Roberto Pérez
Head of Solutions
View from the Top

When Digitalization Enters a Mine

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 11:24

Q: How would you rate the technological transition in the Mexican mining industry?
A: The industry is already working with cutting edge-technologies, such as automation, milling, and primary processes. Our job is to incentivize the penetration of digital technologies because there is still some industry unawareness, added to a lack of maturity that hinders the market taking this next step. Certainly, technology advancements are gradual, but there is much to be done with clients around digitalization. They need to have a specialized department for this area to make it is easier to identify its potential and also its associated costs. This is the missing link to reach technological appropriation in a faster pace.
A characteristic of digitalization is that solutions can be specifically designed for each client’s needs. Many have already autonomously and independently developed their processes with certain characteristics. The main thing is to keep the existing platforms and add on top integrating software to improve the actual performance.
Q: What advantages does digitalization offer in terms of boosting the competitiveness of mining operators?
A: Digitalization has the potential to change the organizational structure. Maintenance and operation should be interconnected and automated, with less man hours expended to operate and maintain the plant. The focus of management should be optimization, by adding KPI´s to more components or the improvement of actual ones. The goal is that the mine knows exactly the performance of each critical component and its costs related, and is able to request to suppliers specific characteristics to improve that particular element performance. In the midterm we should expect a reduction of downtime and increase of productivity. By the integration of all the mine departments and components and with a visualization platform for specific roles in the plant, digitalization simplifies decision-making and liberates the energy and time of personnel to optimize processes and investments.
Q: How does Siemens develop a digitalization strategy together with its clients?
A: First, we execute a diagnosis. We visit the mine and evaluate the asset together with a team provided by the client. Based on the results, we help to define a strategic development plan with short, mid and long-term investments with a clear ROI. We see as an ultimate target to have what we call a digital twin of the assets and processes working as the real ones and delivering information to predict and improve. At the moment, we are working on many projects and the most relevant is located in Brazil. The world’s third-biggest mining company, wanted to implement a single manufacturing execution system to connect 38 sites. Siemens executed the phases of conception, implementation, integrated tests, and assisted operation for excavation, material beneficiation, material stock and shipment. The customer benefits for example from integrated control of different storage areas, capacity management, and KPIs updated in real time.
Q: What kind of technologies does Siemens offer to ensure a rapid adoption of digitalization in mines?
We focus on understand the customer long-term strategy to define a roadmap, but I would like to name a few of the basics. MES Manufacturing Execution System: the customer gains comprehensive transparency along the entire value chain and at all facilities, e.g. from the mines to the railway and port facilities. In concrete terms, operating performance indicators from across all sites can be displayed and compared to each other; Stockpile Management System: an unmanned operation of stackers, retrievers and combined machines that offers higher performance, greater accuracy, full utilization of the storage area and optimized energy consumption compared to manned operation. Finally, Asset Health Analytics, which consists of the enrichment of condition monitoring systems with analytic and predictive functionalities as well as self-learning abilities.