How Can Companies Maximize Productivity and Reduce Costs?Mon, 10/22/2018 - 17:35
In light of the declining ore grade in existing mine sites and the search for larger reserves, companies are driven to maximize productivity on the concessions they already own. Operators demand new and optimized operational methods while exploration companies prioritize their projects to increase their chances of succeeding in finding world-class deposits. In the meantime, technology companies and suppliers focus on advancing down the innovation path to meet the need to optimize mine processes. Industry leaders working in several links of the mining value chain share their experiences and main challenges in the search for productivity.
We are going through the process of making our mines more efficient and productive. We started in Guanaceví, which was our highest cost mine in 2017. Once we achieve more efficiency at this mine, we will implement a similar program to enhance productivity at El Cubo and Bolañitos. We are trying to make our mining processes leaner as quickly as possible. We are simply trying to make better use of our equipment and people, which are our two biggest assets.
The mining industry is aware of the trend toward greater technological implementation. It is racing against time and if it fails to introduce the required technology, it will lose its competitiveness. SKF remains a robust player in the Mexican market because we collaborate and have a solid relationship with the national champions. But given the high competition in the sector, the product by itself is no longer a key differentiator. Our goal is to disrupt through technology by betting on Industry 4.0. This trend started in Germany 10 years ago and while in Mexico it is still developing, mining can really benefit from it, especially given the high expenses related to staff turnover. We perceive the trend is moving toward the development and implementation of sensors at mine sites and with mining machinery.
All mining equipment is designed to achieve certain daily, weekly and monthly productivity levels. But I believe that productivity is more dependent on human capital and the training that companies provide. If the mining industry invests in the development of its people, it will achieve higher returns. As our costs would also go down, we would be more competitive and our clients would give us more work. Our main concern as a company is the safety of our people. If we lack proper security, we will end up having accidents, which will stop production, in turn lowering output. It is crucial to provide adequate safety and security training. The industry will always seek to cut costs and drive up productivity. In our case, we focus on developing our human capital and also on modifying our technologies to have more autonomous equipment.
We are reducing our operating costs in three ways. Historically we have embraced a philosophy of continuous improvement at each of our operating mines. We are currently focused on improving our metallurgical recoveries by carrying out more research and introducing new and innovative equipment and chemicals. We are also conducting programs to improve the productivity at each mine by upgrading our operational and management systems. But the biggest difference could be the construction of new, higher-quality, lower-cost mines.
We provide innovative solutions that can greatly reduce time and costs. For companies that are not afraid to incorporate new technology, we can help them to increase productivity rates considerably in the same window of time as more traditional systems. And for those that are more conservative and wish to retain their existing mechanical systems, we can help them find ways to improve their processes and reduce costs. We have noticed that initiation systems in the industry have evolved considerably and this could change the way blasting systems work. Programmability in detonators now allows companies to adapt blasting systems to the needs of the operation on a daily basis and we use these solutions in our portfolio.
Mexico has a key feature that differentiates it from its North and South American neighbors; its market demands high technology equipment and the most modern machinery that exists in the industry. This is leading the country toward automated mines. Epiroc has already started two projects: one in the Peñasquito mine with Goldcorp. These projects consist of the monitoring of all equipment through control centers, so a company can identify the status of machinery, production rates and malfunctions. This helps companies quickly complete maintenance services and control productivity. It also provides key information to engineers, which allows them to make the right decisions quickly and increase efficiency. These control systems are additionally very focused on security as they allow projects the ability to properly monitor personnel and avoid dangerous situations.
One of the biggest challenges of the industry is compliance as projects need to meet a wide variety of national and international standards before starting production. Measuring environmental impact is particularly tricky as companies have to prove their ability to minimize risks before gaining a concession. Finding a middle point between controlling these risks and maximizing productivity is not easy and we can facilitate these processes by providing equipment with a high level of accuracy.