Mining companies must differentiate their operational effectiveness through their use technology, or risk being left behind.

Current economic conditions is challenging companies to recognise the role that technology and data must play in their operations, according to IDC. Building holistic digital capabilities that enable the creation of mining operations of the future will mean bringing together and integrating smart mining, digital mining and automation which will be the basis upon which mining companies deliver improved performance and efficiency.

“This is not a technology issue, it is about company strategy,” says Emilie Ditton, IDC Energy Insights head of worldwide mining. “A poorly managed mine with remote control, unmanned trucks, drones, along with visual analytics will still be poorly managed.

“Companies that successfully examine the role and treatment of data along with organisation, structure, metrics, work practice and process will differentiate themselves through superior financial results. These results will grant access to capital and the best talent,” she adds.

This technology-led transformation involves incremental steps within an overall road map for existing assets. However, new projects focused on digital mining will change the way that technology and operational strategy interact. 3rd Platform technologies — particularly cloud, mobility, and big data/analytics — along with innovation accelerators (such as robotics, IoT, cognitive systems, and next-gen security) are coming together to shape operations, changing the role that technology plays. The biggest differentiator is the successful deployment of analytics within an integrated data strategy. This remains the biggest area of challenge for most companies.

“We are starting to see the mining sector spliting – between leading companies and the rest – in terms of their automation and IoT investments,” Ditton says. “IDC’s research shows that over a quarter of mining companies globally have mature, consistent deployments of automation and IoT within their operations, but more than 50% remain at the very early stages.

“The role of IoT, particularly managing and using data effectively, will be a game changer in value delivery. However, to achieve this it is critical that mining companies get the foundations in place now,” she adds.

For most companies the foundations of managing data, applying analytics and integrating these initatives with the array of localised innovation across their mining operations is a major challenge. Managing the process, work practice and the organisational change needed to deliver the productivity potential the technology holds is a far greater challenge again for most, and it is this that is required to really impact productivity and efficiency. Regardless, however, leading players are accelerating their initiatives and the reality is that for most, surviving this period intact will depend on it.