Capital Equipment News September 2016


Innovateor die

T here is no better time to kick-start my Capital Equipment News editorship than just before Electra Mining, a major capital equipment exhibition in Africa. It is an ideal platform for the supply chain to announce their new offerings to the local market, while fleet owners have a perfect platform to shop around for their equipment and technological requirements, all in one place. For a fleet owner, an exhibition of this na- ture is often an ideal occasion to learn of the new technologies that offer improved ways of executing jobs, safely and cost-effectively. The adoption of new technologies is increas- ingly becoming essential for businesses to remain competitive and prosper, especially in the face of challenging economics and a cutthroat trading environment. One of the industries that needs to inno- vate, or risk stagnation, is the local mining industry. Local miners are in hasty need to innovate to ensure they keep pace with glob- al industry trends. Judging by what a host of OEMs will be highlighting during their exhib- its at this year’s Electra Mining, newer min- ing technologies that benefit every aspect of the mineral industry – exploration, mining, mineral processing, beneficiation, health and safety, as well as environmental issues – will take centre stage. Like many, I share the sentiment that our lo- cal mining industry is at an inflection point, in which digital technologies have the potential to unlock new ways of managing variability and enhancing productivity. The large-scale adoption of four different clusters of technol- ogies in mining – data, computational power and connectivity; analytics and intelligence; human-machine interaction; and advances in robotics – is accelerating. It is no secret that the mining industry is under pressure. In the short term, dwindling commodity prices are squeezing cash flow. Looking ahead, many existing mines are ma- turing, resulting in the extraction of lower ore grades and longer haul distances from the mine face. What is more, especially for our local

mining fraternity, is the daunting legislation requirements these operations have to ad- here to. Governments are also demanding a fair share of the mining proceeds, while they call for many more jobs at every opportunity. But, surely for mines to remain in business, achieving a breakthrough in productivity per- formance demands radical rethinking of how mining works. The idea of mechanised operations is not far-fetched. As reflected by McKinsey & Company in its recent report, increased mechanisation through automation offers the potential to reduce operating costs, improve operating discipline and take people out of harm’s way. Some OEMs such as Caterpillar and Sandvik are already pioneering technolo- gies such as automated haulage and drilling, which have since moved into full-scale com- mercialisation. McKinsey & Company’s analysis suggests that the economics of haulage are sound – reducing total cost of ownership by 15 to 40%, depending on the cost of labour. Fur- thermore, at a time when mines are battling with increased fatalities due to hazards posed by continuously unsafe mine faces, automat- ed mining operations are said to reduce the number of people working in areas considered most dangerous by more than 50%. I am of the view that the opportunity offered by these new technologies is mas- sive; innovation represents a fundamental shift in both potential safety outcomes and how value can be captured in the mining sector. Technology is changing every aspect of the industry, and companies that refuse to adapt accordingly risk being outdone by tech-savvy rivals. It is for this reason I believe that rethink- ing the processes of using, managing and owning heavy equipment by incorporating new technologies, such as data analytics and human-machine interaction systems, is of essence. This helps make equipment more productive and efficient, while busi- nesses remain profitable, even when times are this tough.

Munesu Shoko – Editor



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