2019 is nearly upon us! The previous 12 months have been exceptionally busy for MTS, with the team racking up some serious air miles. Now…
Our 7 Predictions for 2019
2019 is nearly upon us!
The previous 12 months have been exceptionally busy for MTS, with the team racking up some serious air miles. Now that we are all back home and winding down for the holidays, we’ve had some time to reflect on our combined experiences in 2018; and ponder over our predictions of what lies ahead for our industry in 2019.
1. Digital Transformation – Will Continue to be a Challenge
Many organisations will continue the march towards digital transformation. Still present however is the challenge that many companies still fail to understand entirely what this means; with large budgets being blown due to a lack of engagement with business units and unrealistic roadmaps. We dearly hope that this changes as the benefits of a successful transformation are enormous (and critical for an organisation’s survival in this globalised world)
2. Autonomous Open Pit Haulage
Autonomous hauling is now becoming increasingly adopted across certain regions (e.g. Australia). Caterpillar recently announced that over a billion tonnes of material has now been hauled using their autonomous technology (Cat MineStar Command). This is a pretty clear indication of how far this sector has progressed since the early concept ideas and discussions surrounding driverless trucks (and at the time, many industry watchers saw this as an unworkable fad).
With this in mind, we predict that more and more mines, and in different regions, will now seriously consider investing in autonomy.
3. Investing in People
One of our most read blogs this year surrounded dispatcher effectiveness. Whilst some mines do manage to hire and retain the right people for the task, this we predict will continue to be a challenge.
Why? Simply put, mining technology is expanding exponentially and there are not yet enough qualified individuals available to fill many of the new roles.
4. Lifting the lid on Underground Mines
Systems such as Minetec’s WASP technology is allowing mines to have much-improved communications and location tracking capabilities. Their recent partnership with Caterpillar (video here) is enabling the use of more advanced fleet management systems, proximity detection etc. which has typically only been found at surface operations.
In 2019 we expect underground mines to leap forward with their use of technology that, with the right implementation and change management, will enable significant optimisation of operations.
5. Turning Data into Actionable Information and ‘Big Data’ Analytics
This remains to be a challenge. Many operations still struggle to be good at the basics with regards to using their data. I.e. easily, reliably and consistently turn existing data into actionable information (that is then actioned!). Mining companies are gradually becoming more and more aware of the power of data and thus this situation is beginning to change. (We should stress that there are some mining companies/operations that have clearly made a huge success of this already – we are generalising across the sector globally.)
We thus predict that for 2019, use of data will become more and more of a priority for mines as they continue to optimise operations and drive down costs.
That being said, we do have some reservations about the urge for mining companies to spend significant resources on big data, predictive analytics, machine learning etc. We hope we won’t make ourselves too unpopular with our next few statements…..
Firstly, as a technology-focused company, we are big advocates for innovation. Clearly the potential for the mining industry to utilise big data analytics is staggering. Our concern, however, originates from the belief that ‘big data’ is a silver bullet, with more traditional data analytics not being able to yield significant results. We are also equally as concerned that the terms “big data”, “machine learning” etc. are very casually employed for many analytical scenarios and thus it has become quite misleading. For example, is an asset’s deviation from a site average trend over 100,000 records big data or just traditional analytics?. The below quote, although now quite a few years old, remains very relevant!
“Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” Dan Ariely of Duke University
The cost and resources required to establish and maintain a successful big data analytics project are substantial. We thus believe that such an investment should be implemented once a site/mine has exhausted conventional datasets, BI tools and personnel skill sets. Done properly, and when a site is “mature and ready”, the results could be very interesting indeed.
6. SQL Server Columnstore indexes and Real-time operational analytics
Column Store indexing options in the latest releases of SQL Server have really advanced since their initial inception with SQL Server 2012. This has huge implications for data warehousing applications where query times can be up to 10 times faster on the same set of data.
For Business Objects Webi developers that do ad-hoc reporting, there will be less time to grab that cup of coffee while the updated query runs.
With such an improvement in performance, it goes without saying that we do expect to see more operations adopting this technology into 2019.
7. SAP Business Objects and its role for mining customers – Will Diminish
We’ve made no secret of our frustrations with the end of life of SBOP Dashboards and Explorer. With alternatives now readily available (e.g. Tableau), we sadly see SBOP’s role within our mining technology sector slowly diminishing over the next 12 months. Whilst the alternative products out there are often fabulous, some of the unique, industry-leading features found in SBOP (e.g. multi source semantic layers that make reporting so much easier) still make it a great tool. But with the lack of Dashboards, Explorer once Flash is removed will significantly reduce the market positioning for an onsite BI solution for our industry.
Seasons greetings to you all!
The MTS Team