To unlock the full benefits and capabilities of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and ensure successful uptake, training programmes need to first assist mining operations and their employees in understanding where the challenges in the business operations are, says business management consultancy Vuuma Collaborations business performance specialist and SiMINE operations head Mpho Phalwane.
“The first step is to equip people with the ability and skill to actually identify problems and gaps so that they can identify technologies that can close those gaps.”
The purpose-built mining simulation centre SiMINE is a collaboration between public–private partnership the Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) and business management consultancy Vuuma Collaborations.
The centre, at the MMP in Melville, Johannesburg, offers support to the mining industry through its research and training programmes that are focused on people-centred technology.
Phalwane explains that SiMINE provides knowledge transfer programmes under the real-time management information system programme that the MMP manages.
The knowledge transfer programmes assist mining stakeholders in understanding the challenges and impacts of mining modernisation on people in the sector.
She elaborates that there is a disconnect in what the technology is designed for and how it is used. As an example, drill rigs are capable of assisting the operator in work execution when planned work information is uploaded into the software. However, operators rely on printouts, often working out of designed execution sequence.
SiMINE has helped mining companies improve their performance by providing an in-depth look at operating models and how they can be tailored to an operation’s requirements.
Phalwane says companies often invest in multiple software technologies that are not fully implemented.
A leading cause of this lack of complete implementation is an absence of integration between existing methods and the incorporation of technology and its requirements. There is also a lack of understanding on the full capability of technological products introduced at mine operations.
Innovative technologies are crucial in delivering real-time information for operational performance, effective asset management and mineworkers’ safety.
Mines, particularly underground mines, have to deal with infrastructural challenges that affect real-time communication between the surface and underground or different work environments.
Therefore, it is critical for mine operations to fully embrace the capabilities offered by new technologies and integrate them with existing practices, she adds.
Phalwane explains SiMINE intends to communicate with original-equipment manufacturers to understand the full extent of technological capabilities to ensure that its training programmes are designed to teach effective ways of using such technology.
SiMINE’s flagship programme is the SiMINE simulation game, which has physical and digital versions.
The game simulates an end-to-end mining value chain, from blasting and minerals processing to sales and logistics, which, in turn, entails fulfilling orders and packaging.
SiMINE’s mining simulation game provides an in-depth understanding of how an entire mine operation works, enabling decision-makers to understand the unique challenges of every process and department.
Mining operations can then focus on areas that will have the most impact and ensure the improvement of the overall organisation.
SiMINE also provides operational systems capability training. The training programme is endorsed by industry accreditation provider the Council of Six Sigma Certification and has recently been awarded Lean Six Sigma Green Belt international certification. The certification means that the skill and capabilities imparted in the training are not just suitable within the company the training is conducted for, but across industries that are process-focused.
SiMINE also offers various short courses covering soft leadership and technical skills, such as information management, as well as data analysis and recommended tools.
The courses focus on leadership capabilities and skill through data-based decision-making and workplace facilitation skills.
SiMINE has found that training often focuses on individual departments rather than the mining operation as whole, creating a blind spot when making decisions that impact on operations, says Phalwane.
Therefore, an operational, rather than a departmental, overview is integrated into SiMINE’s training programmes, consequently ensuring that younger professionals have a broader, holistic operational outlook early in their careers, which enables them to create highly productive environments.
“Often, businesses expect that solutions will require tons of money without really understanding what the core issues are and how to properly prioritise them,” she adds.
SiMINE has written a proposal to the MMP to allow the centre to further study the gaps in miners’ use of technology on the ground at the mine sites.
Although the centre has conducted studies in this area, it has been limited to those of clients.
“We want to understand what the pressing needs are in the industry. We can spend time with miners and find out how are they using this technology, and co-create solutions with them to achieve targets without regressing to old, unproductive patterns of work,” says Phalwane.
SiMINE looks forward to continually working with the MMP to explore miners’ use of technology to find ways of improving operational processes through the various services SiMINE offers, she concludes.