The mining sector has stepped up the pace to embrace digitalisation, with companies reaping the benefits from higher productivity and a more integrated work environment.
Within a tough mining environment with complex challenges, Siemens has provided solutions to ensure that mining companies become stronger and more cost-effective and innovative.
“We need to ensure that South Africans are participating in the technology change, and are ahead of the pack,”said CEO of Siemens Southern & Eastern Africa, Sabine Dall’Omo.
An assessment of various industries in South Africa, updated by Deloitte in partnership with Siemens last year, showed that most of the applications in the digital space are in the private sector. Many companies in the food and beverage sector, as well as packaging, have embraced new technology, while the mining sector is moving increasingly into the space by integrating digitalisation into its operations.
“South Africa is currently on the cutting edge of development, particularly in software development on specific applications customized for the individual client, and then integrating these into a cloud solution for mines,” said Dall’Omo.
She said digital applications are able to take productivity to a higher level, while technology also helped to boost quality of commodities.
Mines provide a creative and exciting space for innovation. Solutions are fine-tuned and customized according to the needs of each client.
Through Siemens’ MindSphere Industrial IoT platform, companies are able to securely deploy cloud applications to achieve targeted outcomes. The company also uses modern analytic tools to better understand and improve processes.
Siemens’ SIMINE solutions enable machines such as belt conveyer systems, ball mills and crushers to supply data. Its optimal process control, manufacturing execution systems and automated stockpile management solutions are aimed at creating leaner, safer and more efficient mining operations.
With more urgency to cut emissions, reduce water use and conserve energy, mining companies are also turning to technology to make their operations more sustainable.
“Through technology solutions, mining operators are able to ensure that water and other environmental impacts are reduced,” said Dall’Omo.
Siemens is committed to building and operating applications and to transforming businesses, while at the same time also ensuring that data is protected.
“Our technology is state-of-the-art. It can be customized to a plant, while ensuring you have a significant amount of safety with regards to data protection,” assured Dall’Omo.
Digitalisation can also be applied every step of the way. “Our role at Siemens is to provide technology across the whole value stream, from exploration, through to production and even mine closure and rehabilitation.”
Technology is constantly evolving.
“Digital solutions are no longer something that you get from a shelf. They are unique and developed according to the end customer. We develop defined products and solutions for each individual client and mine because every setting is different, every exploration is different,” said Dall’Omo.
“We work with the mine operator and develop the precise technology for the mine. While applications are customised for the individual client, this is then integrated into a cloud solution.”
Combining skills and abilities through a collaborative effort has brought rewards.
“We try to source all the skills we need, from the engineer that has a mechanical and electrical knowledge of how an app works to the software engineer and to the cloud software engineer. They all sit in one office and work out the challenge together. We also incorporate the customer into the working group.”
Dall’Omo said technology has brought with it opportunities to upskill employees. It also ensured that companies remain relevant and up to speed with global standards.
Dall’Omo believes South Africa is brimming with talent in the automation and technology space.
“I’m particularly excited about finding this talent in South Africa. We don’t have to bring people from overseas. Our greatest pride is that we can do it all here, locally, in South Africa.”
Siemens is keen to build on this and has implemented successful programmes to nurture a new generation of young people who are keen to move into technology.
The Siemens Digital Mining Incubator (DMI), which is based at Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation precinct, gives students in mining an opportunity to actively play a role in shifting the state of mining in the country by upskilling them so that they can positively contribute to the future of mining.
Siemens has also provided bursaries to students from mining communities.
“It’s very exciting. We have targeted children from current miners for our programmes. People from the community are familiar with what the business is all about. We believe that if we upskill the young people in the community they are able to make a real difference.”
While certain jobs may become irrelevant as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold, Siemens is committed to upskilling people from mining communities to be ready to work in a digital world.