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Nondisruptive Disruption is Key to Successful Innovation

Debra Johnson - Eco-Edge


Daniel González By Daniel González | Senior Writer - Mon, 05/03/2021 - 18:17

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Q: What is Eco-Edge focused on at the moment?

A: Right now, I am doing consulting with a variety of companies to help them internally with adopters of technology and with innovators. I do this in order to help them understand what elements will accelerate the adoption of new technologies. We also have our own technology, which is our primo idle alternative system. This reduces idle on mining trucks and we are also expanding that system to other mining equipment.


Q: What factors drive a company to choose your services?  

A: They choose us because they might have experienced failures in getting technologies to scale. They may have done repeated amounts of pilots and the technologies are struggling to get to scale. I work with both the adopter and the innovative technology company to create the environment where you are going to give your technologies and projects a better chance to be successful, as well as the opportunity of getting them to scale. Many companies in general do not want to do a pilot, yet they know that if they do not do a pilot, they could put themselves at risk. There are a whole lot of things that are not happening today in the industry, which is why mining tends to be 15 years behind in adopting innovative technologies.


Q: What are some of the challenges of operating in different markets?

A: The challenge is on a site-by-site basis. The main challenge is the leadership. It could excel at a particular mine but it could be very different from the one that is down the road, simply because it might be owned by a different company. In my opinion, it is less country-specific than it is operationally-specific. Those differences exist whether you are in the US, Mexico, South Africa or Canada. It is going to depend on that particular mine and what its needs are and what priorities it has.

A challenge that often comes up in regard to innovation is when people on the ground are responsible for certain KPIs, or certain deliverables. Take a collision avoidance system, for instance. Even though they know there are benefits, the disruption to the existing process is going to alter their deliverables and their measurements. So, the question is how do you get those technologies into an organization without disruption? Meaning a nondisruptive disruption. That is the biggest factor. How big is the problem that you are trying to solve and, therefore, how smooth is that adoption going to be?


Q: How would you compare the Mexican mining market to other countries’?

A: The Mexican market does not reject new innovations. However, what I have noticed is that Mexican companies would not use a new product that has not been used elsewhere. They want to be, as miners would say, the “first to be second.” This was a great learning experience for me because that is something that applies to the entire mining industry. It is not something unique to Mexico. In fact, it is not unique to mining; this concept exists  in all industries.


Q: Where in the value chain does Eco-Edge have the biggest impact?

A: On the operational side is where we focus the most. That is where people are going to be more disrupted by a technology or a pilot that is not executed seamlessly. The exploration and delivery side tends to be slower; therefore, their reactions have a lesser impact. On the exploration side, companies have the time and the ability to try different things without disrupting production. Whereas in the operational areas, whether it is in blasting, hauling, comminution and milling, everything has a schedule. If you try to inject innovations into something when the next process is waiting on them, then it becomes disruptive. Therefore, to achieve a nondisruptive disruption you have to find a way to make it seamless. 


Q: You have mentioned “nondisruptive disruption.” How would you describe that?

A: We use the term frequently because that is where we consider most risks come from. When you disrupt what one is doing, then it is not a favorable situation. For instance, if a new innovation takes my trucks down, then I have lost any savings that whatever that particular innovation might save you.



Q: How do you see the future of the mining industry in terms of growth and development?

A: The reality is that we cannot keep doing the same things in order to achieve what is needed from the mining industry. We need to look at the incremental types of technology and changes that need to happen in order to spur that change. This change does not magically happen. For this to occur, the industry needs micro-automation to completely become autonomous. You need different levels of technologies that when pieced together, equal the step change. That is where we have to change and how we adopt incremental technologies to get to the levels of the commodities that will be required to sustain the world’s demand for electric vehicles and electrification.  


Eco-Edge combines consulting and new technologies to create a bridge between big data, IIoT, sustainability and actionable solutions for industries such as mining, transportation, utilities and oil and gas. Founded in 2002, the company has become a leader in working with innovative and eco-efficient fleets, industrial and digital technologies.

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