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News Article

Automation for Decision Making and Supply Chain Management

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 01/27/2022 - 18:08

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Digitalization for mining processes has changed from a manual, paper-based operation to a digital platform that incorporates automation, AI, ML, and DML systems to streamline operations and significantly improve business results.

In the last decade, most mining companies have sought to incorporate this technology in the majority of their mining operations. “Mining should consider automation solutions for their operational challenges. Mining is in search of being sustainable, to have a better use of water, reduce the consumption of resources, control environmental impact and improve transport and storage of tailings - most of this is possible through automation,” said Hugo Barrientos, Digital transformation Manager, Mexico, Emerson.

For Barrientos it is fundamental the incorporation of wireless networks to monitor personnel and smart mining to plan and predict, especially in  metallurgic processes. “AI and algorithms can prepare processing strategies with greater recovery.”

Today, automation systems are playing a more decisive role than ever before, having a greater impact due to COVID-19. “To date, remote operational efficiency is a reality and advanced data analytics that enables real-time decision making in a supported way is a need,” said Eder Lugo, Minerals Head Large Drive Applications, Siemens.

According to Lugo, there ought to be solutions that analyze data generated by the existing automated process of companies. “Automation produces data that can generate indicators that support decision making, but not all companies are taking advantage of it.”

Moving toward autonomous operations by automation with simple platforms that can be integrated and allow remote management will positively impact the value chain and give visibility to a company’s processes, said Erik Flores, Specialist in Business Development mining area, Mitsubishi. “The best automation solutions allow you to control, correct and visualize different processes in real time.”

Nevertheless, there are specific technologies, such as the Digital Twin, that can have a greater impact than others. . Digital Twin for Mining is a virtual representation of the physical world, stored in a representative structure on a cloud data platform. With the Digital Twin solution, companies can visualize their data and asset settings through an intuitive, easy to use interface that represents the entire value with the ability to drill down all the way to individual assets and AI predicted setting suggestions.

This technology, according to Alvaro Rendon, Director SuiteMET Metallurgical Optimization, ECN Automation, is the new generation of automation and implies the development of new mindsets to be adopted and fully exploited by companies that want to achieve autonomy.

Rendon explains that this process aims to modernize architectures at the level of process control first, in addition to “investment with age computing servers, in cloud infrastructure and in the extraction process optimization. Operational Digital Twin will enable informed decision making.”

According to Barrientos, these processes are to be accompanied by an interdisciplinary transition committee to analyze process indicators, security, reliability, visions and create automation improvement strategies.

“The human factor is going to be essential and automation also plays a role in reducing risks for collaborators and members of the committee,” said Barrientos.

Automation has raised concerns over job losses, as it is clear that some professions suffer more from automation than the benefits they would obtain. However, Monica Samudio, General Director for Mexico, Central America and Caribe, Circutor, explained that there are definite opportunities resulting from digital technologies.

“These are new careers that need to adapt intelligent learning, and assistance systems are great to create career entry opportunities for workers,” said Samudio.

“Train yourself in the skills of the future and be aware of new trends such as AI, Virtual Reality or ML. But also, develop leadership, creativity and critical thinking,” recommended Flores. In addition, Flores envisions a future where humans and robots work together, while tech provides more job opportunities, but with different approaches.

For Lugo, the human factor is a pillar within the automation portfolio developments. He explained that the job transition is normal. “It is the fourth industrial revolution and it always happens, there are job losses, but there is an immediate recovery curve.”

Photo by:   Mexico Business News
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst