Modern mining solutions generate mountains of data, and it is more important than ever before to ensure digital transformation programmes have clarity, pace and control. ABB has developed a digitalisation roadmap that rests on five areas or value pillars to assist companies in navigating this complex landscape and in pursuing programmes that deliver on value.

ABB aims to leverage these pillars alongside its strengths as a provider of physical and digital solutions. The company works closely with everything from mining robots and trolley-assist systems to AI and augmented reality. The company’s vision is that automation, digitalisation and electrification must go hand in hand for real digital transformation and deliver on the values of sustainable and efficient mining operations.

ABB has developed a digitalisation roadmap. Image credit: ABB

ABB has developed a digitalisation roadmap. Image credit: ABB

The five solution areas – sustainability, asset performance, process performance, operational excellence and a connected workforce – can be used to provide demonstratable evidence that digital transformation strategies are working. There is also a horizontal layer – cyber security – that is critical across the five pillars.

While the five areas are based on both long-held customer needs and the company’s solutions and domain expertise, they also reflect massive changes in mining in recent years. Another important concept of digitalisation is to promote greater collaboration among different areas of the value chain. The value pillars must all be connected to maximise plant benefits.

As an example, predictive maintenance has a solid connection to the sustainability pillar and production. A reliability engineer, who needs to work closely with the production manager, may sometimes face a decision that involves running a piece of equipment close to a failure curve, even though that could result in higher energy consumption. In the end, for a holistic optimisation of the value chain, digital needs to serve as a basis for collaborative working, instead of the traditional siloed way of operating.

Integration is a critical part of progress in digitalisation. “With data, it is essential to remember that if we cannot measure, we cannot control. Advanced algorithms cannot make the right predictions if the basics are not right. For a complex and important project such as cost reduction, we can dig into millions of data points, but it still needs to be correctly processed, ingested and managed to extract the right value from operations,” says Erik Pretorius, global lead for Large and Strategic Projects, Mining and Minerals Processing, ABB.

“Most of the time spent in data-driven projects is still around preparing the data correctly. That is a big hurdle, and mining is no different. Correct usage of the technology associated with the right domain expertise is crucial to enable data integration and the five value pillars,” concludes Pretorius.