Information Systems Increase EfficiencyWed, 10/21/2015 - 13:29
Advanced IT solutions for mining operations require the ability to manage large, continuous streams of data, while making that data easy to analyze. Other indispensible features include data warehousing and reporting tools, as well as systems maintenance and regular upgrades. Mining companies can either hire a team of IT experts with knowledge of the common challenges in mining operations, or outsource this service to specialized IT firms. One such outsourcing provider is the mining information systems consulting company, MISOM. Sean Dessureault, founder and president of MISOM Consulting Services, shares his company’s vision. “We understand the frustrations of mining engineers and mining planners. We know because we have been there. We are solving problems that we once faced, and creating a product that we wish had been available back then.”
The development of MISOM’s solutions started in the mid1990s, when Dessureault identified the need to centralize data from mining operations in one location, and make it easily accessible for mining engineers. Dessureault worked on automating the data entry process, which allowed users to focus on data analysis, eliminating the time spent manually transferring data from different sources into a spreadsheet. “Traditional methods of data collection have been proven to be inefficient, an engineer might spend up to 80% of his time using these techniques,” he shares. “With our Mine-to-Mill (M2M) system all the data collection, installation, and entry is automatic.” With such a system, M2M studies can be performed regularly, instead of once a month or once a year. Moreover, companies are able to monitor and improve processes along the entire supply chain by mining relevant data and restructuring processes. Dessureault stresses the point that data mining can only be done “on structured data that is controlled, and which can be related to each other.” The data must thus be collected, refined, and then processed in order to obtain useful information. “My original goal in developing the MISOM license was to help the industry develop a solid data infrastructure, to make it possible one day to use data mining,” shares Dessureault. “Once companies have the integrated data solutions we will be able to move to the next step, which involves data mining and using algorithms to find relationships.” In order to move in this direction, companies need to first install a data warehouse and assess the quality of the data being collected from their operations.
The data that MISOM is able to expose and integrate comes from processes such as drilling or blasting and describes activities at different operating sites within a mine. With this data, a mining company can restructure and reengineer its operations based on the feedback it gets. “We make sure that a company can access all relevant information about a specific drilling rig, or the details about the performance and status of a certain operator,” expresses Dessureault. Nonetheless, it is of no use to have information about processes if a company is not analyzing the data. “I have worked for large companies that have commissioned a data warehouse worth US$10-15 million. This warehouse could give them any information that they needed, but in some cases, they did not have a clear data extraction strategy.” For this reason, MISOM focuses on teaching its clients how to create a balanced scorecard, which allows the management to receive a set of data from the safety, maintenance, and production systems. After this is done, MISOM is able to demonstrate the value of data analysis to its clients, before following up with more advanced processes that help managers narrow down the questions they need this data to answer. The scorecards and dashboards generated by MISOM are also accessible from smartphones, making data analysis even more convenient and accessible. This way, mine operators have “the data in their hands,” says Dessureault. Beyond this, to make the most out of MISOM’s technology, mine personnel must be properly trained to operate such systems. “The main challenge is education. This is partly due to the fact that the technologies we use are not part of the core curriculum in university programs,” says Dessureault. Nevertheless, in the age of information, data is as valuable as the product itself. “CEOs of mining companies do not necessarily value the data that is collected. We have to show them how these products and services absolutely contribute to the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of mining companies,” he states.
Considering IT development in the mining industry, MISOM is naturally turning its eye toward Mexico. The company will meet mining companies in Zacatecas in the early months of 2015 in order to spot opportunities within the vast Mexican mining industry. “We are now employing Spanish speakers and looking at opportunities near the US-Mexico border,” says Dessureault. Having worked with soft and hard rock, as well as underground and surface mining companies, MISOM feels fully prepared to face the challenges in the Mexican mining industry.