By 2025, the digital mining market will be worth $20.0 billion with key technologies like automation and robotics driving this expansion. Yet when small to medium sized (SME) mining companies experience growth, their existing IT systems and mining software often become outdated, causing issues rather than innovation. To execute digital transformation, mining SMEs not only need to reengineer the business processes, they also have to evaluate if they have the right technology in place to deliver the future of smart mining.
“Mining is one of the areas that is fundamentally being digitised very quickly. We tend to think that banks, healthcare, and so on, would be far ahead but if you look at what’s happening in mining, digitalisation is moving at a phenomenal pace,” says Conrad Steyn, CEO: iOCO Advisory at iOCO.
From Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) equipment - which includes robotics and approaches such as Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity - to machine learning, drones and automation, there’s no doubt that mining enabled by emerging intelligent technologies is the future. According to SAP’s global lead for mining, Ruediger Schroedter, mining is taking a lead role in becoming technology-driven. “While autonomous cars are still in the early stages, autonomous mining trucks in mining are now a reality,” adds Schroedter.
But what does this mean for small to midsize (SME) mining companies when larger organisations already have the tools in place to manage their operations remotely? And how can SMEs leverage the future of mining?
“If you don't have the basic framework in your organisation for automation, it's very difficult to put in place newer technologies,” explains Steyn. “A big portion of mining in Africa hasn’t implemented the necessary basics and that’s where SAP Business ByDesign comes in - it gives you the ability to implement the basics of digitization so you can move onto the 4IR era.”
Locally, mining is growing at an exponential rate due to the many mergers and acquisitions taking place. When a larger entity carves out a component of their mines, a new entity emerges which needs systems, IT, governance, etc.
“You need a solution that can be put in place quickly. Starting with the back office, mining SMEs need to keep their overheads low. They also need to make sure that their costs are fixed so that they know where they stand to plan,” adds Steyn. “It’s about being entrepreneurial without worrying about the day-to-day back-office needs, technology to run all of those components so you can actually spend time building your business rather than running around trying to manage back office components.”
Mining is a demanding business and SMEs face many challenges be it ensuring corporate governance, keeping costs low, measuring production, or environmental pressures (never mind the fact that they still have to get their product out of the ground and to market).
“In mining, corporate governance is a critical issue as there are a lot of laws and regulations. If you have an exploration or mining licence, for example, you need to be able to prove that you’re spending money to develop that site,” says Steyn. The ability to collect financial data in real-time whether you are in the office or out in the field is critical, especially when you consider that a recent global research found that as many as 69% of the mining projects studied faced cost overruns averaging 62%.
“Getting capital is not easy and there are a lot of changes happening. You really need a solution to manage your business, finances, procurement and materials as well as make decisions,” says Steyn.
Forward-thinking technology transforms mining organizations into an intelligent enterprises by making their operations more agile and transparent. It offers a solid foundation for SMEs to leverage automation and digital transformation, connecting every person and every part of the organisation - even if they’re remote.
“Historically, mining companies have been averse when it comes to taking risks. At the same time, the world they live in is transitioning so quickly that they actually have to in order to become more agile. But if you put the basics in place, you can achieve that future vision,” ends Steyn.
Research shows that the best-performing mining and metals companies in the digital age are putting the end customer’s point of view at the centre of every decision. They are the most profitable because they successfully adopt new technologies and deliver winning products and services more efficiently. This is the future of mining.
Powered by SAP Business ByDesign, the iOCO Mining Package is a cloud-based business management suite that includes essential modules, content, and functionality that every mining company needs. To find out how small and midsize business solutions from SAP can help you address anything that comes your way, contact iOCO or visit https://ioco.tech/campaign/sap-mining/