stop what they’re doing and have a chat to confirm everyone is working with the same data, you’re in trouble. That’s an environment ripe for digital transformation.

To guide your journey toward the digital mine, it’s essential to get certain factors in place. I recently spoke on this very topic at an Austmine webinar about the digital mine and why I believe we need digital innovation in mining and exploration. It’s critical we get information into the right hands at the right time and have everyone feel confident they can trust the data. We’re under increasing pressure to deliver results faster and more accurately. A system reliant on manual processes or the knowledge of specific personnel is never going to deliver productivity efficiencies or allow us to maximise yield.

Let me explain.

Geologists just want to do their job. They want to collect data, making the best interpretations and decisions possible. The fewer times they have to revisit the original observations and measurements, the better. Once they’re confident about the data, they want to distribute that information to key personnel. The entire team needs to access that information and be certain it hasn’t been corrupted or inadvertently modified over the life of a resource asset.

It’s a simple concept, but it’s hardly ever implemented this way. It’s common in current practice for data to be managed by manual processes, often stored in spreadsheets with multiple copies of the same information being used by different groups. It’s not the most nimble approach and it’s certainly not efficient.

Luckily, we have new digital tools that can alleviate these problems. It’s vital we consider two things when transforming our current processes:

  • How can we consolidate data for the new digital tools and devices?
  • How does the data fit into the business?

Preparing your geoscientific data for digital maturity

The key to achieving digital maturity is to focus on scalability. How much customisation is required to get your data in shape? Can you maintain this level of involvement as the sizes of datasets grow and the speed with which they’re required takes on a transactional quality? How many places is your data duplicated and stored? How many functional roles in your operation are using variations of your data? Geologists used to focus on the long game, but we’re now being faced with an almost constant stream of data needing a quick turnaround. Focus on what you need to do to eliminate these manual processes.

Find the right fit for your data

There’s no doubt adopting new technologies is going to cause disruption in your operation. A full solution requires upheaval that cuts across groups and likely ricochets around the whole organisation. It can be extremely hard to get approval for this kind of change due to strong functional cultures in existing operations.

To combat this, you need to look at how many manual processes are used for data management in the current operation. How many of your current systems are actually broken and patched together by band aids? How many of those patches also require maintenance and customisation? We’ve all encountered the ‘quick fix’ that’s hung around for decades. How quickly can you provide information to your executive team? Do you have to program special reports for them? While the pain of change is obvious, it’s important to take stock of the endemic problems people have become used to and show how a digital approach can improve business processes.

Getting started with digital transformation in your operation

You need to quit fixing the data. Instead, fix the systems used to manage the data. This allows you to build cross-functional trust within your operation. Data is only as valuable as the actions you take from it, so if you can’t get your hands on quality, trusted data, you’re not even out of the starting blocks to addressing productivity or profitability goals. It’s not a matter of slotting in new gadgets or jumping on the latest tech bandwagon. You must adopt cross-functional, total-systems thinking if you want the best outcome.

If you’d like to get started with an effective software solution in your mining or exploration operation, get to learn more. We’ve spent two decades focused on providing a way organisations can consolidate their data and develop a single source of truth for the entire operation, putting you on the path to improved productivity and profitability.

About the Author
Steve Mundell

Steve is the Director of Product for acQuire Technology Solutions. Before he joined acQuire in 2002, Steve worked as an underground mine geologist. His research interest in information management for the natural resources industry guides the product development for acQuire’s next generation geoscientific information management software.

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