Shrinking budgets, an uncertain economy, stagnant or declining production, and increasing competition in the global marketplace: sound familiar? Every mining operation has to counteract these trends. And while many mines were slow to adopt technology, studies now show that 70 percent of mining and oil industry respondents believe the use of mobile has prevented or reduced worker incidents and accidents and their related costs, and 86 percent believe that the use of mobile technology reduces paperwork.
Need to get ahead of the competition? Here are seven on-site and in-office technologies, both large- and small-scale, that can help you do just that.
Today, you might still be relying on hard drives and paper records to store business documents.
“The cloud” — an easy, safe and, secure way of storing data on the Internet — eliminates the need, cost, and potential danger of using file cabinets full of paper or a stack of hard drives to keep your records.
Moving to the cloud can save you time and money: Your staff gathers and enters information right at the work site — eliminating the need for office staff to manually enter data and reducing the risk of clerical errors. You can also quickly search and access thousands of documents using keywords and have real-time access to your data and documents in the field. If you are already using Gmail, Dropbox, or Basecamp, you’re already working with cloud technology!
Just like the cloud, mobile apps can help you eliminate paper records both on-site and in the office. Data entered into an app can be sent right to your cloud-based storage
The biggest advantage of mobile apps is that completing the task at hand is as simple as picking up your mobile device. Mobile apps can grab raw data from your drilling, blasting, digging, and hauling functions, then create easy-to-read charts, graphs, and tables that give insights into your productivity and help you troubleshoot. There are even mobile apps that can help you follow MSHA guidelines.
Sensors are wireless, Internet-connected devices that are helping mine operators around the world improve their management of people, machines, and work-sites — and the cost-savings benefits are huge.
Sensors can be attached to drills, tires, and nearly everything else in a mine to collect data and send it back to employees, other devices and machines, and mobile apps, automatically recording data so you can make on-the-spot decisions as well as use to lower costs and boost production.
Imagine accessing real-time data captured by sensors and immediately gaining insights into what’s working well and what isn’t.
Autonomous or Near-autonomous Vehicles /Advanced Robotics
Just as sensors are doing work where people sometimes can’t, many mining companies have begun to explore the use of autonomous (un-manned) or near-autonomous vehicles to explore inaccessible or extremely dangerous locations.
Caterpillar is currently using autonomous vehicles in one mine in Western Australia, and plans to increase its fleet to up to 45 trucks over the next few years.
The advantages of using these vehicles include increased productivity and improved safety for employees who sit “in the driver’s seat” from the security of an office.
Advanced robotics work together with autonomous vehicles by putting tasks into the “hands” of machines operated by off-site technicians. Robotic processes are safer, faster, and more consistent, upping productivity.
All of that machinery requires upkeep, and the maintenance and replacement of machinery is costly. Fortunately, the development of high-performing, more efficient, longer-lasting materials is improving everything from engine oil to machine parts.
An example is the work the Shell Canada and Caterpillar are doing to discover whether a fuel mix using liquefied natural gas (LNG) could reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands mining. Some have heralded liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a potential game-changer for the mining industry. By substituting up to 95 percent of heavy haulage trucks’ diesel fuel with LNG, Caterpillar aims to prove that LNG technology can be a key differentiator for the mining industry. The company will field test a fully integrated vehicle in 2016.
3D printing is a process that builds a physical object from a digital model, and, while fairly new to many industries, can change the way you manage in-bound supply chains. For instance, 3D printing’s on-demand capability and its mobility will enable mines to make products where and when they need them, creating strategies for manufacturing equipment and parts on-site as required.
Other 3D-printing pluses? No minimum order sizes for production, components can be easily customized, and the process is material- and energy-efficient — all key for operating in remote and/or inhospitable locations.
Renewable Energy Sources
Becoming more energy efficient is a high priority for many mines today. Where the industry relied historically on fossil fuels for energy, as fuel prices continue to rise and margins tighten, renewable sources of energy become sound business strategy. The good news? On-site energy from solar or wind power in some cases can be far cheaper than power from diesel — up to 70% cheaper, according to one analysis. For isolated mines, the cost/benefits of renewable energy sources become clear very quickly, as the need for costly transportation is eliminated.
While every new technology might not be within your reach, bringing some new technologies into your day-to-day business can reduce costs and help you keep up with the competition. GoCanvas offers more than 225 mobile apps offering adaptable solutions for mine operators that can help your business save time and money. Try them for free today.