Agile Tech to Turn Traditional Industry DigitalBy Peter Appleby | Wed, 02/03/2021 - 16:30
Q: How does Centric Mining Systems demonstrate its value to a client?
A: Many of the most interesting aspects of our offering revolve around advanced analytics. It is here where we can best demonstrate the solutions’ value and ROI potential. These tools make it easy to calculate exact cost benefits or to find efficiency or productivity gains within the mining operation.
An example is a productivity focused project we recently conducted with a client in which we used prescriptive analytics to look at a range of data points relating to employee performance. We looked at the relationship between worker productivity and the worker’s manager, how productivity changed depending on the weather, daylight hours, and even what the worker ate the night before. Analyzing these metrics allowed our client to understand all the factors affecting productivity, empowering them to make improvements to boost performance. Accessing the foundation of information available within Centric provides incredible opportunity to explore advanced analytics and improve the business.
In another project, the client was interested in preventative maintenance. The cost savings potential here are huge. We produced a predictive model for them and found that if we correctly predicted only 5 percent of breakdowns, the savings earned would pay for our service in just one year. However, our model provides far greater returns than that. We estimate that we can very accurately predict at least 65 percent of breakdowns. Therefore if 65% of breakdowns were predicted in one month, these savings would more than cover the investment in our solution. These benefits are very clear.
Q: How is Centric Mining Systems using agile methodologies in its processes?
A: The real change is being made in the way that we are implementing our solutions. Our software development teams have followed agile values and Scrum frameworks for years but, until now, the implementation side of the business had not really been applying these same methods. With a more agile approach to our services, we can improve our delivery to clients ensuring collaboration at every step.
Agile works so well with software because software is a living, breathing thing; technology changes and evolves, as do the requirements of our customers. It is vital that we have flexibility and are able to adapt to these changes. This includes the implementation of software, especially with a product like ours.
Centric Mining Systems delivers scalable products, so it is important that we have room to change the scope of a project. Often, we see that as customers learn more about our product and what it can do for them, they begin to come up with more ideas for how to enhance its use. For example, we implement data entry forms so that our customers can more sustainably capture data and leave spreadsheets behind. As clients see our solution being built and begin using it, they start to see more opportunity to fully utilize a data management platform and eliminate spreadsheets. At this point, we begin to receive requests for additions and changes to the original project scope. Following an agile approach lets us more efficiently address those additional requests from customers. It also allows for more collaboration and feedback throughout the process, which means customers get the product in their hands quickly and get to use it as early as possible. This also helps to reduce the risks inherent in the project itself and to improve user adoption.
Following an agile approach in the mining industry is not always easy. It is not always readily accepted because mining is a more risk averse or conservative industry. Agile is not new but is still newer to an industry that is used to a waterfall project management approach, in which project steps are clearly outlined. For some clients, we have taken on a hybrid waterfall-agile approach to combine the best of both and deliver a successful project that still allows for collaboration and feedback but makes the client completely comfortable with clear project goals outlined.
Q: What is the company’s role in changing attitudes toward technology within a traditional industry like mining?
A: Many mining companies still rely on Excel. This would never be the case in an industry like retail, for example. Major companies like Walmart do not rely on Excel for inventory management. Can you imagine if they did? So why are we still doing this in the mining industry?
Centric Mining Systems understands that we are dealing with a more risk-averse client base and this consideration funnels down to the construction of our product. We want to make sure that Centric is easy and fast to implement, simple for our clients to use, and will deliver value quickly in terms of clear ROI.
Case studies are helpful to instill confidence in potential clients so that they know that the promises we are making are promises we keep.
Another action we take is getting involved in industry groups. The GMG is one such group, building frameworks around new tech and trends in the mining industry. This helps build collaboration between all stakeholders including mining companies, suppliers, organizations, governments, etc. to define what these technologies do and best practices for implementation. All of this helps the introduction of tech in mining.
Q: How does the company make its technologies accessible to smaller companies?
A: In the past year, we have implemented many changes to our pricing model. This was done with smaller clients in mind. Most of our clients are, in fact, the smaller to mid-sized mining companies. Now, our product is broken up into modules so that clients can choose only the pieces of the product they need right now, while also having the opportunity to scale up as their business grows. We have received a great deal of positive feedback from smaller clients with smaller budgets that do not need the entire product suite right away.
We also stress the importance of taking advantage of cloud technology. A lot of smaller clients do not have the infrastructure or resources needed on-premises for full use of technologies and software products available today. Cloud hosting can offer cost savings by eliminating the need for expensive on-site infrastructure and support, make it easier for our team to support the instance, and provide easy access for client stakeholders who may be at the corporate office, in transit, or working from home.
Q: What new technologies is the company looking forward to releasing?
A: We are really excited about the next version of our product, which will be called Centric Cloud. It is a fully cloud-enabled solution and will be coming out this year. This gives us opportunities to implement new technologies that will increase the speed and ease of implementation, including making significant improvements to the data entry portion of the product in the coming months, which every single Centric client uses.
We are also creating a type of marketplace within Centric Cloud that allows any client to share processes and resources they have built within their own Centric solution with any other user. These could be data entry forms, dashboards or perhaps an app they built on top of Centric. This will allow Centric customers across the globe to access it. However, if a client does not want to share globally, they can do so internally within their own company. This would be useful for our multi-site clients.
Aside from this, we are working with a partner using digital twin technologies. This allows us to build a robust short interval control solution. This tool will allow the client to build a complete digital simulation of their mining operations, which will allow them to optimize their business. Centric provides the solid foundation of data, which we can share with the digital twin to run these simulations and optimizations and then visualize the results.
Centric Mining Systems develops smart systems for the mining industry, including software that turns mining data into transformative knowledge, providing the useful information needed to make informed decisions, get measurable results and sharpen its clients’ competitive edge.