Over the past several years, professionals in the mining industry have faced significant challenges despite continuing to expand innovation in the field.
The industry's productivity (defined as the GDP value contribution an average worker creates in an hour of work) needs to rise before companies can reclaim shareholder support and deliver bottom-line value.
This has spurred a renewed focus on enhancing return on investment (ROI) and productivity, as many mining operations have returned to business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.
We believe there are some areas in which mining operations can be enhanced and streamlined to improve ROI in the mining industry. This article discusses how mining companies can boost productivity so that, in turn, profitability can be increased.
How Mining Companies Can Enhance Productivity
With economic inflation and mining productivity still in recovery, there's no doubt that mining operations are under pressure to increase ROI.
That is especially true for small-scale mining operations; although large companies might sustain such losses longer than their smaller counterparts, even they struggle with low productivity levels.
Here are some tips on how to improve productivity and ROI by creating greater efficiency on the ground.
1. Leverage Drone Software to Strengthen Mine Planning
Well-thought-out plans are easier to develop, approve and implement than those with ambiguous parameters or unknowns.
Drones, for example, are often used in mine planning and highwall mapping of open pit mines to improve mine design by identifying geological hazards that need to be avoided in the design. The point clouds and 3D mesh files can be imported into Leapfrog or ArcGIS for improved planning by tying drill hole data to surface data.
Additionally, aerial surveys offer real time, high accuracy models of open pit mines and aggregate facilities. With this capability, sites can create a historical record of change over time that superintendents can use to track change and compare surfaces against past datasets or surface design files.
So when your shareholders want to know why they're not getting more for their money in mining, show them exactly what those steps look like in practice. That will regain their trust and deliver bottom-line value.
2. Use Drone Data to Improve Equipment Management
Mining equipment management doesn't consistently rank high on an organization's priority list, but it typically gets top billing when companies are focusing on enhancing ROI.
Mining organizations should implement a strategy that focuses on equipment performance and upkeep to deliver greater sustainability in their operations. By doing so, they can maximize that production while minimizing risks that can diminish ROI.
To that end, drone data can be used to monitor road conditions and grades so that equipment is always operating at optimal efficiency, as well as to measure grades and crowns of roads.
3. Optimize Energy Consumption
Another diminisher of ROI is energy consumption, so you'll want to optimize it as much as possible. Look for ways to take advantage of renewable energy sources and alternate forms of power generation for more energy efficiency.
One such area could be reducing survey teams' time in the pit, which will reduce fuel consumption and improve safety. You can also invest in fuel-efficient vehicles and machinery that uses less power.
Finally, look into ways to switch to more efficient methods for consuming power throughout your day. It all adds up over time, so think about how slight changes could have a significant impact increasing ROI over the long term.
4. Use Risk Management as a Productivity Booster
Mining companies can also improve productivity and project outcomes through better risk management. By managing indirect productivity diminishers such as unplanned maintenance and equipment downtime, mine teams can boost ROI while also delivering better quality results for shareholders.
Many mines suffer from significant under-reporting of expenses, which results in unplanned cost overruns that ultimately hurt ROI year over year. Mitigating that risk by properly accounting for these unplanned costs, is key to improving productivity.
5. Build Better (And Fewer) Vendor Relationships & Centralize Purchasing Functions
Strong supplier partnerships mean higher-quality materials and services. The more you outsource, though, the less control you have over vendor-impacts on productivity. To maintain a strong relationship with vendors and monitor productivity, you must centralize vendor management.
When your vendors deal with one person, or interact with one centralized system, instead of many, you'll avoid redundant processes that kill productivity and damper investment return.
6. Optimize Inventory Holdings
It's wasteful to hold too much inventory. By:
optimizing storage locations;
managing high-risk inventory items;
reducing or eliminating excess packaging; and
implementing intelligent shelf management systems and using RFID technology,
mining companies can limit the typical strain on resources that add up quickly when companies maintain massive warehouses. Even minor efficiency improvements can make a vast difference in your bottom line.
Additionally, using drones to monitor stockpiles is an excellent tool for tracking inventory in real time and can be used to improve efficiency and report on holdings.
7. Improve Efficiencies Through New Technologies & Automate Routine Processes
Another way to improve productivity is to build or purchase technologies that can automate routine processes, freeing employees' time and energy for more critical tasks.
This can be especially helpful if your organization has a lot of manual processes and paper-based solutions.
One of the most efficient ways to raise productivity is by automating manual processes, which employees can use to execute tasks faster and with greater accuracy.
However, if you want a fully automated system, you need to involve a mining technologies vendor such as Skycatch.
As one of our clients is fond of saying, "automation is not about doing things faster; it's about doing more things better." That is especially true for mining companies, which are asset-heavy and scale up slowly over time–they can't just throw more people at problems to increase production.
That is where automation mining solutions come into play. The Skycatch Mining Solution combines innovative cloud processing with computer vision software on the latest drone hardware to offer everything the mining industry needs in one convenient kit.
8. Use Data to Further Enhance Productivity
There are several ways that using information can be leveraged to improve operations and enhance ROI.
One is to use data analytics to find out where your time may be mismanaged or where process bottlenecks exist. This way, you can focus on where you have the most control over what happens there.
Another is to use software tools for safety, data processing, supply chain management, and more to replace or reduce labor-intensive processes across your site.
Finally, you could use automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to offload some jobs from humans altogether.
Skycatch offers this and more in their all-inclusive Skycatch Mining Solution. From data capture to data analytics, using the fastest hardware and best in computer visualization technology.
Skycatch can provide:
detailed & accurate mapping;
mission planning and execution;
and much more. It's a one-stop shop for companies looking to improve productivity in their mining operations and improve critical inspection workflows.
There are substantial opportunities to drive additional value from supply chain efforts across all regions and product groups that could cause significant production boosts for mining companies.
Companies will need to work together with suppliers to be successful in their operational strategies.
By collaborating on innovation activities around sustainability, resource efficiency, technology development, and end-of-life management, it is possible to increase efficiency and effectiveness of operations through collaboration at every stage of the mining lifecycle.