Information technology (IT) plays a pivotal role in ensuring the efficient functioning of a mine’s supply chain operations, says logistics software solutions provider Dovetail.
“For this reason, Dovetail added a new functionality to its MobileControl solution device towards the end of June, which improves estimated time of delivery functionality, allowing for on-board vehicle scanning and the near real-time tracking of the collection and delivery processes,” states Dovetail business solutions director Shermandra Singh.
He explains that the Mobile- Control’s built-in fleet-checking and management solution enables the daily management of asset and vehicle checklists for mining operations.
Further, he notes that the identity of the vehicle, its condition, roadworthiness and task compliance are uploaded onto a central reporting solution on the system’s server to monitor any discrepancies.
Singh points out that the system’s fleet-checking solution ensures that any asset that fails the system’s checklist and, therefore, does not comply with spe- cific required safety regulations is not used in any work operations.
He adds that the system also provides a specific customised checklist for each asset in use.
“The MobileControl solution also offers job and task management monitoring and assigns particular tasks to assets and drivers, while also ensuring compliance among staff and assets and the performance of the job function,” he explains, adding that the system also tracks working hours and productivity.
Moreover, the system provides a centralised reporting feature with key performance indicators as required by each particular business unit.
Singh says that the Mobile-Control solution also ensures highly efficient route planning, which helps save costs. It also controls the movement of product from the mine to the weighbridge, through to the manufacturing facility, export vessel or end-client, while providing the required visibility throughout the process.
Accordingly, he highlights that the system is in use across various industries, including mining, and it continues to be well received by the market.
Challenges for Mine Logistics
“The major challenges include rising fuel costs, which nega- tively impact on the mining logistics industry when it comes to moving out the finished product or bringing supplier goods to the mines,” Singh laments.
He points out that the impending implementation of the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s open-road e-tolling system will also prove challenging to the industry, as it will only add to operational costs of service and logistics providers who use these roads to access mines in the Gauteng region.
Further, he draws attention to the lack of skilled IT profes- sionals in the sector, stating that it is adversely affecting the business efficacy of mining operations.
“There is a steady move towards automation in the mining industry, owing to increasing labour costs and the frequency of labour unrest. Mining houses are losing millions of rands when strikes occur and when the mining sector is performing badly; wage increases are not always possible,” he states.
Singh emphasises that the loss of production, owing to strikes, impacts negatively on a mining operation’s profitability.
Consequently, he says that, owing to the move towards automation, there are significant opportunities for software companies to provide solutions for the mining industry.
“However, as mining companies have a shortage of IT skills in the supply chain sector, it hinders their ability to implement automation solutions,” he states.
Developing IT Skills
Dovetail’s directors are involved in mentorship programmes, where seminars are held at universities several times a year, to encourage students to join the IT sector.
“Dovetail also aims to create awareness among students of the sectors that desperately need the skills of IT professionals, such as the mining industry, so they can opt to join those sectors where their skills are in high demand,” concludes Singh.